Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, released in Japan as Demon Castle Dracula: The Stolen Seal (悪魔城ドラキュラ 奪われた刻印 Akumajō Dracula: Ubawareta Kokuin?), is the third Castlevania title released for the Nintendo DS handheld platform. Although developed by the same team that created Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, this entry in the series has dropped the anime inspired artwork of its two predecessors in favor of a more traditional Gothic style, with character design by newcomer Masaki Hirooka. It is notably the first traditional game to feature a female in the lead role, named Shanoa. Additionally, this is also the first canonical game in the series where the Vampire Killer does not appear in any form.
The game was released on October 21, 2008 in the US and on October 23, 2008 in Japan.
Setting and prologue
This game takes place after Symphony of the Night, sometime in the early 1800s. As the Belmont Clan had vanished by that time, several organizations are created in order to research countermeasures against Dracula and his army's eventual return. Between these organizations, the most promising was the Order of Ecclesia who created a triad of magical glyphs named "Dominus".
Shanoa is a young lady chosen by the order's leader, Barlowe, as the human vessel for Dominus, but just before the ritual is performed, the glyphs are stolen by Shanoa's best (and only) friend and fellow Ecclesia member Albus, disrupting the ritual and apparently causing the loss of Shanoa's emotions and memories. Upon her awakening, Barlowe tells her of the events leading to her memory loss, and orders her to retrieve Albus and the stolen Dominus glyphs.
In her pursuit, Shanoa arrives in the deserted Wygol Village and finds out that Albus kidnapped its inhabitants and keeps each one of them imprisoned in a different location. As Shanoa rescues them throughout the game, she learns that Albus captured them to perform some kind of twisted experiment on them which involved draining samples of their blood. Each villager rescued provides Shanoa with tasks that once completed, provide new rewards. Although completing the tasks is not required to complete the game, some of the final areas are only unlocked when all villagers are rescued.
On two occasions, Shanoa manages to track down Albus, who willingly lets her retrieve one of the Dominus glyphs. But when she finds him possessed by the power of the third and final glyph, she is forced to battle him; it transpires his objective in gifting her with the glyphs was to learn her absorption technique. If there are villagers left to rescue at that part of the game, Shanoa retrieves the final piece of Dominus after killing Albus and immediately returns to Ecclesia to perform the ritual. The game ends with her untimely death and Barlowe's master plan completed.
However, if all villagers are rescued before Shanoa's final confrontation with Albus, his conscience fuses with hers when she absorbs the final glyph and she learns that Albus's true intentions were to find a way to defeat Dracula without Shanoa using Dominus, as he knew that it would cost her life if she used it. He also reveals that the reason he experimented on the villagers was because they were the last descendants of the Belmont Clan, and he (erroneously) believed their blood would have the power to help him control Dominus without it consuming him. As for her lost emotions and memories, he revealed that Barlowe used them as a sacrifice to gain control of Dominus, a fact he hid from her. He also revealed that Dominus is made from Dracula's own essence.
Confronting her master after learning the truth, Shanoa hears from him that his true objective all this time was to bring Dracula back to life using her as a sacrifice. After Barlowe is defeated, he ends up offering his own life to fulfill his ambition. With no memories left, no emotions left, and with the death of those who were most precious to her, Shanoa sets for Dracula's castle to put him back into his slumber, and complete the task she has spent her whole life preparing herself for.
Shanoa infiltrates Dracula's castle, defeats many of his underlings, and finally confronts him. She successfully defeats him using Dominus, but seemingly at the cost of her own life. However, Albus's spirit appears and reveals to Shanoa that while using Dominus demands a life in return, it need not be hers. He gives up his own in Shanoa's place after restoring her emotions and memories back, but not before he asks her to smile for him one last time. Albus's soul disappears, Castlevania crumbles into ruins and Shanoa escapes. It is also said that all records of Ecclesia vanished soon afterward.
The basic gameplay is like all other "metroidvania" style games. The system for this game is known as the Glyph System. Shanoa is able to absorb the powers found in glyphs found throughout the castle and within enemies. These glyphs give her magical weapons and abilities and consume her magic meter, which automatically replenishes itself over time. She can equip a glyph in her right hand, her left hand, and on her back, marking a return to the two-handed weapon style only seen in Symphony of the Night. Each usage of a glyph absorbs magic. This means that practically everything offensive done by Shanoa, even simple attacks, uses up MP. However, equipping certain glyph combinations in each hand will give the ability to activate a "Glyph Union", which will execute a powerful special attack that consumes hearts instead of magic. Glyphs can be found in certain locations on the map, or can be dropped by enemies; at which point, Shanoa can absorb the glyphs simply by holding the D-Pad Up button. Some enemies also use Glyphs to attack; you may interrupt their attacks by absorbing their Glyphs. Additionally, there are Glyphs that affect the environment; Shanoa will have to absorb these in order to proceed. Besides from attacking, there are also glyphs that will boost skills, increase speed, transform her into an enemy creature, and so forth.
The maps of the game are also different compared to those in Symphony of the Night, Aria of Sorrow or Dawn of Sorrow, which contain a large singular map connecting all of the explorable rooms and castle sections. In Order of Ecclesia, prior to entering Dracula's Castle (which may not be entered at all following the bad ending storyline), Shanoa visits many rural areas and small indoor dungeons. These smaller areas have unique maps along with individual map completion rates. These locations, along with the village (see below), are displayed on a main cartography-drawn map that connects all of them. Until stepping toward the castle, where exploration is carried out in a way similar to previous titles (non-linear exploration limited by the player's current abilities or locked doors), the exploration of the countryside areas (comprising roughly the first half of the game) is relatively linear, becoming accessible on the world map one by one as the story goes on. Once inside the castle, there will be very few incentives to revisit previous locations, since the only things left to do will be the completion of sidequests or the seizure of a few hidden items (some of them accessible only after getting the ability to trespass specific walls, inside the very Dracula's Castle).
Order of Ecclesia is praised by critics for its high level of difficulty, as generally the gameplay is harder since the maps are small, contain few monsters per area (which are sometimes hard to kill and deal a lot of damage), have few Save Points and secret items; plus, the shop only contains very few items at the beginning. The growth of Shanoa's health is also low (8 HP per level), and she requires MP to cast even the most basic attacks. Fortunately, the idea of level-grinding and the quest system help her to gain more power easily, although longer hours of gameplay may be allotted just for the course of power-leveling if compared to previous Castlevania games for the Nintendo DS.
- Main article: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia/Gallery
|Protagonist & Supporting Cast|
The heroine of the story. Intended to be the vessel of Dominus. (playable)
Shanoa's adoptive brother and an antagonist for the first part of the game. (playable)
The founder of Ecclesia and Shanoa's master. Becomes an antagonist in the second part of the game.
People from Wygol Village. Kidnapped by Albus. They later help Shanoa in her quest and give her missions.
Ecclesia was founded to defeat this powerful vampire in the absence of the Belmont Clan. (final boss)
- Main article: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia/Script
Shane Bettenhausen in the August 15, 2008, 1UP Yours podcast raved after his hands-on experience with the game, "It's maybe... the best Castlevania ever", and called it a cross between Symphony of the Night and Simon's Quest, noting that the high difficulty level ("You will die a lot. You will die all the time") was balanced by the roleplaying elements. Bettenhausen also raved about the quality of the game, despite the length, noting there are "3 or 4 levels of things to find". He concluded his experience with the game stating "It's all action-RPG oriented Castlevania at its best". He later awarded the game an A- for 1Up.com, stating, "With this game, series director Koji Igarashi proves that he can still breathe new life into this long-running, often self-cannibalizing franchise."
Order of Ecclesia has gained generally favorable reviews, with the reviewers often praising its increased difficulty over the older installments of the series, the new "Glyph" system and the renewed artwork.
The game was made by the team who developed Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin along with Igarashi. In an interview for Wired magazine, Igarashi said: "We're doing another Nintendo DS version. There hasn't been an official announcement, but we're doing it... We want people to enjoy the PSP version Dracula X Chronicles, and afterwards we're announcing it. So, please wait a little bit". On January 25, 2008 a group of "leaked" screenshots from a DS Castlevania game that also showed Wii connectivity. In response, Igarashi didn't give a direct answer if this was even the same game or if it was an official Konami product. He told IGN that "Konami doesn't comment on rumor or speculation". Eventually, it was confirmed by a later update that these were screenshots from Order of Ecclesia.
|Giant Skeleton||Minera Prison Island||800||350|
|Jiang Shi||Large Cavern||6,500||2,525|
Use of Latin
- Main article: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia/Use of Latin
The word ecclesia is Latinized Greek in origin, meaning "assembly" and used in English to denote either a particular local group, or the whole body of the faithful. Ecclesia is also another name for the Catholic Church.
Many of the names in Order of Ecclesia, both place and glyph names, come from Latin.
- Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Original Soundtrack
- Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Promo Soundtrack
- Official Koma - Comic panels associated with this game.
- Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin - The previous game in the Nintendo Dual Screen series (not chronologically).
- Akumajō Dracula Best Music Collections BOX - Contains music from this game on Disc 15.
- BradyGames Order of Ecclesia Official Strategy Guide - US Official Strategy Guide.
- Konami Akumajō Dracula: Ubawareta Kokuin Official Guide - Japan Official Strategy Guide.
- Game Informer
- Kotaku article on rumored image
- Silicon Era Order of Ecclesia news
- Nintendic - ESRB Ratings
- Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia at the Castlevania Fan Wiki
- Official Japanese Site (translate)