Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is the latest entry in Konami's (as far as I'm concerned) best franchise. Taking a page from Symphony of the Night, it continues the Metroidvania formula, but adds multiple levels to the mix. It's similar to Portrait of Ruin in that respect, but is much more focused, cohesive, and enjoyable. The lead female protagonist, Shonoa, is a refreshing change, but, unfortunately, doesn't get much characterization because of story-related issues.

Having recently defeated Dracula (i.e. last night), I've just started to explore the extra content that makes Castlevania games so damn enjoyable/replayable. You've got Albus mode (a teleporting gunslinger), hard mode, level caps, new game + and a boss rush mode; all unlockable after completing the main quest. I could go on and on describing the various aspects of this cart, but, and I hate to say it, it's really similar to the other titles in the series. What's impressive, is that this game still feels fresh. I recommend this title to anyone with a DS (though if you haven't played Dawn of Sorrow, you're probably better off starting there).

There was a time when I thought 2D gaming was dead for good. Today, not many gamers fear for the fate of platformers, and its titles like Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, Contra 4, and Mega Man 9 keep the genre alive in the commercial world. Indie games also embrace the 2D game, arguably out of technical limitations, but perhaps out of a love for the gameplay and an aesthetic appreciation less dimensions. It's nice to see 2D gaming develop as a distinctive style and maintain momentum in modern time.

I wish I had the time to go through all of the extra modes, but they will have to wait for a few weeks. My list of games to play is out of control. Want an idea of how bad it is? I've started (and would really like to finish in the next 6 months) Chrono Cross (need to completely restart because its been so long), Twilight Princess, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, Ys: Book I & II, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Final Fantasy 9 (once again, I've got to restart it), Final Fantasy 7: Dirge of Cerberus, Yoshi's Island DS, Super Paper Mario (on the LAST level), Dragon Quest 8 (have to restart, been waaay too long) and La-Mulana.

There really is a superfluity of great games out there, and trying to play them all does lead to over-consumeration of video games. Yes, games are a commodity, but they are also art, and require a large time investment to be fully appreciated. Also, plenty of games are made and given away free (see, Cave Story, 8-Bit Killer, Hasslevania) so the idea that video games are purely a commodity is obviously flawed. I don't play games to waste time, I play games to better understand life, video games, software, art, programming, music, visual arts, design and to enjoy time spent.

Yesterday I began playing through Septerra Core, and ancient RPG from 1999 that was incredibly overlooked, which I started in about 2001 but never finished.

I needed an RPG to slow me down a bit and relax from all the twitch gameplay I'm so fond of. Thus far it is nothing short of amazing. I am only 2 hours into it, but plan on playing for 6 hours after this post. It's an ambitious title with a unique setting, interesting characters, and a serious storyline.

It's got a healthy dose of nostalgia, because I can remember fragments shored against the ruins of my memory. A cutscene or line will leap out, disturbingly familiar, yet different because of the time gap in between playthroughs. Nostalgia teaches us about ourselves, how we saw the game them, how we see it now, and often exposes the shortcomings of memory and the nature of time. Like visiting you high school after college, you notice the changes, and you learn about yourself. The connection is more prevalent in video games because the architecture doesn't change. The game is exactly the same, and the ability to be in identical spaces years apart creates an uncanny reality.

Shanoa art by hf-Zilch

Maya art by dune3001


Anonymous said...

looked up septerra core b/c i hadn't heard of it. looks like it was an RPG on windows, which was surprising. is it well known?

samiorigami said...

love the article, and i am pleased to see your renewed interest in RPG's. Feel free to bring some of those over, we could play them here!!! (you know how ive been dying to finish/see:
Final Fantasy 9 and Final Fantasy 7: Dirge of Cerberus and Super Paper Mario and Dragon Quest 8

"I don't play games to waste time, I play games to better understand life, video games, software, art, programming, music, visual arts, design and to enjoy time spent."
beautiful, magical statement
so true


Anonymous said...

I'm still on the fence about OoE. I've rescued all the villagers but haven't gotten to big D's castle yet (still). I'd say I like DoS more and PoR (freezes aside) was probably more fun overall. It's still a good game, but I dunno there's something about it..

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

Yeah, now THIS is an awesome game. I'm a big fan of the first 2 for the GBA and DoR is probably just as good, excepting for the music. I kind of still like the old "kiddie" stylings of the other games but there's something positive to be said about the new look, which I don't know what that is at this time, ha.

Dragon Quest 8

Played some more yesterday in fact. I'm at the point in the game where all I do is try to kill Metal King Slimes and Liquid Metals (levels 60-63, IIRC), so it's a bit repeatitive right now but it's likely my 2nd favorite Dragon Warrior game. I think all I have left to do is defeat the Divine Dragon. I know I already beat his buddies and got Hev, the upgraded pot, and all the Dragovian gear.

8bitcity said...


No, Septerra Core is not well-known. It's been grievously overlooked, but it did get a re-release a few years ago as a budget title, packaged in a very small box with another game. If anyone has any info or a picture of it, feel free to email it to me?

Benjamin Fennell said...

I have Septerra Core and its strategy guide, actually. Very Chrono Trigger-esque in gameplay, but I never could bring myself to finish it. Hopefully someday. I've still got the disc around here somewhere. I've just been letting myself get too absorbed into Guild Wars lately since some friends dragged me into that recently, and it has a fairly Diablo-esque level of fun and addictiveness going for it, while the devs - former Blizzard staff - managed to avoid a lot of the serious problems of the MMORPG genre that largely makes it unappealing to me. (Mostly because it's actually enjoyable playing in single player, the community isn't as obnoxious as most, and it's easy to avoid and ignore people, and just play with friends or single player.)

I picked up Baroque for the Wii a couple of weeks ago too, now that it's down to $20 new at Gamespot. Sorely underrated roguelike with a really interesting narrative structure and tons of substance to the gameplay content.

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Matt Dickinson said...

I never feel nostalgic about games. Maybe I did a little when I was younger, ironically. But most old games I've played in recent years weren't ones I grew up with.

Tried Ecclesia several times but just can't get into it. Too hard? I don't know. Liked Portrait of Ruin, though, and Aria and Circle of the Moon. (shrug)

Matt Dickinson said...

A great movie about nostalgia recently: Midnight in Paris. A little annoying, but overall I liked it. It has a good message about nostalgia.

(trying not to want to time travel to the 80s :)

Thanks for the blog posts. Just skimmed through about 2 years of your stuff tonight and it was fun reading.

- matt