Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Impressions

The previously uncovered Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (NDS) is scheduled for a fall release in North America, series producer Koji Igarashi announced at Konami's press event last night.

The developer demonstrated some of the new features in the latest installment in the long-running 2D action-adventure series. In the place of previously-seen ability and weapon systems in DS forebears Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin, Order of Ecclesia offers players the Glyph system, which allows the use of magic-based weapons, attacks and abilities summoned via symbols absorbed by the player.

Glyphs can be uncovered through exploration of the game's environments, recovered from fallen enemies and gained through plot development. Once attained, glyphs are then assigned to buttons and can be used in a wide variety of combinations.

Igarashi showed that a glyph granting the player a simple rapier could be bound to two buttons—the left and right hands, essentially—and used in swift succession, or combined for a stronger attack. Because the attacks are magical in nature, every strike draws from your pool of magic points, requiring a careful watch over wasting energy in a flurry of attacks. The company says that the Glyph attack system will feature over 100 combinations.

Order of Ecclesia introduces Shinoa, the series' first female protagonist since 1998's Castlevania Legends. A member of the titular Order of Ecclesia, Shinoa aspires to defeat Dracula in the absence of the recently-vanished Belmont family. Though Igarashi did not pin where the game fits in the series chronology, the game's character designs and scenery seem to indicate a 18th- to 19th-century setting.

Order of Ecclesia bails on the oft-maligned generic anime art-style adopted by previous DS outings for its character designs, boasting a much more illustrative and mature tone for its art direction.

The game looks to be built on the same engine as Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin, featuring many of the conventions that fans of the series have come to expect from the DS titles such as automapping and limited touch-screen functionality. Unlike those other titles, however, the game does not limit itself to Dracula's castle; players are free to leave the confines of the legendary stronghold and travel to other locales via a world map.

As is expected from Konami, the game's 2D animation is a sight to behold, showing marked improvements over Ruin and Sorrow in terms of fluidity of motion and variety in movement. In the course of the demonstration we saw a number of new enemies and boss characters, though it is unclear whether or not Ecclesia will break the series' tradition of reusing the same friggin' monster sprites since 1993's Dracula X: Rondo of Blood.

"I'm still trying hard in 2D," said Igarashi.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia arrives on Nintendo DS this fall.