Alec's Review of Castlevania: Order of Shadows

Castlevania: Order of Shadows is so far the only Castlevania game found exclusively on the Mobile Phone platform. It has of course drawn a large amount of heat from hard core fans for it's lack of length and depth in comparison to the established series handheld and console releases.

Of course, this is a mere cell phone game, not meant for depth or length. In fact, it is meant for just the opposite; to keep the mind and hands busy while waiting for a few minutes at a stretch. In that, the game succeeds admirably, while holding true to the Castlevania roots that spawned it.

The story is simple. The Order is attempting to revive Dracula, and Rohan Krause (a warlock in the mold of Rondo of Blood's Shaft) is spearheading the operation. Alas, aside from Rohan, we see only one other member of The Order in-game, but given the name, it would suggest there's a few more members conducting nefarious schemes elsewhere. But, I digress. The only people capable of stopping Rohan Krause in time are the Belmont clan, and in this game, there's THREE Belmonts (something of a first for the series): Desmond (the main character), and his younger sisters, Zoe and Delores. Thing is, Rohan has also achieved something of a first for a Castlevania game: he managed to kill Desmond's father. A villain killing a Belmont; not a frequent occurrence. The three new Belmonts arrive at the Order's manor, and infiltrate it. Desmond is in charge of the actual slaying, and his sisters show up here and there to deliver some obvious information.

The gameplay is simple, using the numberpad for main controls, but on phones with a control pad, it can be used instead in a more intuitive manner.

Desmond starts off with no skills and just the basic leather Vampire Killer, which will serve Desmond ably for the first leg of the game. You can find a flame whip upgrade for it after beating the third boss, and after beating Rohan Krause, the Vampire Killer achieves it's full power. In addition to the whip, you can collect over a dozen other weapons, like swords and throwing axes, but using these consumes hearts, which can be easily replenished by smashing candles and slaying enemies, which will sometimes even yield weapons and alchemic weapons, which are one-time-use items you will be able to use when you start Stage 4. In addition, slaying each boss will grant Desmond a new skill, such as double jumping or sliding.

The game's graphics are of appreciable quality, as are most mobile games today, and the backgrounds possess a very Rondo of Blood coloration and style. The sprites are very simple, and look like high-end NES Sprites, but the animation is really atrocious, just like the story's writing.

The controls are somewhat stiff, but this adds an additional layer of challenge to the game.

Speaking of difficulty, the first time I gave this game a playthrough, I had a really hard time with it because it has unspeakably bad hit detection, which resulted in MANY pointless deaths. The jumps are weird, because if you stop pressing the jump button mid-jump, Desmond will plummet like a rock. But it doesn't take long to learn how to turn that to your advantage, and chances are you won't miss a single jump on your entire way through the game. Also, climbing stairs can be a hassle for a new player, as you have to learn where the "sweet spot" is, elseways you'll just be looking like a damn circus performer, leaping left and right. Just FYI, that sweet spot is when you've lined up Desmond's foot with the stairwell's base. There is some backtracking, but it's purely optional and meant to supply ridiculously overpowered weapons for those who like to be show-offs.

Like recent entries in the series, the game features the ability to level up, but grinding in this game is discouraged by a large margin between levels, which encourages players to beat the game on their own skills. There's also healing items, which can be collected ad infinitum by smashing all the candles in a room and then leaving and re-entering and repeating. And trust me, you'll want to do this before you take on a boss.

The bosses have predictable patterns, but the shitty hit detection and stiff controls adds the challenge that rightly should have been there for entirely different reasons. Either way, the bosses are still satisfying to finally conquer.

I appreciate how this game revisits certain neglected plot points, such as Leon's gauntlet and the Gandolfi family, and also the revisiting of the forest called Eternal Night, and though minor points all, one can certainly say "Oh! I remember those!". Also, when you fight Medusa, you can see Simon Belmont frozen in stone in the background; an interesting touch. It also has a somewhat amusing twist after the credits.

This game won't be winning awards, but it's a good use of $7 for a phone game. OOS is not a deep game, but that fact actually works in it's favor. I won't give it a score or anything, but I'll count it as "worthy enough to be on my phone".


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