Castlevania: Order of Shadows (2007)

Platform: Mobile Phones
Stages: 6-ish

So Castlevania: Order of Shadows, an exclusive game in the series for mobile phones, is pretty awful. Probably the worst Castlevania ever made, even. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone though - cell phone games are almost universally awful, with the exception of games that don't require action-based controls. This is nothing new in Japan, where there are boatloads of embarassing cell phone spinoffs released left and right. But Order of Shadows is one of the first of these to be released in America, developed by an American team, no less. So that's a little interesting.

Anyway, the game stars Desmond Belmont as he fights through Transylvania to defeat the evil Rohan Krause, who is resurrecting Lord Dracula for whatever sinister purposes. There are cutscenes with Desmond's sisters Zoe and Dolores - their parents were murdered, you see - but there's really no reason for any of this window dressing to be here, other than it trying to emulate the grown-up Castlevania games. It has no place in the official timeline - it takes place in the 1600s, somewhere, apparently. Desmond looks kinda of lame, with a weird spiky haircut. There's no ingame artwork in the game outside of his sprite, but before I'd seen the concept artwork, I'd imagined he'd look something like Larry Butz from Capcom's Phoenix Wright games. According to the developer, the spiky hair was meant to be a homage to Kid Dracula, oddly enough.

The controls, as can be expected for a cell phone game, suck. Since diagonals are a pain on cell phones, you need to hold down Up in order to jump forward. If you let go of Up, you'll start falling to the ground. It's also extremely hard to step on stairs, since you need to find the sweet spot, otherwise you'll just leap in the air and make yourself look like a chump. Even though the game's enemy placement occasionally asks that you jump and attack at the same time, you may as well forget trying to do that easily - it's not going to happen. Desmond's whip snaps are incredibly slow - he actually pauses for a few seconds to retract the whip, leaving him extremely vulnerable - although he does have a backdash that lets him cancel out of his attacks.

There are some attempts to make a nonlinear game. Although most of the levels are straightforward, occasionally there are some nooks and crannies to explore, to find extra items and stuff. At one point in the game, you'll come across platforms that are too high to reach, and tunnels that are too small to get through. You'll need to look for another path to obtain the slide, so you can get through the tunnels and beat the next level to get the double jump, and then continue. It's hardly Metrovania, but at least the designers were trying. It also has some half-assed RPG elements, since you gain levels by killing enough bad guys. In addition to a few different whips, you'll also find secondary weapons, which can be equipped at any time when you find them. These include the standard axes and cross boomerangs, in addition to classic swords like the Crissagraem and Muramasa. All of these eat from your magic meter, which is replenished by grabbing hearts - although unlike Symphony and its progency, it won't regenerate on its own. There are also single use spells called Alchemy, which lets you shoot magic bolts or turn invincible. Strangely enough, most of these attacks end up being weaker than your regular whip attacks, which makes their usefulness questionable.

The game's relatively short, beatable in less than a hour, but that's not bad for a sub $10 cell phone game, even though it isn't very good. At least some of the backdrops are set outside the castle, which channels Castlevania 2 and is a lesson that IGA could learn for his future installments. Whenever you die, the Grim Reaper will hover above your body, which is a cool touch. Unfortunately, it tends to crash my phone whenever I die in the same area more than once. It just doesn't boot me to the OS, it requires that I remove my whole battery if I want to continue using my phone. Some expert quality assurance was going on, obviously. The music, while not nearly as good as the real series, is occasionally pretty decent, and channels some of the classic tunes when appropriate. Once you beat the game, you can turn on a "Classic Music" mode, for songs from the first Castlevania title.

The only people who would be probably be interested in Order of Shadows are the type of fan - sadly, like me - who'll dump some money into a pit just to get the complete "Castlevania" experience. And on that end...well, there's still not much nice I can really say about it. I guess it's better than, say, Diner Dash or whatever casual gaming crap that cell phone carries are trying to trick you into impulse buying. That's not saying much though.

Order of Shadows Artwork

Desmond Concept Art 1
Desmond Concept Art 2
Desmond, Dolores and Zoe
Rohan and Death
Enemy Concept Art 1
Enemy Concept Art 2

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Castlevania Games - Castlevania: Order of Shadows