Step into the shadows of the Hell House. You've Arrived back here at Transylvania on business: to destroy forever the curse of the evil count, Dracula. But you won't kick down Dracula's door with the well-weathered heel of a Vampire Hunter's boot. Instead, buck it down with pony hooves, in this awesome looking fan game! You can find the trailer and download links for the demo after the jump.
Get the demo here.
Ponyvania: Order of Equestria is pretty much what it sounds like: A Castlevania clone starring our favourite little ponies, rather than hardened vampire-hunting humans. Specifically, a lot of assets from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia are reused, along with the other phenomenal DS Castlevania titles. It's still very much a work in progress, but I for one am really hyped about it!
Now the demo.
The demo starts with a nice title screen, reminding us what the game is called. It also supports co-op play, something I have not tried yet. But it does have a pretty neat character create screen, where you can customize your player pony in any color, mane, gender, etc. you see fit. You can even look like one of the mane six, if you'd so like. Each race also has a distinct play style, with Earth Ponies playing a lot like Richter Belmont did in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Unicorns use magic, in a way similar to Shanoa did in Order of Ecclesia. Pegasi use a spear, for some reason, and have ninja abilities. Bit disappointed they didn't play like Grant Danasty from Castlevania III, but no matter. So after tinkering with the sliders a bit, I finally got my Vampire Hunter Doctor Whooves ready to rock.
After the character screen, the good Doctor got plonked into an area very much like Ecclesia, with a Royal Guard saying that Princess Celestia needs us to go see her before we go. Being Doctor Whooves, I chose the Earth Pony class which, as I said, plays a lot like the Belmont Characters do in the Castlevania games. I start off with a slide ability, and a dropkick. I can do a flaming super uppercut attack, and I have a basic leather whip. No double jump yet, though, but baby steps, people. So with my skill set in mind, I continue through Ecclesia to find the princess. I ran into Princess Luna on the way, who seems to doubt our skill in whatever the Princess plans to ask of us. Remembering that I AM the player character, she relents, putting faith in Celestia's choice in us. It takes a little bit of platforming to reach the princess, which delighted me a lot. It FEELS like a Castlevania game so far. The platforming was done very well, and I was able to reach Princess Celestia rather quickly.
Reaching a room much like where Shanoa lost her memory at the start of Ecclesia, we find Celestia, explaining that Discord will break out of his seal, and tasks my Doctor Whooves character with stopping him. Specifically, I have to track down the lost Elements of Harmony to seal him again. Sounds good so far, it's a lot like collecting the Dracula body parts in Symphony of the Night, powering you up for the final boss. And much like Celestia usually does, she gives us this information, and then is content to sit around doing nothing afterwards, so it's time to venture to the Everfree forest to start looking for the elements. Allons-Y!
The Everfree is about as dangerous as was explained in the show. Not long after I leave, I am quickly surrounded by monsters. There are mudmen enemies from Akumajo Dracula X, apparently taking the role of the zombie enemy in this game. But then, to my utter glee, I found an Axe Knight and skeleton, both ponified. They look really good, and my excitement for the game only began to grow. Although this fell a bit, since the first time I died was shortly after taking that awesome screenshot above this paragraph. The pain sounds are reused from Super Castlevania IV, which I don't like very much. I'd much more like the WHACK sound from Order of Ecclesia, or at least the OOMPH sound from the NES Castlevania. And also the death animation is really poor, but again, baby steps. It's still a game in development.
Anyway, back to Everfree. I started again at the beginning of the level, and after rocking out to the awesome Harmony of Despair DLC track that was used for this level, I set off to conquor this forest proper. I whipped my way through my former tormenters, and found a cloth cape for my trouble. "Ho hum!" I thought to myself, and tried to find a sort of pause key. Sure enough, the enter key allowed me to access my inventory, and put on my new cape. I unpaused to see my pony character is now actually wearing the cape! This game just gets better and better. I also found that the pause menu has a convenient move list, explaining the skills that I already found I had through trial and error (Although I apparently had the "Stonewall" ability, like Johnathan had in Portrait of Ruin. Still dislike it). I also found I could equip subweapons. So now that I am better equipped before, I pressed onwards.
... Or I would have, but I died yet again. It was here I found that there seems to be no penalty for dying. I still had my equipment, I just get pushed back to the start. It was also at this point I reached my first level up, which made me worry a bit I'd have to grind. But then again, that's just another facet of modern Castlevania titles, so good on you, developer. I made my way through the beasties a second time, but there were still an unforgiving number of monsters. Certainly harder than the first area of other Castlevanias, that's for sure. So I did the good old method of using the jumpkick to jump on enemy heads, and passed through the horde relatively unscathed. I then found some caves, where there were far fewer enemies. I also found my first healing item, much to my joy, so I pressed forward. I also encountered some Will-O-Wisp enemies, which looked really good! Seriously, impressive use of Game Maker, developer.
I then found my first boss room, if the Dawn of Sorrow boss theme pumping from my speakers was any indication. My foe was a common Alura Une enemy from Symphony of the Night, but no matter, boss time! She fought pretty much as she did before, using vines on the floor to annoy, and lock-on roses to put on the hurt. I died, and much to my dismay, I was, yet again, set back to the start. Time to do this a fourth time! This game would really benefit from a checkpoint system or something. Especially if enemies do this much damage. I mean really, I know I'm good at Castlevania games, I know it's not supposed to be this damn hard.
Complaining aside, I decided to grind monsters a bit, then re-engaged the boss. I walloped her good for all the trouble she gave me, but didn't drop that soul-ball thing that bosses usually drop, and therefore am stuck with my crummy amount of health. And the enemies in the next area were as relentless as before, so I died yet again. And since it plonked me back to the start again, and this writing is taking a bit long, I decided this would be a good time to rage quit.
So, my thoughts about the game? Absolutely a good start, especially for the first demo. I was very impressed with what I saw. Gameplay felt nice, and true to the original Castlevania. My gripes, though is the lack of the free exploration that the DS Castlevanias had (I noticed when I went right into a new area, I couldn't backtrack.). There's also slight bugs, like the poison mushroom enemies. I'd be poisoned and die, but when I respawn, I'd still be poisoned. And since there are no antidotes in the area to speak of, this gets very annoying, and fast. The enemy difficulty is also just unforgiving. And although I am used to hard Castlevanias, this isn't that fine degree of hard that the NES Castlevanias pulled quite nicely. It's just unfair difficulty, compounded with a lack of checkpoints. Or rather, from what I found, so if I missed it, feel free to call me an idiot. And maybe I am underlevelled, but it sucks that zombies do 20 points of damage, that the dog enemies come out of nowhere, and the parasprites float down just to ruin my day more. Enemy spamming does make Castlevania fun sometimes, especially when I got the Crissigrim in Symphony of the Night, but go easy on me, Ponyvania! It's only level 1, and I haven't even gotten any experience points or better equipment yet! Also this game really needs a backdash, because it is hard to dodge enemy attacks after my slow whipping.
At any rate, Ponyvania looks like it is going to be a great thing someday, so I'll be sure to post news about it during its development. And as for helping, I'll try to rip some sound effects from Dawn of Sorrow, since the sound effects are a bit lacking at the moment. I also encourage players of the demo to leave their opinions in the comments box, since I plan to show the developer this article in the hopes of finding things to improve.
UPDATE: Ziggylungstudios sent me a reply to my article over Youtube:
Appreciate your review!
Here are some answers to your comments/questions:
-Leveling up happens fairly frequently, so you shouldn't worry about having to grind. You should gain about 3 levels per stage, but you can easily gain more to make the stage easier.
-Unfortunately, this game won't have any real exploration or backtracking. The stages will be very linear. We are however, considering making the final stages more open.
-The bugs you mentioned have been noted and will be fixed in the next release, thanks again.
-The Alura Une is actually just a mini boss (it will become a normal enemy in later levels), so that's why it didn't drop a red orb. However, the real level boss does drop something like that.
-As for the difficulty, we've gotten mixed reviews. Some say its too hard while others say its about right. We are definitely looking at adding a checkpoint system and maybe an easier mode (or making the current one the 'hard' mode).
-The sounds used are all temporary. If you are able to provide any Castlevania sound effects at all, that would be great! We were almost considering not using Castlevania sounds just because we couldn't find enough high quality ones.
We'll wait a bit for more feedback from others, and then release an updated version that will hopefully address these issues.
So it seems that I was having such a rough time because I was impatient. So I remade my Doctor Whooves and set forth a second time, armed with this knowledge. The end result? This game is still very difficult, but slightly less so after grinding a bit. I finally bested the Alura Une with ease, and fought my way through the monster filled caves it was guarding. I found a nifty little ring that adds something rather new to the Castlevania formula: When equipped, you can see the healthbar for the enemy you are attacking under it's nametag on the bottom-left corner of the screen. Finally I got to the proper first boss, Gilda. After some dialogue from her that, true to the character, is as cheesy as ever, the battle began. She actually fights a lot like Karasuman from Symphony of the Night (AKA Malphas, in Dawn of Sorrow). Except much to my dismay, Gilda is much harder. So she womped me pretty good, and I was sent back to the very start of the level. At this point, I decided to call it quits for real. So Ziggy, my input on the difficulty? Way too hard. But still, as I said, a very good start to a very promising fan game.