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Part of the appeal of the classic Castlevania games that was sadly lost in the transition to the newer games focused on exploration - commonly called Igavanias - was the difficulty.
While the exploration aspect of Igavanias is fun, what I most enjoy about them remains the same thing I love about the classic Castlevanias - the music, the combat and the atmosphere.
For me to enjoy a combat system to its fullest there has to be some sort of challenge in which I can measure my improvement so that's where the Igavanias I have played before fail for me... and why I played Order of Ecclesia before the other games as I heard this was the hardest Igavania.
Order of Ecclesia takes a more linear approach to level design but it still incorporates exploration to smaller degrees which works better for playing in short bursts - perfect for a portable console.
The benefit of the game being more linear is that the combat is better balanced and some bosses can pose a genuine threat to your patience. Speaking of which, I found all of the bosses to be creatively designed and fun to fight against; the enemy variety was also good.
Even without taking the difficulty into account, I really enjoy the combat with the glyph system which lets you experiment with two different weapons/spells- or two of the same - and rewards you for attacking with one and then the other; this adds a small layer of mechanical complexity.
Because Shanoa is going to all sorts of different places saving villagers the atmosphere doesn't have to limit itself to "Dracula's Castle" and while I don't think this is necessarily better, it is interesting to see something different and it was perfectly executed.
Gamer moment but it's also easy to enjoy this when the soundtrack is this good and Shanoa is hot.
Even without considering the technical feats achieved by Jordan Mechner in Prince of Persia (please watch the Ars Technica video if you are interested) this is still a masterpiece by design alone.
I love how you are left alone to figure out what to do - there's so many mechanics and how you interact with your environment/enemies is a lot more than "walk here" or "slash this enemy". The 60 minute time limit is perfect to give you a sense of urgency - it fits the narrative considering your hot Persian girlfriend is in danger.
To be able to beat this not only your puzzle-solving skills have to be on point but also your execution which is the perfect harmony for me. A very dangerous place, you need to tread lightly as death is always around the corner but at the same time you only have so much time so you need to have a sense of balance when it comes to how much time you have left and how likely you are to die if you rush into something. In any case you will die a lot - the 60-minute timer will finish a lot of times before you are able to beat this but to do so is incredibly rewarding.
Then you also have the fluid animations and beautiful minimalistic aesthetic of the Apple II version or DOS/Amiga ports.
Incredibly surprised by Prince of Persia - it has everything I love in video games.