Contravania in Ecclesia Brings Tense Contra Gunplay to Castlevania’s Halls
Contravania in Ecclesia offers a wild mix of play styles. While playing Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, did you ever wonder what it would be like to bring a gun to fight Dracula? In Contra, did you ever wish there were more skeletons and demons to shoot? Well, this ROM hack fulfils those very-specific desires. It marries two play styles that I never expected to work so well together. I guess I should have expected it to be fun to mow down vampires with machine guns.
Bill Rizer, Probotector, and an array of Contra protagonists have found themselves in the world of Order of Ecclesia. The reasons don’t matter much. There’s pretty much no plot any more. Honestly, how much story have you ever needed to play a Contra game, anyway? So, you need to blast your way through a world of werewolves and colossal crabs. That might sound a lot easier than trying to fight with swords and spells, but this game can be pretty relentless at times.
Order of Ecclesia gave players all kinds of spells and weapons they could use to fight monsters. Contravania in Ecclesia pares that down a fair bit. You have an automatic rifle you can use to blast foes. It’s not the rapid-fire machine gun from Contra, but you can still maul enemies with it. If something is above you, you can fire a wide Spread Gun blast to catch it. You also have Crush Missiles that you can fire in groups of four, as well as a laser beam you can fire below yourself to hurt enemies and propel yourself upwards. These last two weapons draw from the character’s magic meter, but this refills quickly so you can still use them often.
Finally, you have the multi-hit rising fire attack, which sprays flames around you as you leap upwards. This costs Hearts, which are items you can find fairly frequently through basic exploration. It’s enough that you can’t just spam this powerful move, but you can still use it a lot and recharge it fairly easily. You can only use it so much against bosses (there’s no place to replenish Hearts in boss chambers), which keeps things fairly balanced despite the move’s power. So, you won’t need to pick up guns like you would in Contra as you have a big arsenal at all times.
These tools will carry you far in Contravania in Ecclesia. At first, they might feel like they make things too easy. Many enemies approach you at a distance as you explore the game’s many rooms and locales. This lets you pepper them with shots before the enemies are anywhere near you. Order of Ecclesia was largely built around melee combat. So, being able to shoot things can make you feel overpowered at times. The shots only deal a little bit of damage, though. Soon, you really have to load foes with lead to take them out.
Another element that keeps things balanced is our fragile heroes. Characters in Contra games tend to die in a single hit. They may be covered in muscles and armor, but one shot is all it takes to kill them. Order of Ecclesia was designed around enemies that could effortlessly hit you a time or two. Many attacks cover huge chunks of the screen, or spray out in patterns that can be hard to avoid. The original is notorious for its difficulty. The Contra gang won’t die in one hit in this ROM hack, but they can only take a few bumps before they die. You can also grab a few collectibles to increase your health, but they don’t make a huge difference in your durability. So, the game tends to swing from being a breeze to utterly annihilating you in moments.
There is a final balancing quirk that makes things especially difficult. If you take shots from the ground, you can’t move while firing. It’s Resident Evil 4 rules, kids. You’re either shooting or walking. You can’t do both. If you are going to shoot, you need to be sure you’re not going to get hit in the next few milliseconds. You CAN move in the air while shooting, thankfully, but you’re vulnerable any time your feet are on the ground.
These gunplay elements add a lot of tension to Contravania in Ecclesia. I’d shift from feeling overconfident to being nearly dead after a mistake or two. The game expects you to play for long periods between save points, too, so odds are good you’ll screw up and take a few hits. This means you spend a lot of time limping along, dodging quickly to avoid that last hit that will kill you as you frantically search for a svae room to heal yourself. This was especially terrifying in Dracula’s Castle, the massive end-game location. You could easily bypass save rooms while being lost in its halls, scrambling to avoid damage and stay alive.
Bosses also ramped up this tension. Even early bosses could soak up bullets easily. You’d want to be sure you weren’t shooting while standing in the path of an enemy attack. While you’d only be trapped for a few milliseconds, that moment of temporary paralysis while shooting could be enough to get you clobbered. The bosses all hit like trucks, too, so you can’t afford many mistakes. Since the bosses have so much life, you have to be consistent and careful for long periods of time. You’d also want to be aggressive to make the fights shorter, which creates that same internal conflict that comes from playing a good Contra game. In those titles, it was all about taking big risks to kill bosses before they could kill you. You get that same mix of terror and exhilaration here, too.
Contravania in Ecclesia makes two great things work well together in ways I never saw coming. Through some careful balancing, the ROM hack’s creators brought gunplay to Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia without making the Contra characters too overpowered. It preserves the tension that comes from dodging enemy attacks and scrambling to stay alive, but all without feeling like the fights are unfair for our less-durable heroes exploring the world of Castlevania.
And again, there’s nothing quite like shooting Dracula in the face.