I don’t get the appeal of post symphony of the night castlevania (granted, i haven’t played order of the ecclesia). In older castlevania games enemies took precise positioning and timing to kill, while in the metroidvania games you can slice through enemies like butter. Care to elaborate?
You’re entirely correct, a lot of the post-sotn games did feature weak enemy placement and flat-out weak enemies. I personally feel like the levelup component is almost completely pointless.
The appeal is primarily in the process of figuring out how the whole castle connects together and routing between areas. There are a number of points on the map that contain items you want to pick up, or which trigger events elsewhere, so you want to pass through those points, hitting as many of them in as short a path you can. It’s essentially the traveling salesman problem, which is fairly interesting to solve over and over again as you make treks across the castle. Sometimes you’re just exploring new unseen areas, sometimes you’re connecting new and old areas, sometimes you’re finding a way you can use a power to gain access to a new area, and with new shortcuts the map’s topology practically changes.
The other thing post-sotn games introduced was more complex/varied movement mechanics, like the wolf form, mist form, bat form (wing smash), double jump, divekick, backdash, crouch slide, super jump, and so on. And more complex/varied attacks, like the short sword that can be canceled by landing, fireballs, and a number of other things. These obviously add interest by giving people things that they can master, and which are tricky to use, introducing interesting choices and additional considerations into simple movement.
I felt like Order of Ecclesia was the strongest of the post-sotn games personally, it had a very solid combat system like the others, but generally more linear level design. This arguably lead to it having very solid enemy placement, with enemies that actually blocked your path forward and couldn’t be bypassed very easily. Nice bosses too. I 100%’d the game, and beat locked level 1 hard mode, without death ring.
I feel like there isn’t much preventing metroidvanias from having good enemy placement, except as Egoraptor pointed out, once you get through a tough enemy placement, do you really want to have to redo that every time you go through the area? This is actually where levelups come in. By having levelups, you can make earlier enemies that are previously tough a lot easier. If you can beat enemies in one hit, then it doesn’t really matter if from an execution standpoint they’re really tricky to dodge, damage, or bypass.
Obviously this leads to balance problems, you can get overleveled, underleveled, need to grind, or feel like grinding and just ruin things. The post-SOTN games generally have good level curves that have you at the right level at all times, I honestly haven’t needed to grind once in them except to grab rare drops, which I think are an issue in their own right.
As an alternative to this, I propose that when you grab an orb from a boss, instead of you getting stronger, all the monsters in the area that boss governed get weaker (same thing honestly). This means you can enter ANY AREA and always have the enemies be the appropriate difficulty for that area, and getting through enemies you’ve already beaten is easy. For bonus points, have it scale based on the number of boss orbs you’ve gotten.