Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: March 5, 2013
ESRB: M for Mature
A retail copy was supplied by the publisher for this review
Before delving into this, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate (that“s a mouthful) isn“t the typical Dracula-hunting 2D adventure you“ve come to know from the series. With that in mind, going into this game expecting to get another Symphony of the Night will only end in disappointment.
Instead, what we get is a blend of what MercurySteam brought to the franchise in their 2010 console reboot, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and the 2D platforming from the series' roots. And while that may sound like a bit of an awkward combination, Mirror of Fate pulls it off seamlessly to provide a beautiful, moody, and fun entry into the Belmonts“ cursed series.
If you haven“t played the original Lords of Shadow and do not wish to have that game spoiled for you, it is advised that you stop reading right now (and also, go play it if you have plans on playing this one). For those of you still here, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate takes place after the events of the original Lords of Shadow; after Gabriel Belmont – chosen knight of the Brotherhood of Light – succumbed to the powers of darkness and became Dracula himself. Gabriel is unaware, however, that his late wife Marie had given birth to a son, Trevor, who has taken it upon himself to seek out Dracula and clear the stain on the Belmont family name.
Trevor also has a son of his own – Simon. In fact, after a brief prologue starring Gabriel Belmont prior to his dark descent, our story begins with Simon Belmont on a mission to avenge his mother, who was killed when he was young by the forces of Dracula (aka his grandpa), and his father, who had apparently been killed by Dracula after setting out to fulfill his mission long ago. Midway through the game, the one and only Alucard enters the picture with a few surprises of his own. And finally, during the home stretch, you play as Trevor, revealing what happened to him leading up to his inevitable fate.
If the format in which the story is told sounds confusing, it kinda is. Mirror of Fate is split into three acts, with the first two happening simultaneously within the story and the final act taking place 25 years prior. The story is most certainly an interesting one, but it can be a bit hard to follow at times. But once you get back on track, it“s easy to appreciate the twists this game presents.
Living up to its legacy, Mirror of Fate is first and foremost a 2D platformer, just like the Castlevania games of olde. So expect little more than a bunch of running, jumping, and fighting side-to-side as you make your way through Dracula“s castle. The game is also fairly challenging, which is a good thing considering how tough Castlevania games are known to be. But how does the old style of gameplay fare when combined with the gameplay style of the original Lords of Shadow? Pretty well, actually. The controls are easy enough to comprehend, and while the required use of the circle pad for movement can sometimes make the gameplay feel a little wonky, it doesn“t really hurt the experience too much in the end.
Where the biggest Lords of Shadow inspiration lies is in the combat. In other words, Mirror of Fate has a lot of flashy, combo-heavy action, and it only builds up as you get deeper and deeper into the game. Dealing damage to enemies is very fulfilling, and each enemy slain will provide you with some experience, which will allow you to gain levels and learn new moves accordingly. Each new move improves the fun factor as they provide you with a steady stream of new combos that add on to the already enjoyable combat system. There are also some quick-time events scattered throughout fights that can get pretty annoying, but if you fail, the game is forgiving enough to bring you back to the exact moment you failed to try it again.
No Metroidvania-style game would be complete without its fair amount of exploration. As you progress through the game, you may find yourself compelled by the urge to search the castle“s nooks and crannies for all the collectible goodies laid out for you, whether they be chests containing a health, magic, or ammo expansion; dead soldiers holding scrolls for you to read; or just some ammo to refuel your stock and the occasional chicken roast for rejuvenation. There are certain areas you will only be able to access after gaining a certain ability, such as an extended reach for grappling, Alucard“s two alternate forms, and Trevor“s Speed Boots.
Some fans of the series may be disappointed by the exclusion of certain RPG elements that made exploration so much fun in the more recent 2D entries, but the mix of simplicity and challenge this game offers and the RPG elements they did include is more like a combination of old and new Castlevania, which provides plenty of exploration while still allowing the player to focus on completing the game at a reasonable pace.
If you“re looking for some eye candy, then good news: visuals are definitely a high point for this game. Sure, there are some pretty vast differences in graphical fidelity going from the HD console Lords of Shadow to the 3DS entry, but MercurySteam has done a wonderful job taking it to the 2.5D realm. Landscapes are beautiful and detailed, character and boss designs look fantastic, and the 3D effect works extremely well, such as when the camera pans to a certain angle or a big, vicious creature throws a Hunchback at the screen (sure, it“s cheesy, but whatever). Then there are the cel-shaded cutscenes, which look no less than stunning, whether you have the 3D effect on or off.
One important thing Castlevania games always seem to do right is providing a fantastic soundtrack, and Mirror of Fate is no exception. When the series was handed over to MercurySteam, the question was raised of whether the new composer, Ã“scar Araujo, would be able to live up to the legacy of composers Michiru Yamane and Masanori Adachi. While his work may be different from what fans are used to, it“s clear that he knows how to make good music, and the magnificent music he offers in this game works perfectly in setting the mood and intensifying the action. The sound effects and voice acting are also really good, so props go to those in charge of all that. Unfortunately, the audio is a tad compressed, which lessens the sound quality a bit more than one would like.
Change can be good if pulled off well, and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is pulled off well. You just have to avoid comparing it too much to games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or the DS iterations when going into it. Instead, think of it as a blend of the original Lords of Shadow and classic Castlevania, with some of the RPG and exploration aspects of the more modern 2D entries. As such, Mirror of Fate has tons of action, is fairly challenging, and has plenty of secrets to scour Dracula“s castle for. The game has its fair share of flaws, but when it“s this fun, good-looking, and such a treat to the ears, it“s most certainly a welcome entry into the Castlevania series.
+ Interesting story with some nice twists
+ Fun, appropriately challenging gameplay
+ Great graphics and art design
+ Takes advantage of the 3D effect well
+ Superb soundtrack and voice acting
- Story can be hard to follow at times
- Gameplay mechanics can get a little wonky
- Compressed audio lessens the quality a bit
Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
Not your typical Castlevania game, Mirror of Fate is a fun blend of the classics and Lords of Shadow. Factor in a great story, some gorgeous visuals, and a magnificent soundtrack, and this is a very solid experience.