Developer: Mercury Steam
Medium: 3DS Card, Digital
Since the early days of the NES, one particular game series warmed the hearts of fans very early on: Castlevania. Lately though, when the developers tried to mess with the tried and true classic 2D side-scrolling formula of earlier releases, we end up with titles that we don’t necessarily associate with the rest of the game’s universe. The first of these bastardized versions began on the N64, which was odd as just one year before Konami scored their arguably best game in the series with Symphony of the Night. There were a few more hits on the Game Boy Advance later on, but they failed again with Lament of Innocence, and then made another comeback with their wonderful Nintendo DS titles. Roll to this generation of games and you have the console version of Lords of Shadow, that while not a bad “game”, it’s not really a true Castlevania game in this reviewer’s eyes, as it just didn’t feel like the world of the Belmonts I knew and loved. Fast forward to the present and when I saw a 3DS version of the series was on the horizon I thought we might be back on the upswing once again…but I was wrong.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate reveals the story of Gabriel’s descendents each with their own destiny and shocking fates. Trevor Belmont, a knight of the Brotherhood of Light sets out to avenge the death of his mother at the hands of his own father, who has now returned from years of exile to take up residence in a mysterious castle. What was once Gabriel Belmont now stands a powerful vampire called Dracula. Dracula has declared war upon the Brotherhood and thus the scene is set for a cataclysmic showdown between Father and Son.
Again, much like its console brethren, this version of Castlevania isn’t necessarily a bad game, just a bad game stamped with the name Castlevania as instead of trying to be a carbon copy of what made it popular for all these years. Mirror of Fate tries instead to mimic game franchises of today like Devil May Cry or God of War, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if the game was called Vampire Killer or anything but the infamous Castlevania.
Visually Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate looks solid on this little handheld, with a nice blend of 2D game play while tossing in 3D visuals that literally pop out on the 3DS. The animations of the characters are very smooth with a wide assortment of items and enemies to encounter in this quite large and lush environment. The level design is more traditional to today’s gaming standards, meaning you won’t find any tricky platforming or hidden turkeys and items behind faux walls. Instead beyond the visually impressive backdrops it is a button masher’s dream along with…you guessed it…quick time events. This is one feature that has become quite overplayed and in this series just feels unnecessary and is used far too often during your adventure. What’s more, unlike the fear of not making it to your next save point and playing it cautiously, you have oodles of save points which really take much of the urgency away from this adventure. Sure there are some exploring elements to the game thanks in part to your trusty whip that allows you to reach places out of the ordinary such as repelling down walls or grappling and swinging across from area to area. Along the way you will be enthralled by the wonderful orchestrated score that is one of the few instances in this version that wisps you away to the glory days of the series, even if there is little other similarities you will find along the way.
There is a good amount of depth to this new entry in the series as you will be earning experience, finding items, leveling up, and learning new abilities to help you fight the good fight against the forces of evil. While you have the chance to boost your levels up to feel like a bad ass, sometimes, especially during your boss battles, the dreaded quick time event pop up and put emphasis on button memorization and curacy over damage and gameplay. While this looks flashy and impressive, the feeling of accomplishment is depleted when these events rear their ugly heads.
When the mist clears and the evil has been slain, this installment of Castlevania tells a decent story, wraps up the Lords of Shadow storyline (and sets up the console sequel), and plays like a pretty decent action game. With that said, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate doesn’t really play like a Castlevania game, at least not the type I grew up playing. If Konami is insistent on rebooting this series, they need to find ways to bring originality to the series rather than just cloning what is the hot and popular game play style of the moment. Otherwise, go back to what made your series original and had others cloning your game play style, for as we all know, there is nothing wrong with sticking to what you do best, as long as you bring something new to the table.
For this entry into the series, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is a fun ride and will take you some time to accomplish. It also looks good, especially for being on a handheld, and will provide you with more of the Belmont history than you could find on Ancestry.com, just don’t expect your brain to think the words Castlevania while you play it. If you know this going into the game you will find yourself enjoying this adventure more for what it is, instead of what it isn’t.