3DS: Castlevania: LoS: Mirror of Fate Review
Well it’s been five years since a new Castlevania game has graced a hand held system. In that time we have seen the multi-player Harmony of Despair on PSN and XBL and a revamp of the franchise in the platforming/action title Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. With so many different paths a new Castlevania could take it is no wonder why so many are interested to see how this incarnation of the series turns out.
The story is an intertwining of the new Lords of Shadow Lore and classic Castlevania characters. Trevor Belmont, Simon Belmont, and Alucard are each playable with their unique abilities, weapons, and attacks. Their stories meld in an interesting arc that spans generations. For fans of the series Mirror of Fate provides a nice meld and smoothing out of the Castlevania Lore. For potential newbies to the series it is a great point to learn about a storied past.
Mirror of Fate takes old school 2D Castlevania and blends it with the style and feel of the new Lords of Shadow. For the most part it is quite successful with only a few minor hiccups. Graphically it goes away from the old path driven feel of classic titles and replaces it with a much lusher and detailed Lords of Shadow experience. Each portion of the castle is carefully crafted and blended to really make you feel that you are in one large area as opposed to jarring differences from one room to the next. The 3D visuals are the best I have seen on the 3DS to date. Detailed backdrops such as a moonlit cloud covered sky, forests, darkened caverns or theaters are brought to eerie life as it feels as though you can literally reach out and touch them. Enemies fly towards your face, lanterns swing the breeze, clouds pass in front of the moon and architecture surrounds you. Mercury System takes full advantage of the 3DS hardware and really creates something quite beautiful as a result.
The backgrounds, enemy models, and atmospheres are beautiful and begging to be explored. Unfortunately, like Lords of Shadow, there is very little to explore outside the main quest. You can go back looking for hidden scrolls and beastiaries to flesh out a little of the story but most are found on your first time through with only a few bring beyond the reach of your current ability sets. The beastiaries are cool in that it unlocks beast information and allows you to examine the character models close up but again most are easily unlocked and gives you very little reason to go back and play through again.
Musically Mirror of Fate is a mixed bag. While the music is moody and foreboding, the truth is it really is quite forgettable at the end of the day. For a series that is so tied to great game music, it’s a shame to see this title take the same direction musically as Lords of Shadow.
Combat is intuitive and can present some challenge until you figure out the best way to dispatch enemies. As you explore the castle and surrounding grounds you will routinely be blocked off from advancing until you can clear out a set number of enemies, much in the way Lords of Shadow presents its battles. After beating the enemies once the area is considered unlocked, if you return to explore you can either fight enemies again or just run through them on your way to your destination.
Your character will gain experience points by defeating enemies and finding hidden scrolls throughout the quest. Once you level up you will unlock a new combat skill. These skills can be chained together to create combos helping you progress through the game. While the skills are animated nicely and the combos quite effective, I wish there were a smooth way to cancel out of some of the skills/combos as it’s pretty easy to get caught in the middle of one by enemies later on.
Bosses and boss fights are varied and engaging most have some sort of Quick Time Event in order to deliver the deathblow. Some would be downright challenging if not for the retry feature. This is perhaps the biggest gripe of the experience. Unfortunately it’s a complaint that’s all too common in games these days, low difficulty. It won’t take you more than 9 hours to get through this game, maybe a little longer if you are going for 100% completion. The biggest travesty is the retry feature. If you die mid enemy fight you can continue where you left of with enemies retaining damage (set at certain points) and you fully replenished. Now I could understand if this was an option or an easy mode but for this to be the standard setting is just too bad and really detracts from the experience. Any sense of accomplishment is really diminished with the feature as the need for skill is no longer necessary.
Overall Catlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate is a worthwhile and quality title. It has so much potential in both its combat system and presentation. It’s just too bad the difficulty level and extras were just not enough to keep you coming back for more. While it’s worth a play you may want to wait till you see it discounted, especially with so many other great3DS games on the shelves.