Mar 16, 2013

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $29.99
We Recommend: $23.99
  • Developer: MercurySteam
  • Publisher: Konami
  • Genre: Action, Adventure
  • Released: Mar 05, 2013
  • Platform: Nintendo 3DS
  • Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS

Mirror of Fate is set after the events of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, a title released for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The game begins with Trevor Belmont setting out on a quest to avenge his mother’s death at the hands of his father, Gabriel Belmont. If you haven’t played through Lords of Shadow, I’m about to spoil something for you so you may want to skip to the next paragraph. During the first set of cut scenes it’s explained that Gabriel Belmont has become Dracula, and his infant son Trevor has been taken under the protection of the Brotherhood of Light. Gabriel is unaware of Trevor’s existence and as Trevor grows, he too has a son of his own, Simon. As with his own father, Simon is also separated from his parents at an early age. The game has you play the roles of several different characters, but you begin with Simon as he enters Dracula’s castle. He’s come to avenge the death of his father many years ago.

The combat here is satisfying and feels tight. You have your choice of using Strong or Light attacks to defeat your foes and a well timed block leads to an opportunity to counterattack. You even have the ability to perform an evasive dash which is essential if you want to survive many of these encounters. The enemies drain your health quickly if you’re not paying attention, creating some pretty frustrating battles if you’re not careful. While battling the monsters, stunning one allows you to counter and finish them in a spectacular fashion; all that is required is to use the grapple move. Doing this causes the camera to zoom in so you can see the brutal kill up close and personal. Experience points are awarded for victories and as your level increases, the number of attacks available to your character also increase.

As I mentioned, fighting cannon fodder baddies can be enjoyable but tough, but the boss battles are where things really open up. Each battle demands a wide range of tactics and experimentation before you find your stride. Luckily the game is generous with checkpoints and starts you a few moments before you die, giving the player the ability to experiment with different strategies  Your main character uses his whip for most of the game which is just fine as it’s very effective. The range can keep enemies at bay and it’s quick enough to handle the four or so enemies that attack you at a time. I rarely used any of the secondary items or much magic during my play through,  I had found that the primary weapon you use to be more than adequate to finish the game.

The game play is classic Castlevania in the 2D perspective; the maps are divided into stages and the maps slowly reveal themselves as you explore each stage. You will only be able to access and progress through certain areas after you acquire the proper upgrade/item. There are platforming sections scattered throughout the game, some easy and some that are rather difficult creating a nice balance.  The puzzles are well designed too, but they usually have you looking for the appropriate series of objects making before progressing. It’s something to be expected when going into a game of this style, I mean there’s a reason why that style of game is usually called “Metroidvania”. It doesn’t change the fact though that they can be a little tedious and dull. Your main weapon also doubles as a tool to make your way around the stages; using it to grapple and cross chasms.  These areas are all over the place and give you opportunities to go back and find new areas to explore, again a staple of the “Metroidvania” style of play.

Developer MercurySteam has done a great job with the 3D in this game. I had the 3D slider set to full blast and you could feel the depth of each room and corridor. Menus feel as if they are floating above the action and enemies jump into the scenes as if they were diving right into your screen. The immersion is quite intense and if you can handle the 3D longer than a few minutes, then you’re going to love the effect. The tone is dark and cut scenes are stylized in a way that gives the appearance of still images. Movement would only occur when a character was changing poses and felt very manikin like. It was a neat effect and felt oddly appropriate for being on a handheld. The game does have some occasional framerate issues, most notably during intense combat sequences but it wasn’t enough to interrupt the game play.

While there are some rough edges in Mirror of Fate, there is enough here to recommend.  The combat is furious, fun, and challenging while bosses will test your mettle. The story comes in at around 9 hours and the 3D is some of the best I’ve seen on the 3DS so far. Mirror of Fate was quite an enjoyable title and one that any 3DS owner should give a try, it’s a good addition to the Castlevania family of games.

A Nintendo 3DS copy of the game was provided by Konami for review purposes