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About the product
- Choose your character - Multiple characters to enjoy, each with unique abilities and skills across different eras. Take control of the legendary Trevor and Simon Belmont and more, as you battle Dracula and his evil minions.
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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Mirror of Fate 3DS
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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate takes place after the cataclysmic events of the original Lords of Shadow, and if you’ve not played that particular game yet and wish to avoid spoilers, I advise you stop reading now. Gabriel has become Dracul and his son Trevor — whose existence he is unaware of at the time of his transformation — has been taken under the protection of the Brotherhood of Light as a baby. In time, Trevor has a son of his own — Simon — who is also separated from his parents at an early age and forced to fend for himself. The game puts you in the shoes of several different characters, but the main quest begins in earnest as Simon Belmont enters Dracula’s castle to claim vengeance on the one who apparently killed his father many years ago.
It’s impossible to elaborate too much on this epic, multi-generational storyline without ruining the game; suffice to say it is one of Mirror of Fate’s strongest features. The developer has done an excellent job of re-purposing famous names from the Castlevania series and creating its own self-contained vision of the franchise. The same purists who baulked at Lords of Shadow’s re-booting of the Castlevania origin story will no doubt be equally aggrieved at the liberties MercurySteam has taken here, but when detached from the rest of the bloodline, Mirror of Fate ironically has one of the best plots yet seen in a Castlevania title. It helps to have played the original Lords of Shadow, but it’s by no means a prerequisite.
Despite the desire to tear up the Castlevania rule book and start all over again, the developer has maintained plenty of solid bonds with previous games, and these are sure to go some way to winning over life-long fans. Names such as Schneider, Gandolfi and Belnades — taken from Castlevania 64, Castlevania: Lament of Innocence and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse respectively — are bandied about at several points, and monsters such as skeletons, mermen and flea-men all make an appearance, tangibly linking Mirror of Fate to past installments.
The combat engine is lifted almost wholesale from the original Lords of Shadow, and while it does slow down the platforming action a little, it actually adds considerable depth to proceedings. Most enemies take several hits to slay and many will block your blows before countering with an unstoppable offensive. Simply hammering the attack buttons won’t do you any good here; you need to learn the various combo attacks, mix in mid-air juggles and unlock guard-shattering special moves in order to succeed.
Grapple moves come into play when your opponent is stunned, allowing you to end their pitiful life with a spectacular finishing move which causes the camera to zoom in for the best view. Experience points are awarded for victory in battle, and as your level increases so too do the number of attacks available to your character. Fighting common foes is engaging enough, but it’s the boss battles which really open up Mirror of Fate. Each contest demands a varied range of tactics and it usually takes a few goes before you lock down the winning pattern. Thankfully, generous checkpointing means that failure is never a major irritation. But for old school Castlevania fans, it's basically sort of like a kick to the face, saying that; "Oh, don't worry. We'll hold your hand if you need help with this boss that you're continuously dying 4 times in a row.". Um, thank you but no thank you. I think I got it down...kind of.
With combat taking centre stage, the emphasis on exploration is lessened significantly from previous entries in the franchise. While it’s possible to backtrack through the castle and visit areas more than once, you’re effectively funneled down the correct path by red arrows on the map screen which show where you should be going. This removes the need to painstakingly cover every inch of Dracula’s crumbling citadel in case you miss a secret exit or pathway, but it also speeds things up and prevents players from getting frustrated when they can’t find how to proceed — a common issue with the traditional Metroidvania titles I've noticed.
The limited variety of collectable items is another factor which curtails the need — and desire — to explore. Aside from picking up ammo for your secondary armament, reading scrolls left by fallen warriors and finding chests which expand your vitality, magical power and ammo stock, there’s no real reason to investigate every nook and cranny, except if you want the bonus ending, then by all means, complete each Belmont's chapter all on 100% completion. Enemies don’t drop special items either, which means you don’t have the “gotta catch ‘em all” collectability element which made RPG-inspired Castlevania titles like Symphony of the Night and Portrait of Ruin so addictive. While this might come as a crushing disappointment to seasoned fans, it’s actually quite a positive change in some ways; the action is more focused and straightforward, and the already impressive amount of play time available means you’re not going to be stuck for entertainment, despite the toning down of RPG elements. Having said that, I did at several points find myself wishing there were more things to collect and secrets to uncover.
Visually, Mirror of Fate contains moments of sheer, unadulterated beauty. The 3D effect is astounding, and works especially well with the fixed 2D viewpoint. I say that because I have a 2DS and the visuals are perfect. When navigating the highest points of the castle, you can see distant towers in perfect perspective, while closer objects remain slightly out of focus. 3D is used to good effect to add tension, such as monsters quickly dashing past the player’s gaze in the foreground, unseen by the character you’re controlling. There are points where the graphical fidelity drops slightly and the frame rate isn’t as smooth as I'd like, but these are minor grievances when you consider the standard of the overall package. It’s worth noting the quality of the cutscenes, which are rendered in real-time but use a cel-shaded style which I personally think is superior to that of the main in-game visuals. Even so, Mirror of Fate is a fine-looking 3DS title, and no mistake.
Special mention must also go to the music, which is nothing short of sublime. I am a fan of Óscar Araujo’s musical talent since the release of Lords of Shadow in 2010. Araujo’s score manages to be brooding, triumphant, emotional and chilling in equal measure, despite not revisiting any of the traditional fan-favourite Castlevania tracks. Araujo is clearly a composer of incredible talent, and while his work on the Lords of Shadow series may be vastly different to what fans are used to, his contribution here is just as significant as the work of Michiru Yamane and Masanori Adachi.
Factor in some impressive visuals, gorgeous music and taxing boss battles — not to mention a fantastic story and more replay value than you might at first imagine — and you’ve got a game which can stand proud in the Castlevania bloodline. Sometimes, a little change is a good thing. Depending on your personal pallet.
If you want to get a more direct comparison, this game is basically a 2D-perspective version of God of War. The fighting style, down to the QTE-boss-kills, the puzzles, even the mash-button-to-open-chests-and-get-upgrades system is here. If I didn't know about the older Castlevania games I'd say it's a blatant rip-off, but instead I realized that God of War owes a lot to Castlevania.
The second thing you need to know is that this game is dark. Literally, really dark. As in, impossible-to-play-in-daylight dark. But that's fine, because it's best to play this game in the darkness, to get sucked into its world.
If those two things are of no consequence to you, or you actually find them appealing, then this is a game you should play. The gameplay is fun, the art style is magnific, the story is classic and the content is extensive. That being said, there are a few cons that might turn players off.
First, as I mentioned, if you prefer the Metroidvania style, you're bound to be dissapointed. While you can backtrack in this game, it's still more in line with the classic titles. The map, instead of being one big comprehensive page is divided in zones, making it kinda useless, except for one thing that makes it too useful: a red arrow that constantly points you where you need to go, which cheapens the experience.
In fact, that's the main gripe I have with the game: it's too easy. Yes, enemies are strong, and offer a variety of attacks, but when you lose you return almost to the same place. This is specially jarring in boss battles, in which if you lose you'll return in the middle of the battle, and the boss doesn't get his energy back. That reduces the challenge quite a bit, and you have to resort to certain puzzles to find some challenge in the game.
Another thing, but this might be a matter of personal preference, is that you don't feel your attacks have power. In the previous games (most of them, anyway), when you struck and killed an enemy, you FELT it. Your attacks had "oomph". There was good audiovisual feedback that your attack was strong, no matter how much damage you actually dealt. Here, you feel as if you're hitting your enemies with a big straw.
One more thing to mention, and this is not necessarily a bad point, is the style of the cutscenes. Characters move, talk and their faces change expression, but their lips never move. This is obviously a stylistic choice, and, as I said, it's not really a bad thing, I just think it's strange.
Still, it's a good game, I just hope the next one addresses the difficulty issue.
Most recent customer reviews
The game has intuitive mechanics and the history is awesome, you can play as Siimon Belmont, Alucard and Trevor!Read more