The reborn Castlevania series makes the jump to the 3DS with a game that’s both old school and new.
Like a lot of long time gamers, I have some great memories of the original Castlevania series on the NES and SNES. For that matter, even the version that appeared on the Sega Genesis Castlevania Bloodlines holds a special place in my heart. I doubt there’d be many who would argue that those 8 and 16bit era games were true classics and titles that, much like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros., will always stand the test of time.
The main difference that I have with most Castlevania fans though, is that I never really cared much for any of the games in the long running series since then. Console clunkers aside, I know that the GBA and DS ‘vanias were some of the best held and beloved by many- but not me. I always felt like those games got too far away from what Castlevania was supposed to be originally.
Enter Lords of Shadow. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was a complete reboot of the franchise from the ground up. Belmont in the lead role? Yep. Dark and evil surroundings? Yep. Big-eyed anime style heroes? Nope. Personally, I ate it up.
Now the retelling and recreation of the Castlevania mythos returns with the young series’ first portable incarnation. The 3DS’ Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate continues right from where the first game left off, just in 2D instead of 3D. Stop reading now if you haven’t played the first one and you don’t like spoilers.
The first game’s hero, Gabriel Belmont, is now the vile Dracula. He leads his armies of the undead and monsters against both the people and his former order- and this is where Simon Belmont comes in. Simon, you might remember, was the original Castlevania hero from way back on the NES.
He heads into Castle Dracula to avenge his father and mother’s death years earlier. From there, it’s a series of twists and turns (some of which are more predictable than others) spread out over the story’s of four playable characters. Well to be fair, one of those playable characters comes in before Simon’s even born.
In all you’ll play as Gabriel (before his turning), Simon, Trevor (from Castlevania III), and Symphony of the Night (and, again, Castelvania III!) star Alucard- the son of Dracula. Each one has an important part to play in the tale and each one is pretty cool in his own right, though none of the four really control all that differently.
The controls in Mirror of Fate are easy enough, but can be extremely challenging at times. Maybe it’s just the price you pay for playing a heavy action title on the 3DS, but on occasion hitting the right controls can be a little bit of a pain.
It’s honestly not a game-breaker (really), but it feels like things could have been a little better tailored to the 3DS’ unique control setup. Combos and special moves were quickly forgotten about by me, since they were too much of a hassle to pull off in the first place. Oh, and quick-time events? Could we all just please forget about the quick-time events?! Please! I’m begging here- they’re not fun! Fortunately Mirror of Fate doesn’t punish you too hard for messing up a sequence, but man… I just don’t like QTE’s.
Fortunately I did like pretty much everything else.
The graphics are 100% gothic horror, and man does that make me smile as a fan of the classic Castlevania games. There are no bright colors and you won’t find anything all that cartoony around this castle. This is the way I best remember the series and it sure put a smile on my face all the way through.
The 3DS pumps out some really nice looking visuals with Mirror of Fate too. One of my favorite scenes actually comes not too far from the start of the game as acidic water filled with the restless spirits of the Dark Lord’s victims pours down as an obstacle. Very cool looking.
Really the whole castle looks like I would imagine an updated Castle Dracula from the NES game would look running on a modern piece of hardware. Everything is super detailed and dark (which is a good thing) with splashes of color from time to time. It sets a creepy mood and creepy is the story of the day. Now don’t get me wrong, Mirror of Fate isn’t really a horror game and probably won’t do much to scare you, but it’s not for kids either and horror fans will probably very much appreciate what Konami and developer MercurySteam did here.
The musical score, much like the graphics, is foreboding and dark. Overall, I did think the score was a little too ‘laid back’ shall we say? It didn’t have the punch that I was looking for or the ‘hook’ that it probably should have had for a game like this, but it’s serviceable and certainly not bad by any means.
I had a similar time with the vocal performances. The cast did a solid job and the script (what there is of it) was shockingly decent. I didn’t really care for the fact that the cut-scenes were done in what I guess is supposed to be a graphic novel style though. Watching Alucard open his mouth and then just having it dangle there as he spoke full sentences was more than a little goofy and came off as lazy more than anything else.
I also had some audio distortion when playing without headphones as the 3DS’ speakers seemed to have trouble with the vocals at maximum volume levels. It was odd, and I don’t think I ever experienced anything like that before, but there it was.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate (wow is that a long name) does so much right that it’s hard to really dig into it for what it does wrong.
It isn’t perfect though. The controls could have been a little tighter and less of a hassle and there are some things over the course of the game that could and probably should have been streamlined a bit. Personally, I think it’s a little too long too and some of the boss battles are disjointedly difficult; a fact that comes as a shock when you’re just cruising along through most of the campaign.
Even with those complaints though, Mirror of Fate is a gem. It’s Castlevania, pure and simple. MercurySteam has given the characters a ton more personality than they ever had before and actually made the story behind Konami’s series a compelling one to play through.
Fans of the classic Castlevania’s will dig this one, but even if you just like a challenging action game with some terrific visuals- it’s hard to go wrong with Mirror of Fate.