Published on March 5th, 2013 | by Shawn Long, Features Editor
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate Review
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]Developer: MercurySteam Entertainment
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Review Notes: A copy of the game was provided for review purposes.
The Castlevania series is one of the longest-active series in gaming history. Any true video gamer has played at least one game in the series, whether being a fan of them or out of curiosity. From a side-scroller, to a 3D adventure to fighting game, Castlevania has taken on many identities in its more than 20-year history. But the bread and butter of the series has always been the classic 2D environment.
The Nintendo DS had several incarnations of Castlevania, all of which were met with commercial and critical success because it entailed classic gameplay with a mix of Metroid-style exploration. Now, MercurySteam and Konami have graced us with the latest offering. The duo have have made Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate not only possible, but they might have created the best Castlevania game ever, and possibly one of the greatest action/adventure games of all time.
A sequel to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow on PS3 and Xbox 360, the game is broken up into segments. Included are: Prologue, Act I, Act II and Act III. Each segment has you playing as a different character: Gabriel Belmont (Grandfather of Simon), Simon Belmont (Son of Trevor Belmont), Alucard and Trevor Belmont (Son of Gabriel). Each individual story intertwines with one another (some literally in the background), and makes for a brisk and coherent story. The story is clear, and actually very emotional, with tales of betrayal, revenge and twists. The story was thoroughly impressive. Unlike in some previous Castlevania entries, the story is one of the main highlights of the game.
While handheld Castlevania’s are usually in vain of the Metroidvania style featuring elaborate exploration and back tracking, this game actually develops a new style that I’d like to dub “God of Vania.”
Exploration isn’t as prevalent, but it’s there. The fighting engine is reminiscent of God of War, which is a very good thing. The circle-pad controls character movements, with ‘X’ and ‘Y’ controlling melee attacks. Throwing weapons are mapped to the ‘A’ button, jumping is done with ‘B’, and Magic is mapped to the d-pad directions. Finally, a grappling hook is set to the ‘R’ trigger, while blocking is done with the ‘L’ trigger. As your character levels up, you learn new attack skills, each with a varying degree of speed and strength. Simple quick-time events (QTE) are scattered in the game, and never feel intrusive.
The gameplay is very brisk and hard-hitting, with enemies usually having a good bit of life, even at the default ‘Normal’ difficulty setting. Parrying at the proper time will stun enemies. Blocking and evasive moves are necessary if you want to escape with your life.
Each Act manages to stand out from the previous with subtle differences to the gameplay that keeps the game fresh. Some have a higher emphasis on magic, some on puzzles and others on platforming. Each Act also strips you of magic abilities from the previous act and gives you new ones. Thankfully, however, you do keep your melee combos from the previous which helps in staying alive.
Each part of the castle feels different and manages to keep backtracking to a minimum. There are some truly breathtaking backgrounds and scenes, including what has quickly become my favorite boss fight ever. I won’t spoil that event for you, but when you enter a fight that feels so out of place, and you understand just why that is, I’m sure you will be as blown away as I was.
The game is cinematic and really has a true epic console feel instead of a rushed portable final product. The game has a 2.5D (or isometric) perspective, and delivers 2D gameplay on 3D levels. The detail and vision is remarkable. Limbs fly at your screen, characters move about in the background and foreground and enemies can be spotted watching you — it is by far one of the best uses of the 3DS graphic capabilities that I have seen.
Enemies are crisp and vibrant, even in the way they are killed. For example, hand axes can be seen sticking from heads after being thrown, which shows the high attention to detail. Backgrounds are grandiose in both size and scale, reiterating that feeling of being just a lost soul wandering in a giant castle. The art style for cutscenes display an artistic style, not unlike Okami.
Castlevania games on the Nintendo DS always had a ‘Teen’ rating. This time around, it has been graduated to a ‘Mature’ rating, and it shows. This game is very dark in terms of story, enemies are often dismembered and blood showers down in most scenes. One fight in particular has you cutting off the hands of a boss, and then slicing his torso in half, all in gruesome detail. Even some sexual innuendos are included, adding to the God of War feel to the game.
Rounding out the package is an excellent soundtrack that really adds to Mirror of Fate, along with top-notch voice acting. The quest is a decent length, with my first play through coming in at around 10 hours. One-hundred percent completion of the game will take longer of course, and has its benefits as well as bonuses that I don’t want to spoil.
My two gripes with the game actually have nothing to do with the game itself, but are worth noting. First off, the title is way too long and confusing. A simpler title would have sufficed. Also, the game does not come with an instruction booklet, which I found to be a bit bizarre and thought may have been a mistake, but my housemate’s copy confirmed this. Cost cutting measures, I guess.
At the end of the day, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is what an excellent video game should be. Everything is done so well that any minor quibbles just boil down to personal preference that don’t detract anything from the game.
The title is a contender for ‘Game of the Year’ on any platform. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is a no-brainer for any fan of action games. Similar titles like God of War and other Castlevania titles seem to be cut from the same thread. If you don’t have a ‘3DS yet, this is yet another reason to buy one now.
[xrr label=”Rating: 10/10″ rating=10/10]
+ Excellent Presentation
+ Gameplay that combines classic Castlevania with God of War
+ An epic, difficult adventure
– Where the hell is my damn instruction book!