Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate Review For Nintendo 3DS
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS XL.
As Castlevania fans eagerly await the upcoming Lords of Shadow 2, Konami bridges the gap between LoS and LoS2 with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate for the Nintendo 3DS. Taking place 25 years after the events of Lords of Shadow, this 2D action-adventure platformer will span three generations of Belmonts to tell the tale of this cursed family and their fall into darkness.
The game begins in prologue as Gabriel Belmont. He leaves his wife Marie – who, unbeknownst to him, is pregnant with Trevor Belmont – to battle the Daemon Lord. While he is off on his quest, Marie gives birth to their son, who is taken into the custody of the Brotherhood of Light to hide his existence from Gabriel, who is fated to become Dracula. Your real adventure, however, begins in the three following acts as Simon, Alucard, and Trevor. Each of the Belmont’s stories adds to the overall arc taking place over the 25 years since the events of LoS. The story, which is depicted mainly in cutscenes, doesn’t really have a whole lot of substance to it, as the game concentrates mainly on the gameplay and puzzle aspects. It does, however, provide some insights into the relationships between each of the family members.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate goes back to the basics of the Castlevania franchise as a platformer that encourages exploration. As your arsenal of weapons and magic expands, new areas that were once unreachable become available to you, often containing rewards such as additional health or magic to entice you to survey as much of each map as possible. Additional collectibles, such as Bestiary Cards and scrolls that tell the tales of those who braved the halls of Dracula’s castle before you, further prod you to complete the entire map, even though the reward is only your personal gratification.
While you start out with the traditional whip as Simon Belmont, you’ll soon acquire additional weapons to add to your arsenal against Dracula’s hordes. Throwing Axes and Oil Flasks come early in the game, serving as a boon against some of the more powerful enemies that you’ll encounter early on, as against anything larger than a shambling zombie, your whip serves as little more than one of those paddles teachers once used on unruly students. You do eventually acquire the Combat Cross that was introduced in Lords of Shadow as Gabriel’s weapon of choice, which is essentially half of Simon’s quest in this title.
Each character is given their own different items and skills based on their traits, but they generally serve the same purpose. Some items, such as the axes and flasks, are consumable and can be replenished by breaking barrels or killing enemies. Other items will use the character’s power bar which will drain over time, and in some instances, will drain faster when the protagonist takes a blow. Additional skills and combos are unlocked as you level up your character by acquiring XP. XP can be earned by killing enemies, discovering scrolls and bestiary cards, etc.
One feature that starts off as pretty cool but quickly becomes overused is the finishing moves that you can perform on beasts when they become stunned. After a few lashings, the monster will start to glow to indicate that you can perform a devastating attack to finish them off simply by tapping the R button. Doing so kicks off an event depicting you killing the target brutally in a slow motion close-up. Unfortunately, this is something that becomes overused in boss battles, alongside quick-time events, and makes the feature seem gimmicky, after a while. It would have been better to make these finishing moves available in boss battles as an optional kill rather than integral to the fight to keep it from feeling tired.
The team at Mercury Steam continues the tradition of creating remarkable environments to behold from both a graphical and design perspective. Gothic trappings adorn the halls of Dracula’s castle, while the light and shadows give the world of LoSMoF an eerie feel. Foregrounds and backgrounds move dynamically with the character’s plane, giving an additional sense of depth to the game in the third dimension, regardless if the stereoscopic 3D is enabled on the 3DS or not. The occasional animations also occur on these planes to give them an additional perception of independent movement from the playing field. Character animations do suffer, though, during cutscenes as mouths seem to only move occasionally. I’ve witnessed a good many scenes where the speaking character opens his/her mouth to speak, but stops as though frozen, only to occasionally move again.
The music also suffers due to repetition. While exceptionally composed, hearing the same 30-second snippet of somber music and a female opera singer throughout the first portion of the game was simply maddening. The music does vary from area to area, but if you’re hell-bent on discovering every little nook and cranny, you might want to fluff some cotton up for the listening orifices. The audio effects themselves are a bit more of a mixed bag, providing the perfect ambience of creepiness and suspense for the game, but at times it feels like the audio engineers were trying a little bit too hard to make the game sound like Diablo or Silent Hill. That is to say, what you’re hearing isn’t bad, but it feels a bit overcooked in some spots and raw in others.
Overall, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is an excellent game and one of the best-looking action games on the 3DS. Mercury Steam manages to get a whole lot right with this 2D platforming action game, and it serves as a fantastic hors d’oeuvres to the main course that is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, coming later this year. It could have used a little more spit and polish, but the small issues that we encountered weren’t enough to detract from this game’s greatness.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate receives a 4.25 out of 5.
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