Castlevania-Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate follows the tribulations of Simon, Alucard and Trevor Belmont. As a game that was suppose to reboot the series, Mirror of Fate more or less mimics its classic brethren while still maintaining the modern mechanics of Lords of Shadow. In the process, it somehow manages to pull off a competent game that explains the history of the Belmont family.
From the onset, we are given a brief, but playable prologue of Gabriel Belmont as he approaches the all-too familiar castle that has been the epic center of every Castlevania game. The story unfolds in a linear fashion as werewolves scamper up trees and across your peripheral view. Even though you battle the evil that inhabits the castle, it is brief and only serves to introduce Simon Belmont some fifty seven years later as he attempts to avenge the death of his parents
Mirror of Fate does away with the leveling system that became commonplace after Symphony of the Night. The inventory system and the ability to equip armor, weapons and trinkets has also been aomitted. Basically, the entire game has been rebooted, leaving the game somewhat stripped down in comparison to the original games and feeling a bit foreign in some parts.
The combat mechanics are where the biggest changes have occurred. Similar to Gods of War, the gameplay is more action-based and requires constant button mashing to defeat your foes. Tapping the Y button rapidly produces a weak combo chain, but when it’s combined with the X button, you can deal enormous amounts of damage on multiple enemies (including airborne foes).
Simon and his descendants gain experience every time they defeat an enemy, but unlike Symphony of the Night where leveling benefits your character’s stats (i.e. increasing health, etc), leveling in Mirror of Fate is limited to unlocking forty different combat skills for your whip. It’s as off-putting as it sounds. After spending years playing the Playstation One classic and its GBA counterparts, it’s difficult at first to readjust to a system that offers less than the originals.
Combat can be challenging for all the wrong reasons. Occasionally, the same creatures will exhibit unbalanced hit detection that make them twice as strong as they should be. Your enemies are capable of blocking your attacks, but this isn’t the cause. When you’ve spent an hour killing countless skeletons, werewolves and zombies, you don’t expect the same creatures to absorb your attacks and maul you in seconds, especially when you’re mashing away on the buttons and clearly hitting them with your whip. There is a bright side to this hit detection ‘bug’, though. It doesn’t seem to happen often enough to affect the gameplay.
Like all Castlevania games, Mirror of Fate has rock-solid controls that work well with the Nintendo 3DS’ button layout. The directional pad is used to select secondary weapons such as axes and holy water, among others. The Right Shoulder button is used to grapple and perform fatality-like moves on your enemies, while the Left Shoulder button blocks incoming attacks.
New to the series are ‘Spirit’ sub-weapons; these are fallen souls of heroes who lost their lives inside Dracula’s castle. Selectable via the directional pad or the 3DS’ touch screen, these abilities serve different purposes and consume magic instead of ammo. The Spirit of Belenades is a shield that can protect you from environmental dangers like steam and fire pillars. While she is also useful during battle, she can only absorb so much damage before dissipating.
Grappling isn’t thoroughly explained in the game. Grapple points are located just about everywhere inside the castle, but in the beginning, they glisten red because they cannot be used. The game doesn’t explain any of this to the player; it mentions that grappling is possible, but it doesn’t elude to how it’s achieved. It’s not until you defeat Death, and acquire the Combat Cross, that grappling is possible. This happens about halfway through chapter one.
Exploring Dracula’s castle happens to be the highlight of Mirror of Fate. There are plenty of puzzles involving suspended platforms, crawl spaces, mining carts and underground lakes that contain secrets and tidbits of storyline. As you explore the castle, you will discover that some areas feel very vacant. For whatever reason, the creatures that inhabit Dracula’s domain are confined to certain areas of the castle. You can climb a room almost three screens high and never encounter a single enemy. This isn’t to downplay the puzzles because they’re quite hard in places (especially when you’re pulling a door lever open and creatures spawn out of nowhere), but half of the experience is battling Dracula’s minions every step of the way.
Quicktime Events (QTEs), while seemingly overdone in other games, adds a stylish, cinematic flair to the boss battles. After you have finally learned the boss’ pattern (which isn’t easy), the action seamlessly flows into a QTE where you must deal the ‘final’ blow. While most games would have the player pressing random buttons accompanied by on-screen queues, Mirror of Fate has you mashing away on the attack buttons to overcome your adversary.
Failing to complete the QTE results in a much longer boss battle rather than a quick, untimely demise like in most games. And this is why Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is still worth your attention despite some of its flaws. It combines the best elements of Lords of Shadow while trying to pave its own way through Castlevania lore.
While not perfect by any means, Mirror of Fate still delivers a competent Castlevania experience despite the somewhat unbalanced gameplay. While it has received some negative press recently, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is a great game when given the chance.
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Mercury Stream
ESRB: M (Mature)
|Dracula's castle, while dark in some places, looks fantastic in true 3D.|
|While impressive, Mirror of Fate's soundtrack can hardly compare to the soulful tunes of Symphony of the Night.|
|Challenging gameplay that occasionally suffers from hit detection problems.|
|Castlevania fans will still enjoy Mirror of Fate despite some of its flaws.|