After a string of solid games on the DS, a new Castlevania game has finally made its way onto the Nintendo 3DS in the form of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate. Ever since the game was first announced, fans of the franchise have been eagerly anticipating it with bated breath. Now that it’s finally available to the masses, however, it’s apparent that the game, despite attempting to make some changes to the tried and true formula, simply doesn’t hold up in the long haul. That said, there are still a number of redeeming qualities that’ll keep dedicated fans content.
For those who missed out on the classic Castlevania games, they are 2D side-scrollers similar in style to the original Metroid games. Players start off their adventure journeying through hordes of enemies and a handful of puzzles, many of which require items that can only be obtained at a later point within the game. Unlike most side-scrollers, however, the game isn’t divided into stages — providing players with the allusion of an open-world platformer.
The story of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate introduces players to the lineage of the Belmont clan, and how the eroded family interacts with one another. After a brief synapses of the events that happened prior to this 3DS iteration, players are cast into the boots of Simon Belmont. As the story progresses and players reach the inevitable clash of Belmonts, the game will throw users into the roles of several different characters — all of whom have their own overlapping stories to tell.
Other than the whip’s triumphant return, something that Castlevania alumni will be all to familiar with, the overall game is much different from its predecessors. The title’s developer, MercurySteam, did this intentionally in order to breathe some new life into a franchise that has started to become a little stale, and while they certainly succeeded in changing up the formula, the end result just isn’t as pristine as fans were hoping.
Combat manages to become tedious and unappealing rather quickly, and almost every encounter plays out the exact same way thanks to waves of the same enemy type constantly appearing on-screen. Knowing when to block, parry, or dodge incoming attacks provides a mild amount of strategy, but almost every hostile encounter (with the exception of boss battles) plays out in a predictable and lacklustre fashion.
That said, there are a number of redeeming factors that will keep players engaged. As previously touched upon in this review, the game features a side-scrolling world with emphasis on exploration. This means that there will be a ton of backtracking through the map in order to access new areas, gain new abilities, and obtain collectibles that were previously inaccessible. This Metroid-esque format adds a copious amount of replay-ability and adds countless hours to the game itself, but the thrill of going back through previous areas to collect items won’t appeal to everyone. Another issue is that once players have swapped roles to a new character, they’re unable to go back and gather what remaining items are left in previous stages; unless they go back to the main menu and choose to play through previous chapters.
While reoccurring baddies and monotonous combat fail to impress, Castlevania‘s art style certainly deserves credit. The final product looks great with its Gothic, cell shaded-like style, and the environments that gamers will trek through really are a sight to behold. Combine the game’s look with the 3D capabilities of the handheld, and users will quickly find themselves drawn into the environments that MercurySteam has created. Granted, they aren’t the best graphics found on the system, but they are very well done.
Mirror of Fate‘s cutscenes, on the other hand, just don’t stack up, and that’s partially for the distractingly unnatural motions that each character performs while in them. Every piece of footage features a character striking a pose, and the individual in question will then proceed to talk without moving their lips — only transitioning into new poses at random. These cinematics don’t feel as important as they should, and are more often than not annoying to watch, which doesn’t particularly make the story being told all that captivating.
Konami‘s Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate tries to change up the formula of the franchise while simultaneously being too afraid to venture from the series’ roots. The combat can become boring in a rather quick fashion, the cutscenes are unattractive, and all too familiar bad guys litter every area. There are a handful of pros to draw from the product too — be it the wonderful art style or the sheer amount of exploring to be done — but overall this bridge between Lords of Shadow and Lords of Shadow 2 is something that can be bypassed altogether.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate is available now, exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS.
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