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Family feud: 3 hours with Castlevania Mirror of Fate

Monday, 4th February 2013 12:02 GMT By Dave Cook

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is the new vampire-hunting 3DS epic from Mercury Steam. Dave Cook plays the first three hours to see if it can match the brilliance of its handheld predecessors.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

The first Lords of Shadow launched in 2010 and followed Brotherhood of Light member Gabriel Belmont. It is a reboot of the entire series.

Lords of Shadow ends with a colossal twist, one that sees Gabriel becoming Dracula, villain of the Castlevania canon and sworn enemy of the Belmont clan.

Out this year on PS3 and Xbox 360, Lords of Shadow 2 will continue Gabriel’s descent into darkness. You can see the game’s VGA trailer here.

Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate bridges the gap between both games, charting the story of Trevor and Simon Belmont, son and grandson of Gabriel. Check out Konami’s latest trailer here.

The original Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was a revelation. Not only did it prove – at long last – that the series could happily exist in the third-dimension, but it showed just how a reboot should be done. Mercury Steam’s respect for the source material was evident throughout, even if the game’s ending tore up almost 25-years of canon with its final, shocking twist.

With Lords of Shadow 2 on the way later this year, Mercury Steam has developed 3DS title Mirror of Fate to bridge the plot gap. It’s the studio’s take on Konami’s ‘Metroidvania’ series – a string of Castlevania titles that began with PSone epic Symphony of the Night, and spawned the truly superb Dawn of Sorrow. They’re hard acts to follow.

Mirror of Fate focuses on the Belmont clan 25 years after Lords of Shadow protagonist Gabriel first fell into darkness and became Dracula. It also stars his son Trevor and grandson Simon, who also happens to be the star of Konami’s first Castlevania title. Throughout the plot you’ll play as all three characters, but the meat of my hands-on session saw me in control of Simon.

If I had to describe Mirror of Fate simply, I’d call it a 2.5D take on God of War. There is plenty of platforming, tons of ledges to be climbed and a heavy-hitting combat system rammed full of parries and balletic whip attacks. It’s uncanny how the game’s combat feels like a third-person hack-n-slash title, given its restricted perspective.

There are light and heavy attacks, dodge rolls and even executions if you manage to parry an enemy into a stunned state. You’ll tussle with a range of familiar Castlevania ghouls, beasts and abominations – and yes, the Harpies are still a total pain in the arse.

Pesky zombies attack in packs. But make
for a great source of quick XP.

It’s certainly a challenging battle mechanic, particularly when facing bosses. An early scrap against Dracula’s right-hand man and Castlevania regular Death is great fun, while a rather seductive encounter against a siren proves to be a real test of reflexes and skill.

Felling creatures nets you XP which automatically unlocks new combos and abilities, and this progression sits at the beating heart of the ‘Metroidvania’ arc. You’ll compulsively try to uncover all of the lower screen’s grid map and search every corner for hidden paths and upgrade chests.

Your first objective is to find the Combat Cross – a whip extension that lets Simon swing over grapple points and rappel up or down vertical surfaces. Many areas can’t be accessed until you have it, so it’s handy that you can now drag and drop personalised sticky notes on the map to highlight an impasse. Getting lost in previous Castlevania games could get tiresome, but this mechanic helps avoid needless meandering.

Platforming and whip combat aside, the Belmonts can use secondary weapons such as Castlevania’s classic axe or bottle, and in classic style, these are topped up by finding hearts stashed in the world. Simon even unlocks familiars – another nod to Symphony of the Night – which give him certain buffs such as auto-blocking or ranged crossbow attacks.

You can’t beat the classic axe for
a spot of ranged decapitation.

All of this combines to make an experience that simply shouldn’t work. I say that because titles such as God of War and Bayonetta are firmly third-person experiences, yet somehow Mercurcy Steam has translated the same feeling as those IP – the challenging boss battles, the twitch combat gameplay – into something that feels like a classic, 2D adventure.

Most importantly, it feels like a Castlevania experience, thanks to the gloomy atmosphere and another truly outstanding soundtrack for the series. The acting – while largely shouty and Scottish – is as puffed out and hammy as ever, but in a deliberate manner it seems. While it lacks the fast pace of Dawn of Sorrow or Portrait of Ruin, Mirror of fate still manages to swing with the best of them.

Whether or not this faithful Castlevania vibe continues for the whole of its alleged 20-hour span remains to be seen – plus there’s the little matter of what Alucard’s doing snooping around the castle – but as a taster, the first three hours hint at what could be a lovingly-prepared handheld reboot for the series. We’ll know more once the full game launches on March 8th.

Disclosure: To write this preview, Nintendo loaned Dave a locked copy of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate on Nintendo 3DS. He returned it after writing this feature.

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15 Comments

  1. Greek God

    Sounds good ! will be my second 3ds game

    #1 2 years ago
  2. polygem

    sounds awesome! my 22th (retail) 3ds game! ;)

    #2 2 years ago
  3. manamana

    Thanks Dave, I was hoping that it “feels like a Castlevania experience”. Day uno!

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Dave Cook

    Yeah it really feels like a reboot of the Metroidvania arc. The slower pace took a bit of getting used to – compared to Dawn of Sorrow – but if anything it helps create the isolation that came with the old Castlevania titles. It’s got a great atmosphere.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. polygem

    dawn of sorrow is one of my all time favourite games for sure. the gameplay for this one looked much slower paced in the videos i watched, so i expected that. but everything i´ve seen this far looked like a great castlevania game with an old school, yet fresh vibe to it. i really cannot wait for this.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Gheritt White

    Day uno purChaso for sure!!

    #6 2 years ago
  7. manamana

    Just in case you guys missed Trevor’s story: http://youtu.be/BtN1MBziFTI

    #7 2 years ago
  8. mobiugearskin

    I’m excited!

    Lords of Shadow is easily one of my favourite games this gen, if not my overall favourite. I absolutely LOVE that game!

    Can’t wait for this. Can’t wait for LoS 2. I’m actually planning to go to Transylvania next month with a few friends :D

    IGN has a video commentary here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvBniJHvDyU

    They are also promising to have Castlevania videos all week. I’m hoping the last one we see is for LoS 2 and confirms a release date for the winter.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. monkeygourmet

    @Dave

    If you didn’t rate LOS as highly, do you think the game still holds up?

    I’m still on the fence, although still purchase everything Castlevania. The enemy creatures are what really make it for me, and that’s something I didn’t like in LOS.

    It was very:

    Skeleton, Werewolf, zombie, etc…

    I would of preferred it if it was a new IP based on Van Hellsing on the Hellsing anime to be honest. Just didn’t feel like Castlevania to me. Grump grump

    #9 2 years ago
  10. mobiugearskin

    Technically, the earliest Castlevania games were straight up platforming action.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. monkeygourmet

    @10

    Oh yeah defiantly. But apart from Castlevania 4 and Castlevania X, they haven’t really stood the test of time.

    Also, even in those games the Mythology was huge. Spanning Scandinavian to Japanese monster types.

    I just found LOS a little too ‘safe’, and the framerate was pretty poor for me, took away from the lush environments.

    Good game was buried underneath though, for true.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. mobiugearskin

    I felt LoS was more than the sum of its parts really. Even though it was a straight action game, the action itself wasn’t as tight as any other action game this gen. The platforming was a bit ganky, the camera and general controls weren’t always reliable.

    For me, it was just everything else and how it all came together. How the story played out, the variety in locations, the AMAZING soundtrack and visual splendour.

    Man, I need to play that through again.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. monkeygourmet

    @12

    Get a room you two! ;)

    No, I could defiantly see the potential, I just couldn’t get beyond some of the things you mentioned. Think I got about 60-70% through?

    Also, something I would never usually complain about, but I think there were almost too many moves. I kept forgetting I had certain powers and would be stuck for ages before realising; ‘oh, yeah, to destroy that glyph I need to hold 3 buttons to power up and charge at it or whatever…’

    It just felt a bit clumsy, like they were trying to copy the Metroidvania stuff but making it too complex.

    Also, I felt there were far too many enemies who could jump and shock wave attack you. Almost every enemy seemed to have a ‘knock down move’ which made some fights seem really bloody annoying given the sometimes ganky camera and animation.

    Although the scope was crazy cool, I felt, if they could have reeled it in a bit and focused on quality over quantity I would have enjoyed it more!

    Well, I’ll still maybe get this and LOS2 (although I really wish that was next gen launch material, would really be able to stretch its bats wings).

    Just my 2 Transylvanian Leu’s… :)

    #13 2 years ago
  14. DEMONANEUDY666

    IM ANXIOUS FOR THAT GAME.

    #14 1 year ago
  15. DEMONANEUDY666

    I hope demo comes tomorrow

    #15 1 year ago

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