It seems that lately, all I’ve been talking about is Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate. Part of this is due to the fact that I enjoy working closely with Konami, as they are an excellent bunch of people. Another part is due to the fact that MoF is simply a brilliant game.
It helps if you’ve played all (or most) of the previous Castlevania games, as the story will have much more impact with a little “family” history behind it. The plot of MoF follows three generations of Belmont men; from Gabriel Belmont to his son, Trevor Belmont, to Trevor’s son, Simon Belmont. It’s almost like a “greatest hits” of the Belmont clan, and it’s very cool to revisit some of the classic characters from nearly 30 years of Castlevania games. I do miss Richter, though; but who’s to say he won’t show up in later installments of this Lords of Shadow reboot universe?
MoF takes the concept of family drama to a new level where, as Trevor and Simon, you must face your own father (and grandfather) as Gabriel has now become Dracula (hopefully you completed Lords of Shadow before reading this). Along the way, you’ll learn more about the Belmont family history, and even a few surprises as to how certain characters turned out the way they are in the Lords of Shadow universe. Let’s just say that there is more than one “WTH?!?” moment in the game.
It’s hard to talk about the plot without giving away too many spoilers, so let’s move on to other things. The visuals of MoF are at the same time fantastically gorgeous and also headache inducing. This all has to do with the 3d effect. If you turn the 3d effect off entirely, MoF becomes the most gorgeous game I have seen on the 3ds. However, turning it on also creates some really painful moments, as the effect is pretty rough on the eyes. It’s migraine inducing at times, which is a real shame because things look so good in full 3d.
The audio in the game is also AAA quality. The music presented here is a fantastic mix of big, brassy Hollywood symphony and also some light, ethereal music that works very well as a background element when exploring. The voice acting is also top notch, Robert Carlyle returns as Gabriel Belmont and Richard Madden, probably best known as Robb from Game of Thrones, plays Trevor Belmont. You’re getting some heavy hitters in the acting department here.
And now, for the gameplay. MoF is a balanced mix of platforming, puzzle solving, and combat. Those who are fans of classic Castlevania gameplay and may have been turned off by Lord of Shadow’s God of War style will be happy to know that the tried and true “Metroidvania” format is alive and well here. The game world is huge, and those who have a thing for exploring every nook and cranny of an area will be in love with this game. The level design is done in such a way where the correct answer is always pretty easily found, yet the answer is not always obvious. This is not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. There were more than enough instances where I had to stop just so I could give my head a rest.
The puzzles aren’t exactly mind numbingly difficult, and they are kind of lacking for variety. Most of the puzzles that you’ll find involve “find piece A to go into slot A to open a locked door” or “flip a switch to open locked door.” There are some different puzzles thrown in here and there, but for the most part you’re not going to be left scratching your head too much. For those who are more about the exploration and combat, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue; just don’t go into this game expecting to be stumped too often.
The combat is my favorite part of the game other than the epic story. I remember the days of lumbering around with Simon, whipping enemies and candles to tune of the classic 8-bit soundtrack. Things have changed PLENTY since then.
The characters that you take control of move with a speed and fluidity more suited to a 3d action game. The way Gabriel moved and attacked in Lords of Shadow is what you should expect here. This is more Devil May Cry than classic Castlevania. Here in MoF, you will dash about dealing death with a bevy of combos. The Combat Cross and Vampire Killer Whip play more like Kratos’ Blades of Chaos. In addition to your primary weapon, each of the characters also comes with two elemental powers and two secondary weapons. For instance, as Simon, you have your primary whip, but also spirit and elemental powers, throwing axes, and burning oil. As Trevor, you have the Combat Cross, Light and Shadow Magic, a glaive and the electric bomb. Used together, each Belmont becomes an instrument of death.
The thing about the combat in MoF that works so well is something that was similar in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance; at any given time in the game, you are never given more than you can handle. MoF will push your combat skills to the max, but you will never be pushed to the point where you can’t handle all that’s thrown at you. Whoever you are currently playing as, whether it’s Gabriel, Simon, or whoever, you’ll always feel like a true badass monster hunter. You’ll feel like you know why these are who they are; yet, it’s not like you can just progress through the game mashing one button over and over. You’ll get your butt kicked from time to time, and throughout the course of the game, anytime you run into a new enemies type, you’ll have to memorize its attack and weakness patterns. But man, once you figure it out, the Belmonts will bring the pain.
Boss battles are the highlights of the game. You’ll run into more “mini bosses” than the full on Titan fights (more on that later), but after even the first mini boss, you’ll feel pretty drained. Bosses are no walk in the park. Sure, there are “checkpoints” through the course of boss fights so you don’t have to start from scratch, but believe me when I say that these battles are definitely a throwback to the classic 8/16-bit boss fights that so many of us grew up with. Just like the normal enemies, you’ll have to figure out the boss’s patterns and attack/dodge based off of that. I love it.
Then there the Titan fights, which honestly are nothing new to gaming. These Titan fights are really no different than the same thing that you’ll find in God of War or Shadow of the Colossus; you’ll be faced with giant bosses where you must climb around the boss itself and attack certain spots. It’s all very QTE heavy and they are a thrill to experience. It’s pretty cool to be able to do something like that on a handheld, and this is where the 3ds is really showing what it is capable of.
I love my 3ds and am glad to be able to play a bunch of gorgeous games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3d or Star Fox 64 3d. However, remakes of classic titles are one thing; a completely new game is a whole other beast. I love that Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate is so confident in what it has to offer.
This isn’t some half-cocked cash-in on the Lords of Shadow reboot of the Castlevania series; This is meant to be a full sequel to Lords of Shadow. It brings back the glory days of Metroidvania exploration mixed with the fast and furious combat mechanic, and all that is topped off with a storyline that explores a number of generations of Belmont men in such a way that you end up learning something new about the hell this family had to endure. It’s a great game for the 3ds, if not one of the best.