In 1986, Konami released Castlevania in Japan on the Famicom. The game mixed newer arcade level design and scoring with familiar horror tropes. It was an instant classic and still holds up today.
Eleven years later, there was a shift in style for the series, going from arcade levels to a more open level design, similar to Metroid. This style would become the definitive style of the series. The first game to adopt the new style was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Fans fell in love with it, calling it the greatest game in the series (though there are those who believe that Super Castlevania IV is better).
In 2010, Konami launched a reboot of the series, developed by MercurySteam and Kojima Productions. The first game in this reboot, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, saw the return of the Belmont clan with Gabriel, a member of the Brotherhood of Light, an elite group of holy knights who battle the supernatural. The game was meant to create a drastically different mythos for the series. The major change was (spoiler for those who haven’t played Lords of Shadow) Gabriel became Dracula. That’s right, a Belmont became Dracula. (End spoiler.)
Now, we come to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, the second game in the Lords of Shadow reboot. The game is meant to be a sort of side story connecting Lords of Shadow with its upcoming sequel, aptly titled Lords of Shadow 2. The game features three members of the Belmont clan—the aforementioned Gabriel, Castlevania III star Trevor (now Gabriel’s son), and original Castlevania star Simon (now Gabriel’s grandson)—as well as fan favorite Alucard.
But enough history. We must analyze. Have at you!
First off, I need to give a shout-out to composer Oscar Araujo. The music in the game was incredible. Konami, if someone there is reading this, please release the full soundtrack to this game. I’d love to listen to this while editing.
The voice acting in the game was also done very well. Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, Once Upon a Time) reprises the role of Gabriel and does a great job, as do the other lead actors. Main enemies also get good voice-overs, as well.
Gameplay was pretty solid. Control was never an issue. I’m a little disappointed that you can’t attack in all directions, similar to Super Castlevania IV. However, this is remedied with a vertical swing attack. But even with it, it can feel a bit restrictive when you attack, particularly in the early game. You can unlock more moves as you play through a leveling system. It definitely opens up your offense as you make your way toward the final battle.
There are also a few quick-time events. They mostly just show up at the end of boss battles, similar to No More Heroes 2. There are a couple of levels that are pretty much just QTEs as you climb on a monster. I had no issue with it, but I’m sure others will.
I also found the level set-up for the game to be pretty good, as well. It’s sort of a mix between the arcade and Metroid styles. Each room is separate from the others, with short load times and an auto-save in between. However, you can backtrack through each room in order to reach places you weren’t able to before with a power-up you found. It’s very much designed for a portable device, such as the 3DS, and I’m okay with that.
I enjoyed the art design of the game. It worked very well with the horror theme and had a very dark color. However, perhaps it was a bit too dark. In some rooms, I found it difficult to find a platform to jump to, since it was too dark. This only happened a few times in the game, but I found it rather annoying. Other than that, the setting and cutscenes were nice. Just one thing, though: why did they choose not to have the characters’ mouths move?
There were also some issues with the game’s frame rate. It wasn’t the worst issue I’ve had with a game (Back to the Future on the Wii was the worst), but it was enough to throw me off. There was some definite choppiness to it; it could have been a lot smoother.
Finally, we need to talk about the story. It feels a bit all over the place. You start as Gabriel in the tutorial. Once you get through that, you skip ahead to Simon’s story as he battles his way to Dracula. On the way, he gets helped by Alucard, whom you play as in the second act, also battling your way to Dracula. Once the act ends, after the battle with Dracula, you then go back in time to see Trevor on his quest to battle Dracula.
I’m sorry. We get the climax with the main bad guy, and then turn around to work towards a previous battle with the main bad guy that we end up losing?
This story definitely suffers from middle story syndrome. You get it a lot in trilogies, where you get this story that has no real beginning or end. It just kind of starts and ends. And since this is a game that’s supposed to connect two games, Mirror of Fate just sort of starts and ends with no real conclusion, just a twist that you will probably see coming in the middle of the game.
But Mirror of Fate is something you should still look into. The overall experience was pleasant. The game takes about 10 hours to complete, with a number of collectables for completionists and a Hardcore mode you can unlock if you’re up for the challenge.
I leave you with a note I found in the sewers of Dracula’s castle:
The terrible state of the pipes down here would perturb even my brother Mario.
Some parts have rusted terribly, while others are covered with fungus due to the high humidity.
Not all the mushrooms look good to eat either. Who knows what might happen if I eat one?
We’ll see you on Sunday, Luigi. As for the Belmonts…
Review copy was purchased by the author.