Developed by:MercurySteam Published by:Konami Genre(s):
  • Action Adventure
  • Platformer
  • Platform:
  • Handhelds
  • Cost:$39.99 ESRB Rating:MATURE Players:1 Release date:March 5, 2013 Reviewed on:3DS

    Castlevania: Lords of Shadow-Mirror of Fate

    Castlevania is easily one of Konami’s most popular video game franchises. Since the first title, released back in 1986, it has remained a flagship series for the action adventure/platforming genre. After numerous games on multiple consoles the series has finally got a real reboot. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, despite not being a side-scrolling platformer, was mostly met with praise. MercurySteam successfully created a Castlevania game that not only stayed true to the series roots, but also utilized modern mechanics. Now we’ve come to their highly anticipated title, Castlevania: Lords of Shadows – Mirror of Fate. Unfortunately, the stars didn’t align again for this developer as their 3DS exclusive fails to live up to its predecessor.

    Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate (MOF going forward) is supposed to bridge the gap between the first Lords of Shadow game and the upcoming sequel. Those who played the first one know that Gabriel Belmont’s victory over the evil that plagued the land came at a high cost. Gabriel, now named Dracula, has since declared war on the Brotherhood of Light for manipulating him into taking on that fateful quest. Fearing the worst for humanity as a whole, the Brotherhood of Light takes Gabriel’s son Trevor and raises him to be a knight of their order. Their plan is to use Trevor to defeat the evil they created in Gabriel all those years ago.

    The story becomes more interesting, and confusing, once the game really starts going. Now before going into what I did and didn’t like about the plot, I have to talk about the gameplay (you’ll understand why later). The biggest obstacle for MercurySteam (MS) was in creating a great 2D Castlevania title from a gameplay perspective, a task that proves to be quite difficult for most developers who aren’t Konami. After spending a lot of time in game, I can safely say that although the game isn’t great, MS did try to give gamers compelling gameplay. The hack, slash and whip action we’ve come to love has been slightly upgraded. Simple flailing has been replaced with simple combos; repeated presses or just holding of either attack buttons will cause our hero to bash enemies with extreme prejudice. Using the combat cross to pop enemies into the air before following up with a barrage of attacks is as easy as can be. Of course, the whip isn’t the only weapon available. Finite items like the classic throwing axe can be used during combat as well. These items change depending on what character is being used; Trevor can utilize exploding boomerangs while another character might employ a time slowing hourglass.

    Adding to this is the ability to parry certain attacks. Pressing the block button right before being hit will briefly throw an opponent off balance, opening them up for a counter attack. Magic can be used as well and will again change depending on what character is used. The ability to dodge or dash while on the ground and in the air, rounds out the defensive and offensive maneuvers given to players. This is fine by me. Though there aren’t any complicated combos (most involve just one button) they are sufficient for this type of game. Past titles didn’t have flashy combos either, so we’re no worse for wear here. The magical abilities are interesting at first; being able to summon a helping spirit or turn into a wolf changes things up a little. The ability to block an attack is also nice as nearly every other Castlevania title required you to dodge whatever was thrown your way. You can even grab enemies after they’ve taken enough damage, which results in your character performing a finishing move on them. All of these mechanics work towards making MOF feel action packed at times. For the first few hours, I really enjoyed combating monsters in Dracula’s castle.

    The same can be said about the platforming elements. Like every other Castlevania, the castle is one big maze with secrets littered everywhere. Over the course of the game, you’ll unlock new abilities that allow you to reach previously unreachable places. This encourages exploration of the environment throughout most of the game. Thankfully, the backtracking isn’t as bad here as it was in the past. A good use of teleporters helps cut down on time spent going from one end of the castle to the next. Pulling up the map on the bottom screen helps with navigating the labyrinth-like environments as well. You can even leave notes on the bottom screen, reminding you that there was a place of interest that needs to be explored later. That said, I never really used the note system. Just following the story, the places I needed to go to next where always highlighted. And the way the game had me looping around via new doors and passage ways, I ended up back in places that I had passed before. This cut out a lot of backtracking I would have done on my own. Basically the path was laid out pretty well.

    So far we have a pretty good combat system and decent platforming elements. If this was all there was, the game would be great. The problem I have is the overall plot; the gameplay mechanics by themselves are fine until you add on the story elements. The first thing I noticed is that MOF doesn’t really explain anything. Sure, you know the gist of what’s going on and who the characters are but you’re never given enough information to really care about anyone. I’m assuming the developer thought that everyone who’d purchase this game would have played their first title because they never address why Dracula hates the Brotherhood. Why would a ghost like figure help you when they don’t believe you’ll be successful in stopping Dracula? And what exactly is the Mirror of Fate? I’m not saying that you need to hold my hand and explain every little detail, but MOF doesn’t give many answers to these lingering questions.

    Making matters worse is how the story is presented. I like the idea of going through to a certain part and then seeing an alternate side of my quest through the eyes of another character. Also, being able to see the legendary Alucard fight side by side with Simon Belmont is a treat to say the least. The problem is that this doesn’t add anything to the story. The brief reveal that occurs when playing as Alucard in Act II could have been handled in a cutscene. Then there is Act III, which felt more like DLC than a part of the main game. For some reason, the story goes back in time to show us events that led up to the beginning of the game. Again, it’s cool to see how people got to where they are, but after playing through majority of the game and seeing what the end result was I just didn’t care. It didn’t add anything worthwhile to the story. On top of this, the game ends on this past event…meaning what really mattered was the ending of Act II. It only seems to extend the games life, adding in tedious gameplay that left me frustrated. At least, that’s how I felt when I saw the lackluster ending.

    Then there is the over-reliance of QTE’s. Every boss fight features a quick timed event that breaks up the flow of combat in an annoying fashion. I wasn’t sure if I was playing a God of War game or Castlevania. Heck, even the cutscenes weren’t safe from a flashing button prompt. I attribute this to trying to make the story seem more epic than it actually is; as if hitting these buttons made us feel like we were a part of the action. For the life of me, I can’t understand any other reason to have so many of these. Stopping a cool boss fight and removing control from the player just to have them match onscreen buttons isn’t cool anymore. It especially isn’t fun to those of us who enjoy the combat found in a Castlevania title!

    Castlevania: Lords of Shadow isn’t a bad game. It’s just not as good as I wanted it to be. I never want to call the entry title of a series pointless, but that’s what this feels like. The hours of fun I had playing early on did help it some. The platforming is good, the controls are tight enough, and the visuals are awesome. That’s one thing I forgot to mention, this is one of the better looking games for the 3DS. That said, I can’t outright recommend it. I really wanted to like this game through and through but the poor story, poor pacing and the forced modern mechanics hurt the overall experience!



    I can’t lie, early on I had a great time with MOF. Then things took a turn for the worse!



    The visuals are great here. Especially in 3D!



    The voice work was pretty good. The music wasn’t bad either.

    What's New:


    Mecury tied to implement new elements into Castlevania; the combination of 2D platforming mechanics and the action elements found in a game like God of War are interesting on paper. Unfortunately a lot of what’s implemented are old mechanics from the action genre that hurt the game more than help.

    Replay Value:


    Outside of collecting every secret to see a secret cinematic, there isn’t much reason to replay this game.

    Final Score:


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