An awkward intersection.
First, has anyone else noticed that this game actually improves upon the ancient Castlevania title tradition? Instead of "Castlevania: Blank of Blank," it's now "Castlevania: Blank of Blank: Blank of Blank." I just think that's super.
I played the 10-minute demo today at the Konami booth and came away pretty unimpressed, but maybe it's because I was hoping for something the game is clearly not. The Mirror of Fate demo puts you in the boots of Trevor Belmont as he initially storms a large gothic castle. Trevor jumps into combat right away, battling some skeletons that crawl out of the soil—one of which has a rather large shield. Combat is very God of War-like in that you're hammering on two attack buttons (light and strong) and blocking or dodging when necessary. With weaker enemies, blocking at just the right time allows Trevor to apply a stun. When the enemy starts flashing white, it's time to tap the R button and finish them off with a unique finishing move. You can even activate "dark magic," which is basically Trevor's hyper mode during which limited time he does more damage to enemies. It's all very God of War.
Shortly after defeating a large animated armor (which relies on good old-fashioned pattern recognition), Trevor finds the bladed boomerang, which might be more appropriately titled the glaive. It's your first subweapon, and it can be charged up by holding the A button for a short time before releasing it. You use the Glaive to kill a gaggle of giant bats.
Then we get to the platforming portion, which feels a little awkward. Trevor can double-jump, but his jumps feel very stilted and he has a real sense of weight that's not entirely comfortable. You can use Trevor's whip as a grappling hook by tapping the R button in the air. There was some good verticality in this section, as Trevor climbed ever higher in an effort to find and pull a switch. After that, it was on to the next area, which contained more skeletons, an HP bonus item, and another switch.
This switch opened a timed door that you passed earlier. It's not difficult to get to, but the two enemies that spawn on the return trip kind of irritate in their bad timing. I was able to avoid the first and merely jump over the second, though, so I made it through the door just in time. The new room contained a large shrine that required "light magic" to activate. This is encouraging, given that this is supposed to be a proper Metroidvania title. Backtracking with new abilities is the name of the game, after all.
The demo ended with a fight against a mini-boss. This large executioner is introduced with a funny cutscene in which he rebels against his goblin captors, throwing one directly at the screen. The executioner himself is not that difficult, again relying on pattern memorization to get the job done.
I wasn't enraptured with the demo. The graphics are technically impressive but everything looks very drab, grey, and lifeless. The music was atmospheric and the sound effects were impressive, though. It all balances out. My biggest concern is the complete lack of RPG elements: Trevor doesn't level up or gain new equipment (at least in the demo). However, he does find stat-boosting items as in Harmony of Dissonance, so that's something. I came away from the demo interested but not excited. I feel like it needs some polish, and I'm not sure how well the Lords of Shadow combat system integrates with the traditionally Metroidvania level design