3DS

North America

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate

by Nate Andrews - March 5, 2013, 1:59 am PST
Total comments: 21

8.5

A new name takes a familiar form, with surprising results.

On paper, taking direct inspiration from the Lords of Shadow interpretation of Castlevania doesn’t play to Mirror of Fate’s favor. Handheld Castlevania games have long been associated with expectations for a specific and traditional hue of gameplay and presentation, with which the combo- and cinematic-heavy Lords of Shadow brand might seem incompatible. In a sense, this concern is accurate; Mirror of Fate is not the expected breed of portable Castlevania. However, it finds firm footing on the 3DS by communicating these ideas and more in a simple and streamlined manner.

The emphases and defining traits of Lords of Shadow dictate much of Mirror of Fate’s aesthetic, action, and narrative, but the experience is never slavish to any of them. Across its distinct sections, which focus on members of the long-maligned Belmont family, Mirror of Fate smartly balances this core set of gameplay types.

Chief among them is exploration. As you traverse its landscapes and interiors, Mirror of Fate charts your progress on a standard grid map on the system’s bottom screen. Here, the game uses points of interest sparingly, and marks most automatically. While reliable in accounting for the most important of these (e.g., objectives, exits, and supplies of health and magic), Mirror of Fate makes an odd concession for secret areas. In the course of play, it marks most collectibles and upgrades. However, for impasses (which you need to circle back to with an ability or item acquired later) it requires you to dip into the touch screen menu, drag a marker to your location, and leave a written note. Mirror of Fate’s individual areas are not sprawling; you move through most of each on your way to an objective, which leaves untouched areas easy to spot from a read of the map. Even so, halting play to make your own reminders is an odd decision compared to the intuitive marking used elsewhere.

Mirror of Fate gives the player a compact set of tools to navigate each connected castle section. Aside from jumping and climbing, each character has access to a few select skills necessary to overcome the obstacles unique to his isolated chapter of the story. This simplicity doesn’t subtract from the challenge or enjoyment of clambering about the decrepit castle grounds. In fact, it allows Mirror of Fate to focus on building a detailed and believable environment around these points of interaction. The result is platforming that feels natural in construction and in context, instead of needlessly difficult or shoehorned in for its own sake. Mirror of Fate also works deftly with player size in relation to movement and activity. When you’re navigating a platforming section or solving a large-scale environmental puzzle, the camera tends to pull out. In making the character a smaller piece of the overall picture, Mirror of Fate can better present the immediate pieces of the world and the depth of the impressive backdrops complementing them.

When it's time to fight, Mirror of Fate focuses the camera for an intimate view. Though combat is shown from a side perspective, the camera often positions itself slightly behind the character, slung low to profile the attacking creature. Mirror of Fate’s more important fights employ this and other uses of a malleable perspective to particularly great effect. In one early confrontation, the powerful opponent lingers in the background and directs groups of animal minions at you. The moment they’re dealt with, it roars into the closer plane for an aggressive, seamless attack. Other situations play upon loosening or tightening the camera’s view on the field, depending on the opponent’s attacks.

These behaviors are in service of a focus on measured, well-photographed monster fighting. However, they don’t blunt Mirror of Fate’s smart combat. Through simple combinations of the X and Y buttons, it puts a variety of chainable moves at your disposal, from short and reliable ground attacks to more complex and devastating battle choreography. Mirror of Fate lists the procedure for each well-animated attack on a menu, but memorization is not required for effective combat. Attacks tend to build off each other naturally as you complete strikes, and you need only land a few standard blows before you reach an effective combo.

Mirror of Fate also facilitates fluid combat with a set of mid-action mechanics. Each character can evade with ease at a moment’s notice—in the air, on the ground, and mid-strike. This ability is invaluable, and designed well within the machinery of animation and attack. You can also block and counterattack enemies’ standard efforts and evade their unstoppable attacks, which the game excels in making ever transparent. Impeccable consistency in checkpointing also makes Mirror of Fate an easy experience to stick with through difficulty; fail midway through a fight, platforming section, or quick time event, and you’ll return in nearly the same position. In every facet, Mirror of Fate’s combat doesn’t intrude unnecessarily, but acts as a well-built and supportive addition to a stronger whole.

Mirror of Fate’s overarching story, though designated in chunks to a handful of the series’ well-known faces, ends up adding little of importance to the experience. From time to time, it takes small breaks to address the larger plot in the form of graphic, darkly lined animation. But what defines and legitimizes the experience is its deft framing and execution of environments and situations, not the Belmonts’ melodrama or having to check itself to series’ expectations. Mirror of Fate is a confident interpretation of well-trod mechanics and themes, and the Castlevania name is stronger for it.

Summary

Pros
  • Consistent placement of checkpoints.
  • Great use of depth, size, and camera position to create environments.
  • Skillful balance of high-quality combat and platforming.
Cons
  • Brief but deplorable representation of female figures.
  • Slightly inconsistent in map marking.

Talkback

AdrockMarch 05, 2013

I really liked the original and event though this is a different play style, I'm really looking forward to it. I'm picking it up Saturday.

PhDintendoMarch 05, 2013

This one looks like it's going to be pretty polarizing, but so was KI:U and I liked it (a lot) so I will probably give it a try.  I also missed the DS games which the bad reviews say are heads and tails better.  In fact, Simon's Quest is the last one I beat so within my frame of reference this may be a ten..... hehe.

Nate, is there any replay value here, i.e. achievements, difficulty settings, unlockables??

negative_zeroMarch 05, 2013

Brief but deplorable representation of female figures.  Can you clarify this?  I'm getting a bit tired of this kind of thing and it's a huge turn-off for me nowadays.

NdIGiTyNate Andrews, Staff AlumnusMarch 05, 2013

Quote from: negative_zero

Brief but deplorable representation of female figures.  Can you clarify this?  I'm getting a bit tired of this kind of thing and it's a huge turn-off for me nowadays.

Near the end of Simon's section, there's a boss fight that involves some scantily clad enemies with stupidly disproportionate female form. Their "thing" is that they essentially try to seduce Simon. During the fight, they regain health by kissing each other.

AdrockMarch 05, 2013

Possibly Simon's fight with the Succubus. Not surprisingly (since she's a demon who seduces men in their dreams), she's practically naked and she has another practically naked chick there who she feeds off of when Simon causes enough damage. The portrayal is pretty typical of a character like that.

OblivionMarch 05, 2013

If they're succubi, and that's the only time it ever happens, then I don't find that too bad.

Yay Nate! Someone else who enjoyed the game!
I played a small portion of the full version at Nintendo last week, I went in with low expectations and came out impressed enough to buy the game. It seems those who gave it terrible reviews either only played the recent demo which had relatively bad controls and lopsided boss fights, or had only ever played Symphony of the Night, which is a constant reference point for snooty fanatics.
For me it feels like a cross between the new series representation in Lords of Shadow and the classic sidescroller games on the NES and SNES, which were my favourite in the series anyway. I considered doing a follow-up review when my copy arrives, but I have a feeling it won't be far off what you had to say about the game.

leahsdadMarch 06, 2013

Quote from: King

It seems those who gave it terrible reviews either only played the recent demo which had relatively bad controls and lopsided boss fights, or had only ever played Symphony of the Night, which is a constant reference point for snooty fanatics.

Okay, I played SotN, AoS, DoS, PoR, and OoE, and knowing all of those acronyms like the back of my hand doesn't make me snooty in the least.

But I did just play the demo, and that was really...underwhelming.  Are they really better in the full retail, because you're right, the controls are a little sloppy in the demo, and I was not thrilled with the framerate either.  And the graphics weren't great either--- it seems like they had a good engine to start with, so it could have looked great, but they got a 14-year old to do the textures.

I totally don't mind the God-Of-War-ness, but these are issues....

Pixelated PixiesMarch 06, 2013

I did not like the demo for this game one bit. I thought the platforming was real bad.

Quote:

Brief but deplorable representation of female figures.

Gotta shout my disagreements on this one.

The boss fight in question is one in which a powerful siren-like creature (like from countless historical myths) is attempting to use lustful temptation to take Simon's soul (or whatever she did). Because they wanted to give it some kind of realism in attracting him, hot bisexual chicks wouldn't be so out of left field, would it? The game isn't objectifying women because women are objects; the game is portraying a creature objectifying herself (through illusions she/it made up) for the purposes of attracting (and ultimately killing) Simon.

Maybe I need to "check my privilege", but I just didn't see anything wrong with that fight in the least. If anything, I'm glad that MS did the siren thing properly and didn't censor it/cut it out at the risk of offending people.

Pretty fun game otherwise, though (if not a teensy bit short).

Jet PilotMarch 08, 2013

Quote from: leahsdad

Okay, I played SotN, AoS, DoS, PoR, and OoE, and knowing all of those acronyms like the back of my hand doesn't make me snooty in the least.

But I did just play the demo, and that was really...underwhelming.  Are they really better in the full retail, because you're right, the controls are a little sloppy in the demo, and I was not thrilled with the framerate either.  And the graphics weren't great either--- it seems like they had a good engine to start with, so it could have looked great, but they got a 14-year old to do the textures.

I totally don't mind the God-Of-War-ness, but these are issues....

I agree.  When I see a game with "Castlevania" on the box then I expect it to play like a Castlevania game.  Instead this is God of Castlevania (or Castlevania of War).  The controls in the demo were very sloppy and the gameplay was more irritating than fun.  Whoever decided to add quick time events to boss fights needs to take a game design course that wasn't written in 1995.

And to the people claiming that the demo isn't representative of the final game and you shouldn't judge the game based on the demo...who's fault is that.  The entire purpose of a demo is to entice people into purchasing the full product.  If a developer releases a crap demo to a game and people judge the game based on the demo, the developer is 100% at fault.

I didn't see any framerate issues and the 3D looked pretty...but I'm not slogging my way through a $40 game for 10 hours simply because it looks nice.

To each his own.  :cool;

KDR_11kMarch 10, 2013

1995? We didn't have to deal with QTEs in 1995.

pokepal148March 10, 2013

im in the market for one of the ds games, dont know which one though

broodwarsMarch 11, 2013

Quote from: pokepal148

im in the market for one of the ds games, dont know which one though

Dawn of Sorrow's the easy one to recommend, though I always had a soft spot for Portrait of Ruin.

Quote from: Jet

When I see a game with "Castlevania" on the box then I expect it to play like a Castlevania game.  Instead this is God of Castlevania (or Castlevania of War).

It does play like a Castlevania game, though, in that it plays more or less the same as Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.  ;)

Personally, I'm pretty flexible when it comes to what series "should" be, so long as it's an honest attempt to try something new within a series.  There's a little Symphony of the Night in Mirror of Fate, a little Lords of Shadow, & in places even a little of the original side-scrolling Castlevania.  It's an odd mixture to be sure that doesn't always work well, but I like it and IMO it has quite possibly the best 3D on the 3DS.

It'll be interesting to see where Mercury Steam goes from here into Lords of Shadow 2, especially given the way they've reworked one particular character.  Given that Lords of Shadow 2 is supposed to be their last game in this timeline, I wonder if they'll actually end the story in that game conclusively.  Then the Symphony of the Night fanboys can have their old, tired, and completely un-planned Castlevania universe back.  :P:

Luigi DudeMarch 11, 2013

Quote from: broodwars

Then the Symphony of the Night fanboys can have their old, tired, and completely un-planned Castlevania universe back.  :P: :

Considering IGA has basically been demoted to overnight janitor so I doubt we'll even get that.  Anything that isn't a Kojima directed Metal Gear or Winning Eleven Soccer basically gets outsourced at Konami now.  They'll probably just find a different Western studio to continue the Lords of Shadow storyline if the sequel sells well, and if it doesn't, they'll just have them do a new reboot.

I doubt Konami will be returning to the original Castlevania universe anytime soon unless it's a dirt cheap to make download only like Harmony of Despair.

AdrockMarch 11, 2013

I'm in Act III. The order of playable characters is weird. Yes, I'm aware of the plot twist as I accidentally read spoilers (it's fairly obvious using logic about midway through Act II). Also, I see my good friend Quick Time Events is back in a big way. You haven't been missed, asshole. I actually had to stop playing last night once I got through a lengthy QTE sequence.

I didn't notice any major framerate issues that I've been reading in reviews. Some (okay, many) of the deaths are super-cheap, but the game is forgiving, maybe too forgiving. There are checkpoints everywhere, even in the middle of bosses which is weird to me. I thought MercurySteam could have done better at balancing that.

Considering a major character here shows up in Lords of Shadow 2, I don't feel like this game is extraneous. Still, the story could be better. It's rushed and I didn't get a sense that the main conflict is really as terrible as it is which is basically that Gabriel destroyed the Lords of Shadow and is a worse tyrant than they ever were. It makes sense that Dracula in the Lords of Shadow series was once a Belmont which explains why the Belmont clan has such a bone to pick with him better than the original series. However, MercurySteam so far hasn't really given a good reason why Gabriel, noble member of the Brotherhood of Light, decided to suddenly become the greatest evil known the man (besides maybe Satan). I mean, the Brotherhood did kind of lie to everyone and there are hints that there's a dark side to Gabriel, but becoming a murdering overlord bent on destroying humanity? Ehh, need to fill in the blanks there, MercurySteam. Mirror of Fate doesn't do that at all and it takes place before Lords of Shadow 2 so I have a feeling this won't be addressed.

I wasn't bothered by the Succubus like the reviewer here. That's what I expect from a character like that. The Succubus in Symphony of the Night is topless while the one in Lament of Innocence leaves very little to the imagination. The portrayal in Mirror of Fate is probably the best of the series for what a succubus is supposed to be. Gameplay-wise, it took me a bit to figure out how to beat her. Bitch.

Otherwise, I like it. It's a good mix of old and new Castlevania. I've been collecting everything so I expect the game to clock in at around 12 hours, about four per Act. Not bad though obviously, I would have loved a longer game. They do a lot right here and I felt that the game could have used another Act or two to flesh out the characters and story. By the way, the game switches art styles for certain cutscenes. Sometimes it's a stylized cel-shade look where characters speak but their mouths don't move. I didn't really get it.

Stoeff.atMarch 11, 2013

Quote from: NdIGiTy

Quote from: negative_zero

Brief but deplorable representation of female figures.  Can you clarify this?  I'm getting a bit tired of this kind of thing and it's a huge turn-off for me nowadays.

Near the end of Simon's section, there's a boss fight that involves some scantily clad enemies with stupidly disproportionate female form. Their "thing" is that they essentially try to seduce Simon. During the fight, they regain health by kissing each other.

I really did not like the demo but ... BEST GAME EVER! ^^

no, really, as mentioned those biatchez do just what the are supposed to do.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succubus

Infinitys_EndMarch 25, 2013

Nate, a word to the wise: White Knighting is NOT welcome in game reviews.
Pointing out that a Succubus (who exist PURELY to explain wet dreams) looks "deplorable" has absolutely nothing to do with the overall quality of the game.

Like.... really, dude?  Really? o_O

OblivionMarch 25, 2013

Come on, dude. Honestly, it does. If it had been a sexist thing, it would detract from the quality of game. At least, it would be for me. In this case, he's mistaken, but come on, he isn't whiteknighting.

broodwarsMarch 25, 2013

Quote from: Infinitys_End

Nate, a word to the wise: White Knighting is NOT welcome in game reviews.
Pointing out that a Succubus (who exist PURELY to explain wet dreams) looks "deplorable" has absolutely nothing to do with the overall quality of the game.

Like.... really, dude?  Really? o_O

Well, OBVIOUSLY he forgot to call out the "Vamps before Tramps" in-game achievement there and how it ruined the entire game for him.  ;)   Then, he would be completely justified.

Lucariofan99July 26, 2013

I was actually pretty surpised how good this game is! It's amazing! :)

Share + Bookmark





Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate Box Art

Genre Action
Developer MercurySteam Entertainment
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
Release Mar 05, 2013
PublisherKonami
RatingMature
jpn: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Sandame no Makyō
Release Mar 20, 2013
PublisherKonami
Rating17+
eu: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
Release Mar 2013
PublisherKonami
aus: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
Release Mar 09, 2013
PublisherNintendo
RatingMature (15+)
Got a news tip? Send it in!
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement