MercurySteam has come a long way. After fumbling the much hyped Clive Barker’s Jericho, they were given a new lease on life by Konami, and headed up the reboot of the Castlevania franchise, titled Lords of Shadow.
While it may have more in common with God of War than Castlevania, I found Lords of Shadow to be a serviceable addition to the series, with a compelling story that will captivate most fans.
Mirror of Fate is MercurySteam’s second go, this time opting to go 2D and try their hand at recreating the magic of the portable Castlevania games.
With a rather tall order in front of them, I’m pleased to say that like Lords of Shadow before it, they somewhat succeeded.
Plain and simple, Mirror of Fate is a 2D Castlevania game in the same vein as titles like Circle of the Moon and Aria of Sorrow — just a little…different.
For one, the fighting system has been upgraded a bit with more emphasis on action. Combat is fast and furious, just like a typical 3D action game. There are interchangeable combos, cancels, and a lot more as you start leveling up and unlocking new moves.
Each playable character has a different set of spells and sub-weapons, but they all mostly control the same, with whip based gameplay — they also share the same experience level.
But while combat is great and works really well, exploration feels a bit curbed as a result. Simply put, while Dracula’s castle and the surrounding areas have their moments, overall, they feel a bit uninspired. This isn’t inherently because the areas themselves are poorly designed, it’s because of the choice to essentially split the game into three parts.
Instead of playing as just one character, you’ll actually be controlling four. You’ll have control of Gabriel (from Lords of Shadow) very briefly for the intro, then the bulk of the game will be played Simon, then Alucard, then Trevor (Simon’s father and Gabriel’s son).
This split into three chapters was really jarring, despite the fact that seeing the game from three different perspectives is at least an interesting prospect. What it does is essentially makes going for a 100% completion rate a less fun prospect, as you can’t just get lost in a giant playground.
It would have been really fun to go through one giant castle with one character (preferably Trevor), and then allowed a New Game+ with Simon or Alucard to tell the rest of the story.
Boss fights are probably the highlight of the game, but the issue is that they can sometimes feel contrived. Yes, there are QTEs unfortunately, which often feel tacked on and are incredibly easy, mostly due to the fact that checkpoints are frequent during bosses.
So frequent in fact, that it almost gets out of hand, as each boss phase transition will have a new checkpoint — eliminating a lot of the tension and skill needed to best some of the harder, more fun bosses in Mirror of Fate.
Narrative wise, the overall story isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either. Other than a few pretty cool twists and reveals, for the most part, you’re going to get exactly what you’d expect from a Vampire Hunter versus Vampire plotline. I really enjoyed their take on Trevor, as well as their incarnation of Alucard, and wish they would have just cut out Simon entirely, making room for a sequel.
Most of the big reveals will take place outside of the game’s engine in some neat looking 3D story portions, but in a weird twist of fate, the lip syncing is entirely off, which eliminates all sense of emotion and makes the characters look really goofy. I’m not sure if this is a design choice or a technical restriction, but in either case, it’s really jarring.
It took me around eight hours to beat the game, and if you wanted 100% completion, it could take you anywhere from 10-15. Completing the story will allow you to go through each character’s portion separately, and it will also unlock a new Nightmare Mode difficulty. It’s a shame that classic boss rush modes and other extras weren’t included, as that’s become the staple for portable Castlevania games.
Like the original Lords of Shadow, Mirror of Fate doesn’t really feel like a Castlevania game, and that’s mostly ok. It does a decent job at rebooting the franchise in its own way, and apart from a lot of holes and fumbled plotlines, I enjoy the over-arching story of Gabriel, and how everyone else fits into his world.
Mirror of Fate is basically a 2D God of War, so if you dig platformers with decent combat mechanics, you’ll most likely enjoy it.
This review is based on a physical copy of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate for the 3DS