|Release: March 5, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, ViolenceG|
by Sean Engemann
Developer MercurySteam continues its foray into the Lords of Shadow storyline with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate. Their goal is to create a fully realized title that takes advantage of the unique features of the 3DS. Overall, Mirror of Fate does the series justice and proves to be an intriguing intermezzo that continues from the events of the original console title while setting up a dramatic climax for the upcoming Lords of Shadow 2. However, considering the pedigree of the series, noticeable flaws in Mirror of Fate could be a turnoff for those devout fans who expect nothing less than a pristine presentation.
Gabriel Belmont guides us through a prologue and tutorial, teaching us the combat basics while reenacting an epic showdown. We then fast-forward via a cutscene to several decades later where Gabriel's grandson Simon awakens from his nightmare, a reverie which forces him to relive his escape from Dracula's wrath and witness the sacrifice of his mother to save him. Now fully grown and physically able, Simon ventures to Castlevania to avenge the murder of both his mother and his father.
Armed with his leather whip to start, Simon has only a few attacks at his disposal. The direct attack targets enemies in front, while the area attack covers a wider arc though with less power. Both attacks, as well as blocking and dodging, can be performed on the ground or in midair. Each enemy has a glowing indicator when an unblockable attack is about to be unleashed, giving you a quick moment to adjust your defenses. Some attacks cause foes to become disoriented, allowing you to perform a cinematic quick time event to finish the job. These finishers still provide a flourish beyond the standard dispatching methods, and can even tip the scale during boss battles should you fail at inputting the proper button combination.
You are attacked from all angles and regularly flanked, but your collection of attack combinations increases as you level up. Some allow you to send weaker foes skyward, where you can proceed to juggle them into submission. Others unlock some powerful melee punches, though I rarely made use of these as it was much more strategic to keep enemies a whip’s length away. In fact, you could choose the less mentally taxing path and race through the adventure using only the basic attacks, though this route turns redundant rather quickly, and stringing together ground and aerial combos with a finishing move is much more satisfying.
The three main playable characters—Simon, Alucard, and Trevor—all perform the same basic attacks and combos, as well as share the same level and health and mana gauges. They differ with their secondary attacks, some of which are required to access certain sections of the castle. Certain abilities are more superfluous than others, but all are still a nice convenience to have should one care to use them.
The sprawling castle has many different explorable sections, from the dungeon to the kitchen to the theatre, though a map indicator always pinpoints your target destination, which is a fairly linear venture. Searching the nooks and crannies rewards you with lore-laden scrolls that also give you experience; chests that will boost your maximum health, mana, or secondary item limit; and bestiary entries that are viewable from the title screen. Some of the upgrades are perched on platforms or behind doors and requires the Combat Cross or secondary items to obtain, though a question mark keeps you aware of its location for future backtracking. You can also create up to fifty manual notations on the map, though I found this a useless feature in my adventure, as the rewards were typically in plain sight or only slightly off the beaten path.