Castlevania: Mirror of Fate originally released earlier this year on the Nintendo 3DS, and was a great 2.5D Metroidvania platformer that took place after Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow. The original title in this reimagined series offered a strong narrative and gameplay experience of this generation and after being teased with a trailer for its sequel, Mirror of Fate offered a nice intermission. Now on home consoles, you can already tell Mirror of Fate HD isn't going to win any beauty contests and even though you can definitely tell this is a 3DS game, Castlevania: Mirror of Fate still ends up being a classic Castlevania game set in the Lords of Shadow universe. And I am quite alright with that.
The main story is set 26 years after the events of Lords of Shadow. Interestingly enough you barely play as Lords of Shadow protagonist, Gabriel Belmont. He is playable through a short prologue, which takes place before the events of Lords of Shadow. As an interesting twist, the game is played out in 3 acts; each act played through the eyes of other familiar Belmonts of the main Castlevania canon. Simon, who fans will know as the "original" Belmont of the first Castlevania, is the descendant of Gabriel and will be the first you take control of. Trevor, who is revealed in this universe as the secret son of Gabriel, is also playable and is on a quest to destroy his father, who has since the epilogue of Lords of Shadow, become Dracula. Alucard is the final playable character and is the former Trevor Belmont, and in this form has attained the immortal powers necessary to take on his father.
Alucard was seen during the trailer of Lords of Shadow 2 and this was a nice way to entwine the other Belmonts into this new canon and storyline. It serves as a nice bridge to the highly anticipated sequel. The story may seem disjointed as it jumps between time, but towards the end it starts coming together. The writing unfortunately isn't as enthralling as Lords of Shadow, but then again it could be a craving for the narration by Patrick Stewart. The game is decently paced, clocking in at 10 hours with roughly 3 hours per character, but achievement hunters can try the 3.5 hour speed run.
Mirror of Fate's core gameplay makes a great return to the traditional non-linear, Metroidvania style of progression with certain parts of earlier levels being closed off until you acquire certain items later on in the game. A great feature is the ability to make notes in your map if there is something you can't reach at the time so that you don't forget where it is. Dave Cox and his team at Mercury Team say they were heavily influenced by Super Castlevania IV and it shows. Platforming is essential and there are very light puzzles to solve.
The core combat retains much of Lords of Shadow's combo system, although it's definitely more limited being a 3DS port. That being said, it feels fluid and only increases in fluidity as you receive upgrades when you level up. Levelling up is achieved with every enemy you defeat and it will unlock new combos and moves. Health, magic, and side weapon capacity are all increased by finding colour coded chests scattered throughout the levels. There are loads of hidden scrolls of fallen warriors that add to the lore, and hidden entries to add to your bestiary, which add descriptions of enemies and also what their weaknesses are.
The main campaign can be replayed from any chapter and a new Hardcore difficulty will be unlocked upon completing the game. Mercury Steam has also decided to include Boss Rush mode, which is popular for fans of the Castlevania franchise. It's the ultimate test that pits you against all the bosses from all three acts.
Visually, the game looks like a clean HD remaster of the 3DS side-scroller. This is far from the best looking PSN or XBL game out there and again, it must be stressed that this is a port of a handheld title. Keeping that in mind, character animations for the protagonists look fairly well done. Enemy types are varied and plentiful, but you will find that they're all fairly easy to beat with similar combos. Outside of the boss battles, the enemies do feel repetitive to beat, but it doesn't present much of an issue.
The level design truly is the star of this game. It allows you to enjoyed every moment of exploring the different paths and knowing which ones you can or can't access depending on where you are in the game. Settings all feel different, and platforms are intelligently placed to make sense with the world design. The soundtrack, like the first Lords of Shadow, is simply awe-inspiring and is once again composed by the talented Oscar Araujo.
If you haven't had the chance to play Mirror of Fate before, or if you want to see what it's like with a fresh coat of paint, Mirror of Fate HD is well worth the price of admission. In most retail stores this HD port is actually cheaper than the 3DS version so it would be wise for newcomers to start with the HD port. It's short but sweet, and those who are fans of the franchise will welcome the fact that you can take control of Simon, Trevor and Alucard.
|Playing as the 3 other Belmonts|
|Not the best handheld port visually|
|Despite looking different, enemies can feel repetitive|
|Writing doesn't quite hit the mark its predecessor set|