Making a sequel to a console game on a portable system is a tricky undertaking. The original has already defined the scope and tone, and technical restrictions on a mobile platform make those hard to maintain, without feeling like a “lite” version of the original. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Mirror of Fate may be portable, but it still feels “big,” and it’s excellent, both as a portable game and a Castlevania title.
Mirror of Fate tells the story of the descendants of Gabriel Belmont, the protagonist of the original Lords of Shadow game. Separate, interwoven acts follow Gabriel’s son Trevor and grandson Simon, as well as Alucard, whose name will be familiar to Castlevania fans. Each character’s story contributes to the larger narrative of Mirror of Fate and tale told in Lords of Shadow. The very beginning of the game includes explicit spoilers from Lords of Shadow, so be warned.
Mirror of Fate is a hybrid, blending the visual style and story of Lords of Shadow with 2D exploration and combat similar to other portable Castlevania games. Each character wields the combat cross, and the basic combos and attacks are the same for all of them. Killing enemies awards experience points, and leveling up unlocks new attacks usable by all three. Some abilities gained are also universal. For instance, once Alucard gains the ability to double jump, Trevor does also.
In addition to the standard attacks and abilities, Trevor, Simon and Alucard each have their own special skill. Simon can summon spirits to defend or attack, Alucard can take the form of mist or a wolf and Trevor can summon light or dark magic. Secondary items differ among them, and include classics like the throwing axe for Simon and the electric bomb for Trevor. These help differentiate the characters, which otherwise control identically.
The combat in Mirror of Fate is less about doing damage and more about learning the movements of enemies and avoiding their assaults. Foes have standard attacks that can be blocked and unblockable moves (signaled by a flash). The latter must be dodged, which can be accomplished by jumping or rolling. Attack recognition and proper evasion is especially important when fighting bosses, who take a lot of damage before going down.
My biggest complaint with Mirror of Fate is that, after a while, the combat started to get repetitive. Even basic enemies will take a fair amount of damage, and aside from needing to break the guard of a blocking enemy, attack selection doesn’t make a lot of difference. After a certain point, I was just checking which move did the most damage and focusing on that. The excellent checkpointing system (especially in boss fights) keeps any unnecessary fighting to a minimum, but it was a bit of a disappointment.
While playing the game on the upper screen, the map in the lower screen tracks progress, points the way to the next objective and allows for note taking (helpful for reminders to revisit currently inaccessible areas). The need for notes didn’t come up very much after the beginning of the game, and even in those instances, backtracking to those spots felt like more trouble than it was worth. The map works well though, and there is a nice balance between rewarding exploration and progressing toward the next objective.
Mirror of Fate looks nice, with good use of 3D to create atmosphere. From open courtyards to claustrophobic tunnels, everything has a real feel of depth to it, and the 3D never feels gimmicky. There are a couple of cool moments where the background is put to good use, and I would have liked to see more of them. True to series tradition, the soundtrack is fantastic, setting the tone perfectly throughout the game. Character voices are well done, and fit with the anime style of the cutscenes.
I had a lot of fun with Mirror of Fate. It feels like a big game that works very well for portable play, which is a significant accomplishment. While the combat wasn’t always engaging, the soundtrack and presentation were always enough to keep me into the game. Boss fights are fun and varied, and the excellent checkpointing system kept the big encounters from becoming frustrating. Castlevania fans and 3DS owners alike will find a lot to enjoy here.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.