Platforms: PSN | XBLA
Developer: Mercury Steam
The 3DS was always going to struggle with the ambitious graphics in Mirror of Fate, but we no longer have to fend off its ugly with a crucifix, because Konami have unleashed a HD makeover on the PS3 and Xbox 360 digital stores and at a bargain price of £9.99.
For those of you who missed the 3DS version (a mildly respectable 6/10), the game ditches the 3D action feel of Lords of Shadow for something more in line with the classic 2D Castlevania games. So expect lots of platforming, exploration and fending off opponents from both sides.
Admittedly, the formula has been watered down a bit. Levels aren’t particularly big, levelling up is very linear and there are many (optional) concessions to the lower difficulty levels with extra checkpoints (even in boss fights), weaker enemies and map guides.
Visually, the game feels like it’s a part of the new saga and looks a hell of a lot better than the seriously jaggy 3DS version. It’s not slap-your-face-gorgeous like the first game, but it’s a massive step up from the handheld.
Mirror of Fate seems to be aiming for a middle ground between the classic games and the 3D 2010 game, all the while being wary of not over-reaching (or is it just a lack of ambition?) the capabilities of the original handheld platform. There’s lots for the newer fans to enjoy, the story ties in directly with the last game -taking place after the second piece of DLC- there are diary scrolls to find, the combat feels similar despite the transition to 2D and there’s a good 7-10 hours of gameplay here depending on the difficulty.
The majority of the game is split into three acts with a different character for each. First up is Simon Belmont, grandson of Gabriel -although he doesn’t know it. Then there’s a stint as Alucard, followed by a trip back in time to play as Trevor Belmont. Occasionally, their paths will cross, or you’ll visit the same locations at different periods. Each act manages to feel fresh though and everyone gets plenty of new ground to explore.
Variety is aided by the different abilities each character acquires. On your travels, you’ll find grappling hooks, double jumps, teleports, light/dark magic (like Gabriel’s), glides and other skills that make new areas of the castle accessible. This involves a bit of backtracking, but not enough to make you sick of the sight of the place. Each character also has their own throwable weapons too such as boomerangs, axes, slow-motion capsules, electrical grenades and so on.
Combat is generally the same for all three and they share the same upgrades too. There’s no upgrade tree, unlocked skills are handed out in order when you level up. Button combos are basic compared to the first game, but you’re given enough for the task at hand. Attacks carry a pleasing sense of weight to them and the variation between close and wide-range attacks give you a feeling of empowerment for any given situation.
Enemy variation is strong throughout. All the classic tropes make an appearance - zombies, mermen, harpies, skeletons, werewolves, puppets, gargoyles, vampire knights and so on. My particular favourite was a team of three hunchbacks wobbling around with a spiked shield and a long spear.
All enemies are vulnerable to counter-attacks if you can time a block just right, it’s an essential skill really and it’s a real rush when you pull it off. The boss fights manage to display more creativity with attack patterns than many of today’s 3D hack n’ slash games too, generally without relying on QTEs too.
You’ll probably spend more time platforming and solving puzzles, so combat fatigue never really becomes an issue. Platforming can be a little tough, but failure rarely feels unfair. At least it’s easy to see where you’re going compared to the many blind jumps when exploring last time. Puzzles are mainly crate-pushing tasks, but there are a few that will test the old grey matter, like the one where you need to bounce a laser of multiple moveable points.
While story scenes are a little light on the ground, the cel-shaded cutscenes are beautifully illustrated and add a stylish feel. And there are some important parts to the story here acting as a segue for the upcoming Lords of Shadow 2. Important though they may be, nothing is really dwelled upon and you’ll still come away with questions even if you finished the first game and its cheekily separate DLC. Hopefully the final game will fill these gaps.
There are a few technical hiccups that I could have done without, such as the frequent loading screens between rooms, or the random auto-save pause after looking at the map. Also, some of the charged punches or secondary items would be unresponsive to the first hold of a button to charge it - leaving me wide open to a mauling.
Overall though, these were minor problems in what turned out to be solid 2D platforming hack n’ slash adventure. The visual overhaul has done wonders for the game and I’d thoroughly recommend any fans of the new series to pick it up. If you haven’t played the first game, there are spoilers throughout this one, so beware.
- Healthy mix of combat and exploration
- Doesn’t outstay its welcome at around 8 hours
- Bargain price at £9.99
- Some charged attacks lack responsiveness
- Too many loading screens
- A Vita version would have been nice
The Short Version: Mirror of Fate fits snugly inbetween the old and the new worlds of Castlevania, although purists will feel it leans more towards the newer games. The leap in quality for the visuals makes this the clear choice over the 3DS version and the story sets things up nicely for the concluding part in February when the game returns to full fat 3D gameplay.