Castlevania is arguably Konami's longest flagship title. Even though the series has seemed to fall off in recent years, it received a reboot with Lords of Shadow a few years ago. The title introduced a new style of gameplay that resembles the God of War franchise. The title was successful enough to generate two additional titles, one being for the major console systems later this year, and the other being for the 3DS. Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate is the direct sequel to the original Lords of Shadow. Is it anything like the original? Besides Gabriel Belmont's inclusion in the story, it's not. Is that a bad thing? Most certainly not.
MOF returns to Castlevania's roots as a side scrolling 2D title. The backgrounds, models, and environments are all in 3D and look excellent on the 3DS. The game is beautifully rendered and extremely smooth. You will initially play as Gabriel, and in true Castlevania form, he's unstoppable to the point that you can just hold down the attack button, and it does everything. Once the story starts, you take over as the overly Scottish Simon Belmont, and you no longer have those powers. You wield the whip, and will level up with new moves and side weapons. Killing enemies gives you little color bubbles that grant experience. Much like the older portable Castlevanias, as well as SOTN, you progress through the castle and navigate areas on a map. Exploration is a part of the game, but not near as much SOTN. You will progress through pretty streamlined portions of the castle, and once you unlock Gabriel's weapon, you can return to areas and access new ones. Besides Gabriel and Simon, Alucard and Trevor Belmont, son of Simon, are playable. The story, as a whole, intertwines with in-game cut scenes.
MOF might be one of the more "adult" games on the 3DS. There is blood, and some of the stories that are read from the scrolls of dead bodies can be a bit much for a child. As I mentioned, the game is a side scrolling hack and slash games. The gameplay resembles the original Lords of Shadow by means of doing combos. Once you get to a certain point where the enemy is flashing, you can grab them and do a finishing animation. Your experience unlocks new combos. Unlocking secondary weapons makes enemy encounters a bit easy. There is also an abundant of health refill stations, and strangely when you die, you basically respawn right where you were. This is strange during boss fights because you will start again at whatever major portion of the fight you are in. Your health meter is not full after the respawn, which doesn't make it blatantly easy. The bosses are true to form and will take you back to SOTN. However, what has become the norm for hack and slash games, you will have to deal with button pressing correspondence during certain parts of the fight. You will feel like you're doing a lot of damage, but when you look at their health bar, you will realize you haven't. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and overall, the combat is excellent with this title. There's also some puzzle solving the deeper you get into the game.
The soundtrack in the game is one of the greatest I've heard in sometime. Amazing synthesized melodies surpassing the bar set by SOTN and seems to take a note from Skyrim. While that stays true to the Castlevania franchise, so does the really poor and comical voice acting. The cutscenes are cel-shaded motion comics in 3D that are really cool, but the voice acting is awful. The sound effects in game are very well done. What it comes down to, in the end, is this memorable soundtrack. This game probably has the best in-game music offered on the 3DS.
MOF goes beyond to show what the 3DS can do. Sure, the textures aren't detailed, but the overall look of the game mixed with how the 3D works looks incredible for this system. Add to that the brilliant soundtrack and a solid story that interweaves, and the result is a game that is a must have for any 3DS owner.
Graphics: 9 - This is the best 3D rendered game on the 3DS. The game runs smooth, and all the levels and models look great. There are some bland textures, but the game is definitely making the most of the hardware.
Sound: 9 - One of the best soundtracks you'll hear today, period. Ultra-fitting synthesized music on the level of SOTN. The only reason it doesn't get a perfect on the sound is the comical voice acting.
Gameplay: 8 - Typical hack and slash gameplay mixed with side scrolling 2D environment. The mix fits well and you will unlock combos as you progress. Add to this multiple characters to play through and puzzles and it adds to an excellent portable experience.
Replay: 7 - Progressing through the story is pretty streamlined. Exploration is a part of the game, but not that deep. It's something that can be all completed on the first play through. A fan of the series will want to play this multiple times though.
Overall: 9 - MOF is an excellent play through. It kicks back to the roots of the series and makes excellent use of the hardware. Is it worth picking a 3DS up for? No, however if you are on the fence about picking up the system, this should be weighed into your decision. If you own the system, it's must to own.