Anytime a classic game franchise is revisited, re-launched, rebooted or otherwise revived, it is sure to stir up emotions and criticism. "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow" was the 2010 home console reboot of the series and while by most accounts it was a great game, some nostalgists complained. Luckily that wasn’t the end of "Lords of Shadow." At the E3 Expo in Los Angeles, last year I got a look at Konami’s Nintendo 3DS sequel, "Mirror of Fate." The game bridges the story to the upcoming home console game "Lords of Shadow 2."
"Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate" for the most part tries to bridge the new action/adventure gameplay with "Castlevania’s" classic roots. Most gamers will enjoy "Mirror of Fate," but classic gaming purists are bound to be disappointed. The game borrows from the first and third "Castlevania" games while introducing more modern physical puzzle challenges and Quick Time Events. The checkpoints and difficulty levels have also been adjusted for modern gamers as well as the inaccurate analog controls of the Nintendo 3DS.
As with many games that I’ve played on Nintendo’s current handheld system, "Mirror of Fate" made me wish it was on another platform. I could go through the list, starting with "Pokemon" which would be a much better experience on a tablet. We’re talking about "Castlevania" though, and besides that the analog controls are inconsistent, using the device for extended periods of time is kind of painful. It’s really no wonder that grips are a popular accessory for the 3DS. As a side-scrolling hack and slash action adventure, the entire set of buttons is mapped and requires the use of the the analog control. The otherwise utilized d-pad can’t be used for movement forcing a weird hand cramp for some combinations like rolling.
"Mirror of Fate" almost seems to ignore that there have been a slew of handheld "Castlevania" games. It pays homage to the first games of the series but falls in line with spirit of the original "Lords of Shadow." There is no ignoring the roots of the series, but "Lords of Shadow" is a complete reboot to something new and in many ways more accessible. If the majority of games were as difficult as they were twenty-some years ago, there would be a whole lot less gamers. "Castlevania" historians are likely to be incredulous to the more home console-like design choices made by Mercury Steam.
Set 25 years after the events of the original "Lords of Shadow," "Mirror of Fate," in a roundabout way tells the story of Gabriel’s descendants. Simon and Trevor Belmont and Alucard are all unique playable characters with their own special items. Unfortunately they are not interchangeable and players will have to learn and forget skill sets throughout the game. While Sony’s handheld systems have plenty of these hack and slash action/adventures, the 3DS has very few. Though the design of the system doesn’t lend itself to this set of mechanics, it is a sorely needed genre.
The combat heavy 2.5D adventure is sure to draw comparisons with the handful of games featuring Sony’s immortal antihero from Sparta. The M rating adds to the similarities though "Mirror of Fate" never stoops to the same levels of gratuitous sex and violence. Like I mentioned before, many "Castlevania" purists will despise this game, but fans of the new path the series is on will appreciate this well executed bridge story. "Mirror of Fate" may seem like it’s on the wrong brand of handheld and the Nintendo 3DS ergonomics don’t help, but this game is one of the best handheld action/adventures available. Now bring on "Lords of Shadow 2!"
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