At gamescom recently I got the chance to play the upcoming 3DS game, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, and was very pleasantly surprised. I have loved all the GBA and DS Castlevanias, but I ended up a little burnt out on them because of the reuse of so much of each game. Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate feels the same in gameplay but it also feels very new because no sprites from before are reused. The demo available on the show floor had about 30 minutes of gameplay in it and left me wanting much more.
Mirror of Fate’s descendency is from Lords of Shadow, the HD 3D action console game, and it shows. The presentation is all in 3D – enemies, weapons, backgrounds – a far cry from the previous five handheld titles in the series which were sprite based. Fortunately for fans of the 2D gameplay of those handheld titles (like me), the action takes place on a 2D plane and feels very similar in nature to the 2D games, albeit with elements of the combat system from Lords of Shadow.
The action takes place on the top screen in wonderful parallax 3D while the bottom screen shows the side-on map of the castle. There are once again areas that you can’t reach until you get a new ability later, the hallmark of Castlevania games descended from Symphony of the Night and seemingly inspired by Metroid (the Metroidvania formula, as some call it). One thing missing from the formula reused so much on the DS is stats and equipment – I didn’t see any levelling up happening as I was playing, and no damage amounts shown, which means this game might be more of an action game than action-RPG-lite.
Nevertheless, having that classic Castlevania feel but with all new assets and a new combat engine which includes dashing and the whip made me grin as I played the game. Mirror of Fate feels like a mash-up of Dawn of Sorrow (exploration, 2D) and Lords of Shadow (combat system, 3D assets) – a great combination. Unfortunately I couldn’t get to hear the sound because of the deafening noise in the halls of gamescom, because music always plays a big part in creating the atmosphere of Castlevania games.
The controls are easy to pick: the D-pad or Circle-pad moves you around and the B button jumps. Press the B button again while in the air to double-jump. The Y button does a quick, stabby attack, and the X button does a bigger, slower, more powerful attack, very similar to 3D action games. The right shoulder button rolls, which was very useful in dodging attacks by the last boss guy I fought.
Similar to most Castlevanias, combat is an exercise in sheer patience: wait for the opening, get the hit in, roll out the way, rinse, repeat. Do that enough times and the enemy dies and you haven’t lost a hit point. Of course, this is easier said than done and it’s the sense of mastering enemies that is one of the most enjoyable things of Castlevania games.
Mirror of Fate is familiar and new at the same time, a really interesting upcoming 3DS game that I will definitely be purchasing when it’s released in 2013. Castlevania fans should check it out, and so should any 2D action fans.