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Hands-on: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate

I wander around in this dark castle, on my own, trying to find out the truth of my family. Sounds boring you may think but it’s far from that. The castle isn’t just an old monument filled with memories, it’s a home to many demons. Thank God I’m a gifted warrior and I can handle those demons just fine using my mighty whip. Enough for the chitchat, it’s time to continue my quest.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is quite a mouthful and can cause confusion for those not familiar with the franchise. Mirror of Fate is part of the recent reboot of the franchise and is set between the first Lords of Shadow and the second yet to release Lords of Shadow. New in this game is that you won’t control just one character. This time, depending on the story, you’ll play as Simon Belmont, Trevor, Gabriel Bermont and Alucard. The story is all about the ancient battle of the Belmont clan with the terror of the demons. Throughout the game you can collect pieces of paper telling you all the secrets there are to know about this mysterious family. Newcomers to the franchise don’t need to worry that the story will become too hard to follow.

A lot of details went to this aspect of the game. Aside from the papers you can collect in the game, Mirror of Fate also features rather impressive cut scenes. Those cut scenes are created in a cell-shaded look and really look impressive. Using those beautiful cut scenes, the game convinces you to pay attention to the story and sucks you deeper into it. It’s a shame I couldn’t see more of those during my play session with this game but it sure looked promising.

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A great story and impressive looking cut scenes is a great start for this new Castlevania game on the 3DS but how about the gameplay? Mirror of Fate stays true to the 2D Castlevania games but has inherited some of the innovations found in Lords of Shadow as well. This combination makes a rather unique and fun to play portable Castlevania. First of all, you’ll still have to go through a lot of hallways and hidden rooms inside and outside the castle, similar to what you did earlier in other Castlevania games. The castle and everything around it, is rather big, certainly when you consider it being a portable game. At first the game starts off with a small introduction to the mechanics and fighting system and therefore seems to be very linear. The further you go however, the more different paths you can follow in order to reach your goal. This freedom and choice of which way to go really makes it a better game. You’ll get the feeling that you really are discovering a new castle and that you reach everything you wanted to reach on your own. Not because the game told you which direction you should head.

 The game is filled with challenging platform sections and doesn’t allow the slightest mess-up.

Reaching those goals isn’t that easy. You won’t have to go on a straight path, you’ll find many dangers in your way instead. This is where the 2D platform aspect of the game kicks in. By timing your jumps carefully, you can reach the other side of the environment. The game is filled with challenging platform sections and doesn’t allow the slightest mess-up. You’ll find yourself falling down a lot during the first hour of the game because you’ll have to get used on the way your character responds to your input. After a while you’ll get the hang of it and you’ll be jumping around like Super Mario. The game sometimes feels like a trial and error game because of the platform section but that really doesn’t bother at all.

So far the game isn’t really different from the other portable Castlevania games released. Platforming is something that always will be represented in those. What’s new in this game is the fighting system, borrowed from the console version. Depending which character you are, you’ll have a long ranged and short ranged attack. Most characters will use the whip in combination with another weapon like axe to achieve this.

The fighting system really gets interesting thanks to the implementation of blocking and finishing moves. By timing your block button at the right time, you can activate a powerful counterattack. Using those in combination with regular attacks will weaken your enemy. Sometimes you can even perform a cruel finishing move. When doing so, the camera zooms in to show you the brutal effect of your finishing move on an enemy. Because the game is completely built in 3D, those really are fun to watch.

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The fighting system and platform sections of the game already make this Castlevania one of the best and most fun to play in the franchise. Of course it doesn’t stop there. The game also features impressive and challenging bosses and mid-bosses as well. Fighting those really is a challenge and you can praise whatever God you want that you can save your progress while fighting the big bosses. Some of the bosses will transform and will change everything you thought you knew of them. It’s handy to know that you can start the game after you reached the second transformation.

Too bad I didn’t had the time to continue playing the game as long as I wished, there still remain many hidden secrets within the castle walls and many gameplay elements I couldn’t really use to its full potential, like magic. Like other Castlevania games this one will feature some magic as well. There will be some defensive as well as some offensive use of magic. During the demo I only met the defensive side of it but it really added something to the game without having the feeling that it’s a forced gameplay element.

All in all Mirror of Fate is shaping up to be one of the Nintendo’s 3DS biggest surprises for this year. It’s a solid game with gorgeous graphics and sound as well as a very good gameplay experience. Mirror of Fate stays true to the fundaments of the franchise but dares to push through some innovations as well. Fans of the franchise don’t have to doubt for a second, this is a Castlevania you should definitely play. Gamers who haven’t played any of the games before will find a great introduction in this Mirror of Fate. Let’s hope the full retail version lives up to these high expectations created by a very impressive demo version.

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.