Previews// Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate

Posted 4 Feb 2013 09:34 by
Castlevaniaís 2010 reboot on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 might not have been fantastic, but it earned an admirable following - and Gabriel Belmontís transformation into Dracula makes for a fascinating prologue. But donít think that Mercury Steam has forgotten about the seriesí roots.

In addition to a Lords of Shadow sequel, the Spanish studio is hard at work with Mirror of Fate, a platformer for the Nintendo 3DS that harks back to the franchiseís classic NES days. You even play as 8-bit protagonist Simon Belmont, whip and all, in a storyline that takes place generations after Gabrielís initial spiral into darkness.

Hereís how Mercury Steam has tied things together. In an opening sequence set during the events of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow you learn that Gabrielís wife, Marie, is pregnant. This is a fact that is kept secret from Gabriel and ultimately his son, Trevor, is handed to the Brotherhood of Light to be raised by the organisation.

Years later, Trevor has a son of his own called Simon. Shortly before he cops it, of course (killed by his own father, no less). The Scottish-sounding, sideburn-wearing Simon swears to avenge the death of his family, and after many years of training - some 57 years after Gabrielís story - heads off to do just that. What a guy.

The first thing you notice is that Mirror of Fate isnít just a spiritual remake of the original Castlevania games. Sure, the classic 2D platforming of old has been faithfully restored to some degree, but this adventure borrows just as heavily from the mechanics of its Mercury Steamís action-heavy predecessor.

Simonís whip has two attack function - a short-range crack with the Y button, and an area-clearing smack using the X button - while the 3DS triggers are used to block/dodge attacks and to grab enemies and objects. Much like Lords of Shadow, a balance of attack and defence is the key to success, particularly as each ghoulish baddie has their own strengths and weaknesses.

In addition to your basic combat moves - which can make Simon pretty nimble when facing off against wolves, skeletons, zombies and floating magic books - you can collect spirits which can provide additional aid in battle. One is a defensive spirit that can protect Simon from projectiles and hazardous environments, and another is an offensive sort, firing arrows at all and sundry. Both require magic to function.

While the game is as action-heavy as its home console brother, there are plenty of areas that require some pause for thought and the solving of some basic puzzles. Mercury Steam also builds on the traditional 2D Castlevania formula, adding a backtracking element that is reminiscent of Nintendoís own Metroid franchise.

Youíll be bouncing backwards and forwards through each gothic environment, exploring new routes each time with the help of upgrades and tools collected from area bosses. While itís not a complete drag - Mercury Steam have clearly thought this through, with some interesting stage maps - it does feel slightly arbitrary in execution, with warp points providing much of the traveling between areas.

Thereís no danger of getting lost, at least, because the current waypoint is always displayed on the bottom screen of the 3DS. You can access maps, items and leave notes to refer to later. The 3D graphics are quite nice, not exactly tiring on the eyes, and adds depth in some beautifully detailed areas which are classic Castlevania fare: cells, caverns, castle hallways and dungeons are combined with funfairs and theatres to add colour to the proceedings.

Most importantly, the design problems that held back the original Castlevania: Lords of Shadow are not present here, which is a testament to how well the series suits the 2D plane. It also highlights just how far Mercury Steam has come - Mirror of Fate looks to be the perfect complement to a much improved Lords of Shadow 2.

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