If I ever were to sit down with Dracula and have a conversation, perhaps sipping his usual as I sip my tea, I’d expect him to be as layered and formulaic as a diary, carrying gripping deep-rooted secrets that make me want to dig out and reveal them. With this pre-conceived notion of an undead mystic, I’d expect any game based on Dracula’s life and times to have these same kind of traits. Some games deeply disappoint, being so bad that they should be arrested, but other games capture the kind of ambiance that makes what they portray a gripping trench of immersion.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate HD is a game that’s done right, with no quick time events to open chests or defeat bosses. These developers have finally realized that anything including quick time events isn’t a game anymore, but an annoyingly interactive movie. They’ve showed this to us by wisely removing this disgrace of a feature from the console version.
Initially set 25 years after the events of the original Lords of Shadow, Mirror of Fate reveals the story of Gabriel’s descendants in a foreshadowed cluster of poor hint dropping, as they battle their own destiny in each era only to discover their true, shocking fate that’s as predictable as the ending of a football game. Trevor Belmont, a knight of the Brotherhood of Light with a mullet that obviously argued with a mirror, sets out to avenge the death of his mother at the hands of his own father. He has now returned and taken up residence in a mysterious castle after years of exile. What was once Gabriel Belmont now stands as a powerful vampire named Dracula, and he has declared war upon the Brotherhood. Thus the scene is set for a cataclysmic showdown between Father and Son.
In this wholesome tale of exploratory wonder, you’ll play as each descendant, namely Simon Belmont, his father Trevor Belmont, and Alucard. Each of their stories is told separately via chapters, allowing you to shifting back and forth between their tales. Even though the threads snuggle up together to mesh into a nice ending, the foreshadowing laced throughout the story like scattered thousand dollar bills makes the surprise fall like an arthritic dog.
Despite the storytelling the game’s ambiance is definitely gripping. Within seconds of starting, I immediately felt like I was in the famous castle. This is thanks in part to the heavenly score, the visuals and the controls. For a side-scroller, the visuals are as gorgeous as Denzel Washington. The gameplay was simple, tasking the player to navigate the halls of Dracula’s castle, fending off zombies, skull-headed rat-dogs, and undead knights, with an occasional challenging boss fight. Throughout the journey I was following my map, which was perched at the top right corner of the screen. Unfortunately, this map can’t be moved, but it can be blown up by hitting the Start button.
The exploration elements of the game are aided by your trusty whip, which allows you to reach places out of the ordinary rappel down walls and swing across areas with the fluidity of Buffy. It added to the feeling of being inside the castle when I had to draw my own mini-map of treasures hidden within the castle. This added bonus definitely brought the correct kind of atmospheric feeling, almost as much as the ease of the game’s handling.
The game’s combat system makes it easy to string together a series of direct and area of effect attacks, well-timed blocks that can stun enemies, and evasive maneuvers enhanced by the added ability to memorize the button combos. If you can’t do the memorizing thing though, button mashing will allow you to plow through like a duck on roller blades.
The game’s finds strength in its atmosphere and placing the character into its world, but Mirror of Fate definitely has some noticeable diatribes and disappointments as well. One of these may cause you to admit yourself to the nearest hospital. The text, which is extremely small. So small, in fact, that people even with perfect vision had to squint as if they were staring at a crumb. Because of this, I didn’t want to give myself a migraine so I didn’t even bother to read anything on the screen. I felt as though I were missing important information, and this detracted from my gameplay experience.
The other problem that tickled the back of my critical thinking ability was the character switching. The shifting from character to character was welcomed because it gave me a chance to be a master of all characters. Even though you will be dealing with a slightly different repertoire of movement and attack abilities in each chapter, the controls are not hard to get used to. Because of this, leveling up with characters I knew were minor and wouldn’t be used in the final boss felt like a teacher boosting my skills with a calculator before an important reading test.
The game is worth a play though, because the feeling it generates can’t be matched. It’s a classic game, with most of the best elements, tossed into a nifty hitch of a game ported over from the DS. Some elements, such as the text, will make you question your sanity, but the gameplay redeems that and will show players to the light at the end of the tunnel. The style brings together classic gameplay that can have everyone sighing with a wash of comfort, wishing to sink their fangs past the bad to experience some heart-thumping fun.
Accessibility Review Score: 7/10
A review copy was provided from the publisher.