Castlevania Lords of Shadow Mirror of Fate was never going to be the title die-hard Castlevania fans quite wanted on the 3DS. Even if we look past the ridiculously long name, it continued the rebooted timeline of Castlevania Lords of Shadow that threw out the series long history. The other reason it was not met with enthusiasm was because it was not quite the same as the ‘metroidvania’ titles that people were used to from handheld Castlevania games. Mirror of Fate departed from the formula from the popular DS and GBA entries to focus on story line and timing, rather than exploration and combat. Despite its lackluster reaction the game is definitely worth taking a closer look.
Mirror of Fate is an excellent entry in to the series. While it remains a shame that Konami broke the continuity of the original series the game does have a rich and enjoyable story line of its own. The narrative is split between 3 characters; two Belmonts and Alucard. The three separate narratives weave together in an intriguing fashion, each revealing a part of the broader narrative. For a Castlevania game its a definite step-up from older titles in providing characters to get invested in (if you’re excited because of the titular mirror I’m sorry to report it plays only a limited part). A surprising highlight of the game is the cutscenes. Not only do these add depth to the story, but the cell-shaded animation style looks surprisingly good. The voice acting sets a high standard, particularly for a handheld title, with quality actors for all of the principal characters.
The gameplay is a satisfying update of the action-platformer formula, complementing classic Castlevania action with new elements. While these are not always flawlessly executed, with an imbalanced difficulty curve and some issues with hit detection, they do not justify writing this entry off entirely. The divided narrative sidelines vast exploration but without reintroducing the vast number of enemies that made the early titles such a frantic challenge. This does enhance the atmosphere, though: it feels like a deserted Gothic mansion rather than a corridor with a never-ending stream of floating Medusa heads. The game does commit the, for some, unforgivable sin of using quick time events, particularly in boss fights. Like most quick time events its hard to say that these particularly add a lot to the proceedings, but they are at least unobtrusive and are unlikely to put anyone off the experience.
Taken as the next-step in the Castlevania series it is easy to see why fans were disappointed with Mirror of Fate, but as a game in its own right it is an enjoyable and interesting experience. As of time of writing is it also one of the newest entries in the series, with only Lords of Shadow 2 arriving after in (later in 2014). Mercury Steam’s next title after these 2, however, was a remake of Metroid 2 which in many ways seems to resemble Mirror of Fate, but with a much better critical reception.