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Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow - Mirror Of Fate review

The first essential 3DS game of 2013

At the heart of the latest Castlevania lies a compromise. Its predecessor, Lords Of Shadow, retconned the Castlevania storyline and turned it into a blistering 3D action game, while Mirror Of Fate aims to drag this new style into the series' traditional 2D aspect. It's a meeting of two distinct modes, not to mention two often disparate types of genre fan, who may well begrudge the encroachment of one style on the other. Things could get messy.

To bring you up to speed, Gabriel Belmont is something of a bastard. After being sent to put an end to the reign of the Lords of Shadow in the home console game, he somehow ends up as Dracula. As this game begins, we learn that Gabriel's wife gave birth to a son, Trevor, in his absence, who himself went missing after setting out to kill his now-nocturnal father. Trevor's own son, Simon, seeks to discover the truth of what happened, being stalked along the way by the mysterious vampire, Alucard.

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Clear? No? Good, because this endlessly intertwining familial plot acts as the game's lifeblood, as much a way of facilitating constant action as it is narrative intrigue. You take control of each named character (Gabriel's section acts as a short, blistering tutorial prologue) in their own take on the story. This is where the brilliance of MercurySteam's design shows itself, as each take is a way of expanding and extending how you play, as well as what you see.

Gabriel serves to introduce the game's approach to combat, a pared down version of the intricacies of the home console game. Simon comes next, with an application of those abilities to a more traditional Castlevania exploration scenario, offering huge swathes of castle to explore and plunder. Alucard's section, which interweaves with Simon's, modifies how you looked at the preceding chapter, with room-wide puzzles and more outlandish exploration offered by his supernatural abilities.

Trevor's chapter, coming at the end, amps up the spectacle, accounting for any game fatigue you might have developed in the past eight or nine hours by including gigantic bosses, epic scenes and clever references to mysteries set up in the future sections you've already played.

Are you experienced?

That final section reveals the game's greatest strength: pacing. Each character has separate abilities you earn as you progress, but everyone shares the same constantly building experience bar, comprising 18 levels. Each level offers you a new combat technique with the whip-like Combat Cross used by every character, and the XP builds quickly. In a game that takes around 12 hours to complete, we estimate we received a new ability every 40 minutes. It's a masterclass in keeping a player interested.

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Then there are the various items, skills and spells each character earns separately. Befitting its classical style, Simon's section gives you new options only sparingly, meaning you discover new bits of castle throughout the chapter. Alucard, on the other hand, seems to get a new trick every second room (and in fantastic ways - biting a resurrected Daemon Lord as you plummet down what seems to be a giant garderobe chute enables you to sprout handy wings), meaning you're not bogged down in familiar areas for long.

If there is a negative to be taken from this juggernaut pacing, it's that it results in a game that, in its presentation and constant mapping, appears to promise a true Metroidvania-style experience, but slowly gives up on it as it seeks to ramp up the more exciting elements.

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  1. harrogatewario Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 09:41

    Pre-ordered as it is the first 3DS game I have really looked forward to since RE Revs. Since I got my WiiU the 3DS has had little use apart from collecting street pass hits, but when this arrives that will change.

    I love the 2D game with 3D background style on our handheld, visually it works so well. :D

  2. MartinIsAwesome Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 11:10

    Great review. I always thought it would turn out good, expecially after playing the demo, but I never expected it to get as high as a Gold Award. That's impressive, and it has got me doubly excited for this game.

    A quick question for Joe (or anyone else on the team that has an opinion), which one of the past games in the would you say is closest in its gameplay style to Mirror of Fate?

  3. OXM Joe Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 11:31

    A quick question for Joe (or anyone else on the team that has an opinion), which one of the past games in the would you say is closest in its gameplay style to Mirror of Fate?

    That's tough, as it is such an amalgamation, and I'm not completely au fait with the whole series. It certainly adopts some of Lords of Shadow's action complexities, but I have it on good authority from a Castlevania hyper-fan that it's invoked a lot of Castlevania III in its 2D approach.

  4. MatthewONM Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 11:31

    A quick question for Joe (or anyone else on the team that has an opinion), which one of the past games in the would you say is closest in its gameplay style to Mirror of Fate?


    I think as Joe points out, this is very much a collision of different styles. It has the intense action focus of the older games - go from A to B and fight a massive boss - but with some mild castle exploration around it. The actual exploration is the weakest element of the game, but then the central action drive is so powerful that you don't really notice. Seen a lot of reviews comparing this, negatively, to the GBA/DS games, but it's a very different beast, and that's an unreasonable comparison to draw. The game has the audacity to stand on its own two feet and should be celebrated for that. Come on, does the world really need *another* Symphony of the Night clone?

  5. alexkinch Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 11:58

    A quick question for Joe (or anyone else on the team that has an opinion), which one of the past games in the would you say is closest in its gameplay style to Mirror of Fate?


    I think as Joe points out, this is very much a collision of different styles. It has the intense action focus of the older games - go from A to B and fight a massive boss - but with some mild castle exploration around it. The actual exploration is the weakest element of the game, but then the central action drive is so powerful that you don't really notice. Seen a lot of reviews comparing this, negatively, to the GBA/DS games, but it's a very different beast, and that's an unreasonable comparison to draw. The game has the audacity to stand on its own two feet and should be celebrated for that. Come on, does the world really need *another* Symphony of the Night clone?


    No we dont. I like the fact that most the castlevania games are different from the last one. This one seems to go back to basics with a new twist which is good. I found the ds/gba ones repetitive at times but was worth sticking with. Im just finishing symphony of the night on psp and that was fun. Roll on friday.

  6. toffeeman30 Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 13:07

    doesnt sound like castlevania to me. its done things a little too differently

  7. MartinIsAwesome Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 13:18

    Thanks for the response. I personaly prefer games that aren't as open and explorable as those since Symphony of the Night have supposedly been. I'll definitely give Dracula's Curse a whirl in the future.

  8. debris Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 13:19

    Not that I dont trust ONM reviews but others have given this low scores and not very good reviews, check IGN's for instance I think they gave this a Bad 4/10!

  9. ChandraONM Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 13:42

    Not that I dont trust ONM reviews but others have given this low scores and not very good reviews, check IGN's for instance I think they gave this a Bad 4/10!

    I seem to remember they didn't like ZombiU either. . .

  10. OXM Joe Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 14:37

    Not that I dont trust ONM reviews but others have given this low scores and not very good reviews, check IGN's for instance I think they gave this a Bad 4/10!

    If you have a look at the Metacritic, the majority of scores are 7s and up. I'm certainly at the top end of the love-in, but it's been far more liked than disliked so far. The demo gives you a good sense for the feel of the thing (if not the scope of the pacing or exploration), give it a download and see what you think!

  11. Commandervideo Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 17:16

    IGN are mean't too be rubbish, right?

  12. MatthewONM Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 17:23

    IGN are mean't too be rubbish, right?


    I can't tell if this is sarcastic or not...

  13. Argenthor Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 17:26

    Not that I dont trust ONM reviews but others have given this low scores and not very good reviews, check IGN's for instance I think they gave this a Bad 4/10!


    I played teh demo and didn't find it too bad, but it seems it is one of those games that some love and some... not so much. Reviews are opinions after all! For example, IGN loved the sound, whereas ONM didn't so much. Opinions!

  14. Commandervideo Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 17:28

    No, I've really heard there not much good, but I don't know myself as I've never really used IGN.

  15. KH81314 Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 17:56

    I wasn't sure about getting this game but now I can't wait to get my hands on it.

  16. harrogatewario Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 18:11

    Just downloaded the demo and it is right up my street. And the still flat screenshots do not do the graphics justice, another plus on splashing out on upgrading to an XL last year. :D

  17. fisher2007 Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 18:26

    Not that I dont trust ONM reviews but others have given this low scores and not very good reviews, check IGN's for instance I think they gave this a Bad 4/10!

    If you have a look at the Metacritic, the majority of scores are 7s and up. I'm certainly at the top end of the love-in, but it's been far more liked than disliked so far. The demo gives you a good sense for the feel of the thing (if not the scope of the pacing or exploration), give it a download and see what you think!

    does the full game have Frame rate issues like the demo and when i played it had slowdown's.

  18. HughPR Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 20:39

    I must say that it's really cool that you guys at ONM will respond to individual posts; it makes the mag and forum seem more connected :)

    Anyway, I played the demo and decided for myself that I think I want to buy it (as the demo left me wanting more!), just glad that the review backs up what I thought. Fire emblem still remains my priority though!

  19. DrSalvador Tuesday 5th Mar 2013 at 21:44

    i loved the metroidvania music so much. why has it changed? apart from this, the game seems to be fantastic.

  20. eresin Thursday 7th Mar 2013 at 16:05

    I have this pre-ordered and can't wait to get it. I have never played a Castlevania game before in my life and I loved the demo. I think perhaps some of the poor reviews elsewhere are when people are comparing it to other things and thats when people create expectations that maybe don't get filled. I have nothing to compare this game to so I will treat it as a stand alone game.

  21. mooksam22 Thursday 7th Mar 2013 at 16:34

    I love 2D Metroidvania Castlevania and also enjoyed the new approach in the first Lords of Shadow. I agree this should be judged on its own merits (though it's perfectly valid to prefer the older games), but based on the demo, this won't be an immediate purchase for me. The controls felt heavy and not as responsive as I would like for this type of game. I also felt that framerate was sacrificed for more visual flair.

    I think the main reason people have been heavily comparing this to the older handheld entries is that they really were sublime and didn't need "fixing" or rebooted. Hopefully both styles can co-exist in the future. :-)

  22. ThePsychicExtrem Wednesday 13th Mar 2013 at 20:42

    Impressed by the demo but gonna wait till the pc version comes out, as that will probably be better... It's a shame that apart from the 2d, it seems like this is a downgrade from the other platforms versions, but i THINK this one comes out sooner.

  23. MartinIsAwesome Wednesday 13th Mar 2013 at 22:50

    Impressed by the demo but gonna wait till the pc version comes out, as that will probably be better... It's a shame that apart from the 2d, it seems like this is a downgrade from the other platforms versions, but i THINK this one comes out sooner.


    I think you're mistaken. This game is exclusive to 3DS, its not coming out on consoles or PC. You're probably thinking of the first Castlevania: Lords of Shadows (of which this game is a sequel) or Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 which is yet to be released.
    This is a different game entirely.

  24. bigterence Saturday 23rd Mar 2013 at 09:20

    About 4 hours into game.Magical.But must-have 3DS releases are coming thick and fast,cant keep up.WiiU eshop will doubtless soon be like this.

  25. HughPR Saturday 18th May 2013 at 16:33

    Question: Is this review a better representation of the game than the gamespot one? I think I might quite like it (I enjoyed the demo), but the gamespot review slightly put me off. How good is the game?

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