Channel 5

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate review

Tuesday 05 March

Konami’s Castlevania series has been running since the days of the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, but has only recently been restored to its former commercial glories by the PS3 and 360 action adventure Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Mealy-named sequel Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate follows on from the events of that game but it’s a slightly different proposition, taking the form of a 2D side-scrolling platform epic on the Nintendo 3DS. Does the switch in perspective change the core gameplay, and can this game be as atmospheric and gripping on a smaller screened handheld? Grab some cloves of garlic and sharpen your wooden stakes, because we’re about to find out.

The good

The most striking thing about Mirror of Fate is the eye-popping use of the 3DS console’s autostereoscopic display – the effect is excellent, lending a real sense of perspective to the action. The visuals are also impressive, with a hordes of massive, hulking boss characters to face amid some particularly attractive gothic environments.

Mirror of Fate retains the sense of exploration that made previous classics like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow so popular, but this instalment adds in a massive helping of whip-based combat action to spice things up a little. Enemies take a lot of effort to destroy, requiring you to learn combo attacks and string together a series of moves to ensure success.

For hardcore fans of the series, the storyline is probably going to be one of the most appealing features of Mirror of Fate. Although it’s not strictly part of the original Castlevania continuity, the Lords of Shadow sub-series features fan-favourite characters such as Trevor and Simon Belmont, as well as Dracula’s son, Alucard. The main story sees you controlling several different protagonists, and the way in which their tales are linked is especially pleasing.

The bad

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate’s biggest stumbling block is the one thing that sets it apart from previous handheld Castlevania releases: its combat. The depth of the battle engine is impressive, but the fights you engage in slow down the pace of the game considerably. It’s too easy to find yourself getting killed by low-level monsters purely because they catch you unawares. The sumptuous visuals also come at a cost; the frame rate is rarely smooth, and this takes the edge off what’s otherwise a very well-presented piece of software.

The bottom line

Mirror of Fate’s keen focus on complex combat might feel a little out of place in a 2D platform title, and the game doesn’t quite scale the heights attained by classic entries in the series, but this blood-curdling quest scores point in practically every other key area. The visuals are excellent, the storyline gripping and the action enjoyable. Mirror of Fate will appeal to newcomers and old-hands alike, and is arguably 2013’s biggest 3DS title yet.

4 out of 5

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