Review by wolvevice
"Solid with potential (from a veteran castlevania fan!)"
Castlevania Mirror of Fate is the first Castlevania game on the 3DS and the first shot of a side-scrolling Castlevania by Mercury Stream. This is the second Castlevania game of the reboot the series had since Lords of Shadows and is a part of the trilogy of Mercury Stream's take on the series. The series has come a long way, so depending on how familiar you are with the series you're gonna be affected or unaffected with the state this game has.
The game's graphics are great , simply put. The game does an okay job bringing out the mood of Castlevania through the visuals, but it's just okay. The problem with the areas is that, they aren't that many and sometimes don't fit. Playing through the castle which is supposed to be as big as a town, the game has a few areas you go through with the characters you play. Since you explore the castle on different timelines with different characters after a couple of hours depending on how fast you're playing the game there won't be any fresh areas to see in the future. More places could have been featured. All the characters go through almost the same areas with some different maps. Characters look good, though if you love the art style of Ayami Kojima you're not getting it. Not to say the art is horrible, it's just different. The Gothic feeling of their clothing is still evident. Enemies are good too, but again there's not a big variety to them. If you're familiar with the series you can expect the common enemies from old games with a nice twist and new enemies that make the game more fresh. But there aren't that many and the enemies aren't very exciting sometimes. The best part of the game's art would be the bosses in my opinion. New bosses were introduced while old ones were still here looking great. The 3D effect looks good, but it's too powerful in my opinion. People will react differently for this but I played most of the game with the 3D turned off. Cutscenes look good with or without 3D but I usually viewed them without 3D. Characters sometimes talk without moving their mouths which is a vague decision but doesn't have a major effect. The game also enables you to view enemies and their information on the Bestiary and replay cutscenes as soon as you see them in story mode. You have to collect unlockables to view enemies though.
I believe that music plays an extremely important role in a game, it can make it or break it. It makes great games perfect and decent games slightly more appealing. The music in this game has the orchestration and feel of castlevania, but it's sometimes drab and uninteresting, even boring if you play the game too long. Past games also had more motivating and upbeat fast-paced songs that make you keep the pace of the game. They are missing in this one. More importantly, like the graphics, the game reuses the couple of tracks throughout the whole game. There just isn't enough tracks. It kind of demotivates the player to marathon through the game in a week or something because you got tired of the music. Since castlevania is famous for amazing soundtracks the music in this game is for the most part passable. There are also no classic tracks or a remake of them so this might be bad for longtime castlevania fans. Sound effects sound good, but there was room for improvement, like a different walking, or landing when you jump sound on different places. The voice acting is okay but nothing too spectacular with the exception of a couple of scenes.
Castlevania always had interesting story concepts but a weak execution of them. It was always at least passable. While MOF's story is passable as well, for having the advantage of a reboot, is not too impressive. Most veterans probably know this but the story is irrelevant with any past castlevania games. The story uses come concepts of past games like Lament of Innocence and SOTN but has no relation. I won't spoil anything, (even though there's not much to spoil lol) but I suppose it's important to note that the game's story is to get some knowledge on the story that will follow on Lords of Shadows 2 on PS3 when it's released so you can't really judge it too well. I personally find it amusing but really it doesn't have any suspense or surprise even at the end.
Alright, now for the main part of the review. If you're at least a somewhat competent castlevania fan and you've done the slightest research chances are you know this but I'll say it anyway. This game doesn't play like metroidvania, or like the original castlevania games. This game play's like Lords of Shadows, if you've played it, and adds features from the metroidvania and classic style of castlevania while developing the combat engine used in Lords of Shadows. The three main characters you play with use the combat chain, which is basically the whip version of Mercury Stream's castlevania games. By killing enemies you gain experience points and as you level up you gain new combat combination attacks to use or extensions of your attacks. So there's no training to get stronger by levelling up that occurs in the metroidvania games, although in a sense, new combat moves often are more effective ways to kill certain enemies so I guess there is a very slight comparison. Each character has his MP bar but each character uses different magical techniques as well as different subweapons. The combat overall is pretty solid but it doesn't have the metroidvania variety. The only other sources of weapons are subweapons that have limited ammunition and can also be charged for more damage. Magic serves more of a support option in the game. You can also grab an enemy when is knocked out for an instant kill while a short cutscene plays and that's it. Your character also rolls and guards to protect himself from enemy attacks, hover for an instant in the air and tap the ground with intense force while in the air. The bosses would be the most impressive gameplay aspect in my opinion, they have a good challenge but strangely have a checkpoint during battle with them but at the same time you don't have freedom in the way to kill them like older games. The checkpoint is when you have to make a certain action, a quicktime event and you fail or reach a certain point in the boss fight but it's somewhat pointless because most bosses aren't that hard (on normal mode anyway, don't really know about hard mode). I guess they wanted to make the game easier in that situation. You will be instructed to grab them in the end and press the right buttons on a certain time to successfully kill them. This leads to impressive finishing cutscenes. The game has a lot of plattforming too; unlike metroidvania games which are more hack and slash action with not as much plattforming. The game has some smart and creative plattforming. It's your basic action adventure plattforming game. You explore the castle killing enemies going through plattforms. On occasion you do have to figure out some hard puzzles, but the game lets you get past them if you don't want any mind games. The game uses a map like the metroidvania games but the layout and style is much different. There are some unlockables here and there to collect but it's only HP and MP ups or subweapon ammo ups that increase your limit. Mostly you'll be finding corpses of men that give you a hint that's usually useless and give you some experience. The rarest unlockable type is the bestiary enemy listing that reveals information about a boss or an enemy in the bestiary. There aren't really any secrets in the game, the map tells you everything you need to know, unlockables are marked with a question mark and all you have to do is manage to get the item or come back when you have the necessary means to get it. The problem I have with this game is that it has many features that can make the game boring quickly. It has a slow pace and there isn't a lot of freshness as you play on. I'll discuss the biggest problem later on though.
The game has solid controls. You can't modify anything but your character controls okay and combat is responsive enough. There is some stiffness but I think that was done on purpose so that it has a more familiar feel to the classic games though. Sometimes you may find yourself in situations if you don't do a certain action in a precise manner you can be punished but the game is forgiving enough when you die.
Replay Value: 5/10
This is the biggest fault I find with the game (in my opinion at least). Aside from the harder difficulties you can play it, the game doesn't really have anything else. It doesn't really reward you for replaying or completing something like older castlevania games and many games in today's market. It's a onetime playthrough experience and that's it. Despite the fact the game abuses many characters to play at the differences aren't that great you can get fed up with the areas and music quickly. Unless you become addicted to the game it doesn't encourage you to replay it and doesn't have anything more to add. In my opinion, if this game copied some features of Lament of Innocence it would have been extraordinarily better. The game would have more depth and would give players the choice of being less linear.
Overall Score: 7/10
This is a solid game despite some oddities and bad decisions. Regardless of what negative hate it gets from fans that wanted a metroidvania game this is a good game to try and one of the best games the 3DS has to offer around this time. Am a veteran Castlevania fan and even though I prefer games like Order of Ecclesia and SOTN or Rondo of Blood on a handheld console this was an okay attempt from Mercury Stream and shows that non RPG style Castlevania has potential. Of course this game isn't for everyone. If you can't play a Castlevania game unless it's metroidvania, your choice. But if you are a loyal fan of the series you'll at least give it a try.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/29/13, Updated 06/03/13
Game Release: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (US, 03/05/13)
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