Mirror Mirror On the Wall –
Before jumping into Mirror of Fate’s 10 hour quest, it might be best to remove any preconceived notion you have the Castlevania series. Thing is, it is not a new Symphony of the Night, nor is it Lords of Shadow, and it isn’t quite like the games in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras either. Instead, this exclusive 3DS title offers something unique: a hybrid of all these games into one.
Don’t misunderstand this as this is still a Castlevania game thanks to heavy whip usage, sub weapons (which are underused in this game), fighting undead creatures of the night, and castle spelunking. Mirror of Fate separates itself from its predecessors because there is a much bigger emphasis on combo heavy combat via Lords of Shadow whereas exploration has taken a backseat like in Symphony of the Night. Pulling off combos is easy and rather flashing courtesy of thoughtful use of the 3DS button structure and extensive reach of the combat cross. Using a combination of face and shoulder buttons, combat usually revolves around knowing when to attack – attack, parry/roll, attack. Harkening back to the 8-bit games, once you figure out how each enemy moves and fights, combat becomes reflexive. Depending on your point of view, this can be seen as a blessing or a curse.
Mirror of Fate is also quite different because the player takes control of three different characters, Simon Belmont, Alucard, and Trevor Belmont, with all stories intertwining often in real time. Each character has unique abilities like Alucard’s power to travel through doors with his mist ability or Trevor’s light/dark magic. But even though each character has exclusive special moves, leveled up rankings carries over from one character to the next which keeps gameplay progressing positively. Exploration is a limited experience, especially for a Castlevania game. The entire game takes place throughout Dracula’s castle but does contain some epic set pieces. Whether you are running away from a massive falling bell Indiana Jones-style or scaling the front steps of Dracula’s domain, this game is best played with the 3D cranked up. With impressive cinematic camera angles, a remarkable 3D effect, and well crafted 2.5D, Mirror of Fate looks and feels like a console game. Even combat has a special weight to it with each crack of the whip/combat cross feeling heavy and impactful. Unfortunately, the player will clearly see the game’s ending a mile away before the game’s tasteless credit screen rolls.
There are a few segments that unfortunately bog down the overall experience like the tedious light reflecting puzzle segment, which uses an awkwardly zoomed out camera view, or occasional finicky swinging mechanics. Luckily, there is a very forgiving check point system so players never have to backtrack far; teleporters and a handy map system also make exploring easy to manage but load times are longer than they should be. The player can also use the stylus to write a note using the touch screen although I only used this feature once just to test it out. The reward for taking the time to find hidden collectables is also lackluster. Sure, finding a health or magic upgrade will come in handy when fighting a boss but reading the scrolls of falling soldiers or grabbing an unlockable beast summary for the option menu sometimes doesn’t feel worth the effort.
Although there are cinematic QTE segments that pop up often, the meat of the game’s story is told through cel shading-like comic book sequences. These movie parts are presented with high quality voice work and photographic visuals but it is a little weird how characters’ mouths don’t move when talking. And if players are so inclined, achieving a 100% rating will yield an extending ending, the game’s only form of replay value outside of replaying the game at a higher difficulty.
I enjoyed my time with Mirror of Fate as it is an impressive handheld title. It might not be the exact Castlevania that you thought that you wanted but with the series branching out in so many directions over the last several year like Judgment’s Wii fighter, Lords of Shadow God of War-like action, Encore of the Night’s puzzle questing, and Harmony of Despair’s multiplayer, what really is a Castlevania game nowadays anyway..?
Not As Good As: Aria of Sorrow
Also Check Out: Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth (WiiWare)
Wait For It: a 2D pixel-based true Metroid-Vania