[Insert Devo Reference Here]
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow seems to be one of those Love It/Hate It type of games; I’ve heard an equal amount of praise heaped on it as hate leveled at it. I guess being a 3D iteration of a beloved series that has its roots deep in side-scrolling action, that type of split in the fanbase is liable to happen. Personally, I fall into the former camp; while I at first found the departure from the Castlevania I am so familiar with to be rather jarring, the sheer…epicness?…epicicity?…epicality? really won me over, and by the end I was a fan!
Doesn’t really matter anyway, since Mirror of Fate goes back to side-scrolling once again, and harkens back to that truly old-school Castlevania feel. Seems appropriate enough – this is the kind of Castlevania that feels at home on a handheld. I could live happily getting my 2D fix on handheld (2D on 3DS? How ironic…) and waiting for the home console releases for some grand, sweeping free-roaming whip-lashing.
The very first thing that really impressed me, and attracted me to the game, were some of the character models. Owning a 3DS is a fairly recent thing for me, and even on the DS I’ve played mainly visual novels and puzzle games, so quite honestly I’m just not used to this level of graphical quality on a handheld. One of the early bosses of the game, the Night Watchman, along with the Lady of the Crypt later in the game, is still one of my favorites, both in terms of concept and graphical execution.
A servant of Dracula’s, essentially a groundskeeper of sorts, patrolling the outliers of the castle, who happens upon you in a chamber and does his duty, I felt the Night Watchman was a great foe to encounter! He’s got nothing against you personally, he’s not been sent out to get you or guard some secret – he’s just there, doing his rounds, and your breaking into the castle happens to fall into his area of duty. Not to mention he looks badass with his pole holding a lantern to aid him on his rounds. Boy, we sure have come a long way with handheld graphics since Super Mario Land’s Pionpi…
Mirror of Fate switches protagonists several times, letting you play through the sometimes-intersecting stories of several members of the Belmont family on their way to slay the evil vampire lord. While the game obviously takes places long after the events of the original Lords of Shadow, I am absolutely unclear how LoS2 will fit into the timeline when it releases early next year. Since the whole Lords of Shadow series is a complete Castlevania reboot anyway, maybe Mirror of Fate just serves as a distantly-related, almost standalone title…?
With a reboot of the familiar characters and plots did come an attempt to add a more fleshed-out, dramatic backstory to the characters than we got in the old NES/SNES titles. Here’s the thing though: I’m not convinced a game like Castlevania needs an intricate web of background history; this kind of contradicts the simple pleasure of just strapping on a leather jerkin, coiling a whip around your arm, and running through foggy graveyards and midnight courtyards to slay evil.
Perhaps it’s just me getting older, but I found this development to be noteworthy and disturbing enough to have quite a bit to say about it. So I wrote this. If you’ve followed me from my days at BNBGAMING, you’ll know what I refer to when I say that this is a rant straight from the ‘Uncle Pascal’ file – ‘cos nothing’s ever as good as what we had back when!
An interesting side note. A few days after starting Mirror of Fate, I watched the 2004 Frankenstein TV series. I got so into Luke Goss’s turn at playing Frankenstein’s Creature (an excellent role; do yourself a favor and watch it if you haven’t yet!) that I looked up some of the cast afterwards. I had never heard of Alec Newman, Victor Frankenstein himself, before, but lo and behold, I happened to notice that he was also credited with voicing none other than Simon Belmont in Mirror of Fate. While I wasn’t particularly blown away with Simon Belmont’s – or really anyone’s – voice characterizations in the game (sorry, Robert Carlyle…), I still found this to be a neat coincidence that nicely tied things together. I know it’s neither here nor there, but, well, there you have it.
So, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate: Not a perfect game, but it looked great and sure provided some fun side-scrolling vampire huntin’! And, yes, I did go back and 100% it to get all unlockables and see the bonus cinematic. So it’s official…