Castlevania is one of the longest-running, most successful gaming franchises of all-time.
Now the 3DS is getting its first major instalment. Does the legacy continue on this new hardware?
Title: Castlevania: Mirror of Fate
Availability: Out Now
We’ve seen it before. Classic franchises lose their muster as newer, more data intensive hardware is released. The simplicity shines through each HD remastering or sequel and suddenly the golden oldies are seen as saggy, aging, old farts that desperately need to let it go. Earlier this week, we were telling you the same about Double Dragon.
Fortunately, Mirror of Fate is a genuinely entertaining Castlevania game. One of the best handheld interpretations for a long while, in fact.
The story takes place many years after the events of major console release, Lords of Shadow. Gabriel Belmont has hideously metamorphised into Dracula and the world has been doused behind the veil of shadow. Fortunately, Mirror of Fate shows that, before Gabriel set off on his dark path of destruction, he had one last hoo-hah with his good lady wife.
As a result, she became pregnant with their first and only child, Trevor. Immediately recognising his importance, the Light brotherhood come to Maria Belmont, show her the Mirror of Fate revealing what will become of the world once Gabriel reaches the end of his quest, and tell her that in order to save the world, the brotherhood must take Trevor away with them.
Reluctantly, Maria agrees, gives up her newborn and takes the secret to her grave.
The story of Mirror of Fate doesn’t directly follow Trevor, however. The story is set many years later and follows the footsteps of Trevor’s own son, Simon Belmont. In a quest to redeem the name of the Belmont clan and set out to defeat the king of Vampires, Simon must face his environment head-on and face armies of abominations in the most intense of environments.
The 3D effect is put to great use, especially during cut-scenes and boss battles. I spent most of my playtime with the dial halfway down, but put it up to full effect once major sequences were in effect.
Mirror of Fate does a great job of diversifying its envirionments with worn out old theatres, spooky forests and spire-heavy castles. Even without the 3D effect on, the game leaps out at you and draws you deeper into the overall experience.
That said, there are some slight animation errors. If Simon is pulled by a zombie in the ground, there are lapses when the roll functionality will not work and the character will need to traverse the terrain for a period before that’s rectified. Sometimes, it just refuses to work at all.
All of this has been accompanied with a beautiful score. I’d even go as far as to say it’s one of the best musical scores for a handheld game. Each piece is appropriate for the environment. Some creepy, mysterious and cooky, and some fast-tempo adrenaline-inducing feats that are wholly unique and utterly enchanting.
Unfortunately, the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired. Many of the performances are quite flat and, at times, feel over-acted. I also wish some of the main bosses didn’t say a thing at all. Some have such a horrific or indescribable appearence that they say more than any line of dialogue ever could. It breaks the illusion ever so slightly.
The dialogue also sounds crackly at times, though admittedly that’s as much to do with the handheld’s audio capabilities as it is limitations with the software. You can’t expect the crystal quality you receive from HD, after all.
One brilliant feature in Mirror of Fate is the ability to add notes to the map. Players can tap the stylus on an area presenting difficulty, leave themselves a brief note, then return to it at a later date when they’ve improved their arsenal. Wii U games could certainly learn a lot from it.
Unfortunately, this is yet another title that doesn’t take advantage of the additional stick and buttons of the 3DS analog pad. MercurySteam have made the game appropriate for just the 3DS as is, but it is surprising to see more developers aren’t taking advantage of additional buttons and sticks. This potentially simplifies the game from what it could be.
Mirror of Fate is a genuinely entertaining handheld journey. It expands the story set out in Lords of Shadow, and does help set the stage for the game’s forthcoming sequel. It’s unlikely any additional content packs will be released for Mirror of Fate as it’s a fairly standalone experience, but the game is a pleasure to play from start to finish.
Mirror of Fate is filled with the authenticity Castlevania fans will crave and the dynamic action any modern platform fan will love. Minor gripes aside, this is yet another sound-solid reason to own Nintendo’s glasses-free handheld. The 3DS is on-fire, right now.