Castlevania has found a very comfortable home on Nintendo handhelds, with both GBA and DS playing host to some of the best entries in the franchise’s celebrated history. Now we finally have had the chance to see this tradition continue on 3DS with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, which looks to mix the latest console based reboot with the tried and true “Metroidvania” style Nintendo fans have come to love.
With the demo Konami had on the show floor, I think they were focusing squarely on how the new polygonal graphics and Lords of Shadow influenced design would fundamentally change gameplay, especially combat. The relatively short sample of the game was really about killing a slew of skeletons, and it really does feel drastically different from the older titles.
While the whip remains the same, the main emphasis on combat is now placed on creating combos between the new light and heavy attack buttons. In a way, this makes combat reminiscent of what you would see in a third person hack n slash like Devil May Cry, or God of War, including a new grab feature for awesome, enemy specific finishing moves. All things considered, it translates very well onto the 2D plane, and the classic dodge, and block features are there to really make it feel on par with its 3D counterparts. Otherwise, running, jumping and tossing out your secondaries feel exactly like they always have.
The change in mechanics is definitely significant, but most people are probably most interested in how the polygonal visuals and the 3DS’ namesake powers play out for the franchise. First, allow me to say I’m a little sad to see the sprites go, and the new art style does come off as a little generic. It’s dark and gothic, and while it does have a certain amount of its own character, it’s not nearly as vibrant as long time fans might have expected. From a purely technical perspective, however, Mirror of Fate does look very good; the environment make very good use of 3D depth, the animations are executed exquisitely, and the level of detail in both the characters and the levels is exceptional. So in other words, it all looks really good, it just doesn’t feel quite as unique.
Given the brevity of the demo, the one question that still lingers for me is how all these changes will play over the course of what has traditionally been a lengthy adventure. Past games have added variety through multiple characters and loads of customizable skill sets, but remains a bit of mystery at this point for Mirror of Fate. We know there will be four characters; two generations of Belmonts, Dracula’s patricidal son Alucard, and one remaining mystery character. So now we will just need to see how the characters differentiate themselves to add enough variety to keep things compelling.
The visuals are different but impressive, the gameplay appears to be doing a good job of integrating newer combat mechanics with classic combat and platforming, and it looks like the different characters might add some good gameplay variety. All that is left is to see if the new development team, the same guys behind the original Lords of Shadow, can deliver the same level of quality Konami delivered so effectively on GBA and DS. The foundations are in place, so hopefully the bigger picture will maintain that level of confidence.