I’ve only ever been a fan of Castlevania games on the DS so I was keen to get my hands on this latest adventure which actually bothers to tell some of the back story when it comes to the Belmonts, their lineage and why they’ve got beef with Dracula in the first place.
The game begins with a bit of back story and then plays through a tutorial as you actually play as Simon Belmont’s Grandfather Gabriel. You happen upon the castle as you are taught through the basics and then are promptly thrust into the familiar form of Simon who this time has red hair and is Scottish! Konami are playing around with the Castlevania world a bit here but somehow, this Celtic look and sound sort of suits him.
If you’ve played any of the previous DS games you’ll notice straight away that this game is far more gothic and less of an arcade experience than before. Whilst there are some more comic moments when you’re attacked by dwarf hunchbacks, the game is actually played fairly straight as you’re led into the castle by an eerie floating masked figure that at first, doesn’t even speak. It sort of just gestures as if part of some tragic mime act.
Although this game is on the 3DS, you’ll actually be playing this in what I like to call 2.5D. In essence this is a classic side-scrolling platform adventure but the action does on occasion move in and out of the screen when you’re performing special moves or during quick time events. It’s also one of the best looking games on the handheld to date. Because of this there can be some slowdown occasionally when there are a lot of enemies on screen at once but it’s nothing that will make you throw your machine across the room in anger so if you don’t have contents insurance, you’ll be okay.
The game is actually played across three acts after the prologue. You’ll begin as Simon, then play as Alucard, who I only just realised has Dracula’s name spelt backwards! Duh! And you’ll also finally play as Alucard’s human form Trevor and find out how he became a vampire in the first place. Each character has different abilities which you’ll garner as you explore the castle. For example Simon eventually gets his grapple so he can swing around the place, has two spirits on his side that can protect him from enemies and the elements and fight on his behalf, and can throw axes and fire bombs, Alucard can turn into a wolf, summon bats and turn into mist form to heal and project himself through walls and Trevor can use light and shadow magic to open new paths previously inaccessible. The focus of combat and exploration changes in each act too. Simon has a mix of both, Alucard primarily will be fighting all manner of beasts and things and solving some puzzles and Trevor mainly has to deal with surviving the cogs, fire and pitfalls of the castle itself. You’ll also be fighting a fair few bosses including an eight-legged talking wolf thingy, a succubus who wants to do all manner of horrible naked things to you and of course, Dracula himself. In previous games I found the boss battles a little frustrating but thankfully each battle has two midway checkpoints that mean if you die, you can continue halfway through a fight with more health and magic. This game is definitely a little more forgiving for less hardcore gamers.
This is without a doubt one of the best games on the 3DS to date. It has a genuine story even though it’s a little silly at times, great presentation in terms of gothic visuals and music and a reason to go back and collect everything to try and get 100%. It’s also slightly easier than previous games on normal settings but don’t worry, if you like punishment you’ll unlock hardcore mode when you complete the game so you can go back and try it all again.
Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate may have an overly long title but it still gets 9 out of 10.
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