Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Mirror of Fate HD is a high-definition update of the original game released on the Nintendo 3DS earlier in the year. The title is once again developed by Murcerysteam, who helmed the reboot of Castlevania with the critically-acclaimed 2010 outing, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.
Mirror of Fate HD serves as a transition between Lords of Shadow and its upcoming sequel Lords of Shadow 2. Unfortunately, the game’s story doesn’t progress the Lords of Shadow cannon much, instead exploring the origins of the Belmont clan and their life-long battle against Dracula and his minions.
The game’s story begins before Gabriel Belmont sets out on his quest to battle the Lords of Shadow, revealing to players that Marie, Gabriel’s wife, was pregnant with their son. Gabriel, however, had no knowledge of the child before he set off on his quest. Trevor Belmont and his son Simon begin their quest to vanquish Dracula. The game features a great use of cell-shaded graphics to present its cutscenes and to advance the story along, though sadly these are few and far between.
Unlike Lords of Shadow’s full 3D movement and combat, Murcerysteam has gone with a more traditional 2.5D Castlevania this time around. Though the game plays on a 2D plane, its environments and characters are presented via a shiny new 3D HD upgrade. The characters are vibrant, and there’s clearly a lot of detail packed into the game’s three playable vampire slayers. Mirror of Fate HD’s environments on the other hand are hit and miss. Fans will instantly recognize locations such as the Library and the infamously difficult Clock Tower. Unfortunately, the game’s indoor environments feel empty and uninspired, though on the other hand the outdoor environments shine with great architecture, including the cemetery and giant statues that populate the courtyards and castle rooftops.
Mirror of Fate HD features three playable characters in Simon, Alucard, and Trevor, and you’ll switch between them during certain parts. Fans will instantly recognize these characters. The game retains its leveling system from Lords of Shadow that unlock new moves for players to use; these moves are almost identical to Gabriel’s abilities from Lords of Shadow, and though they work well in a 2D setting, most of them are not necessary to finish the game. Outside of the guard breaker, you’ll probably forget that most of them even exist. As one would expect, your moves carry over between the three characters. Although this helps maintain player progression it doesn’t differentiate the characters in anyway leaving me to wonder why use three different characters that play exactly the same. Murcurysteam brings back secondary weapons such as the throwing axe and holy water but again I found myself using these very scarcely, and was fairly disappointed I was only able to use only two per character out of the six available.
All three characters also come with two different magical abilities, and though they act differently, their results are always the same. Sticking to a light and dark spell from Lords of Shadow the light magic will heal the player or deflect attacks while the dark magic will give you a damage bonus. For example, Simon will summon two different spirits, one to protect him the other to shoot crossbow arrows at the enemy, while Alucard will transform into a mist to pass through enemies that will heal him, and also transform into a wolf to increase his damage.
The game features some great boss battles that feel rewarding and satisfactory, and players will have to learn the pattern of enemy attacks just like previous Castlevania games. To keep the battles fresh, bosses changed their attacks as the battle progresses forcing me to change my strategy. One of the best features in the game is the ability to leave notes for yourself in the games map. This can include anything such as an enemy’s weakness, the type of enemy that is located in the area, and where certain secrets are located and how to reach them. This saved me a lot of trouble when trying to get 100% in the game, which became necessary to unlock the game’s true ending.
Castlevania has always had a great soundtrack and Mirror of Fate is no exception. The music in the game fits the mood nicely, though unfortunately the tracks repeat to often, making it hard to distinguish the multiple tracks from one long five-hour score. The voice acting also leaves much to be desired. Simon, Alucard, and Trevor all sound like they were preformed with a bad Romanian accent. Dracula on the other hand is once again voiced by Robert Carlyle, changing his performance from vengeful Gabriel to a hateful Dracula and fits the role perfectly.
Castlevania is one of the longest running franchises in gaming history and Murcurysteam is trying to keep the franchise going. Unfortunately, Mirror of Fate does not move the franchise forward like its predecessor did. Instead, it feels like the developers tried to recreate the success of past classic Castlevania titles rather than evolve the current incarnation of the brand. Though Mirror of Fate’s HD upgrade looks great and its entertaining combat is a good move forward for the franchise, it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor.