Earlier this year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Konami made a few waves when it confirmed that a console sequel to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is in the works. But while it didn't reveal a release date for that long-awaited follow-up, it didn't leave fans hanging, as the company announced yet another Lords of Shadow project, this one for the Nintendo 3DS. And even though a delay has forced it into an early 2013 release period, Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate is still highly anticipated, especially by those who have been seeking a thorough, exciting adventure to take on the go with them – and in 3D, no less.
But don't be fooled – Mirror of Fate doesn't entirely follow the same pattern as the original Lords of Shadow has shown. Instead of going fully 3D like that game did, this 3DS follow-up instead follows a 2.5-D set-up. You can still move around in the environment, but the best way to get around is going from left to right, or right to left, or in some cases a little further up or down, depending where the lay of the land takes you. Classic Castlevania fans that grew up with the countless NES, Sega Genesis and SNES adventures should be thrilled with this approach.
The game follows in the footsteps of Trevor Belmont, a hero who was first introduced back in Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse on the NES. Back then, he was aided by a number of cohorts, but this time he's fighting his own battles, with Dracula knocking at the door to take over the world. As a member of a die-hard family that seeks to keep the evil vampire from rising (they've done it countless times, so why mess up a good thing?), Trevor packs an interesting weapon called the Combat Cross, a combination whip/chain weapon that can do damage both with straight-on attacks and within a reasonable amount of space, striking multiple enemies at once. These attack tactics worked for Gabriel in the original Lords of Shadow, and they continue to do so in Mirror of Fate.
Despite the 2.5-D set-up, this game is as deep as they come. The graphics really bring the best out of the 3DS set-up, with environments that come to chilling life, whether you're working your way through a dark castle or within the confines of enclosed catacombs. Lighting effects also go a long way to adding to the environment, so you can really see the depth that the 3D effect provides to some places. And, of course, the enemies within the game are quite foreboding when they're charging towards the screen, whether it's a skeleton annoyingly chucking bones at you (a staple for the Castlevania series, as you old-schoolers can recognize) or a huge demon knight of sorts, with impenetrable armor but just enough weak point for you to do damage so it doesn't leave you lying.
What's more, Trevor doesn't just whip his way to justice. As we stated, there's a bit of exploring to do within the game, whether you're climbing into the rafters and grabbing onto switches to work your way into a new section, or exploring the depths below, eliminating whatever terrors might be halting your progress. The Prince of Persia-style physicality add a new degree of challenge to the game, forcing you to do a little exploration before you continue onward, in your quest to shut down Dracula for good. (This time, anyway – you can't keep a good vampire down.)
Along with straight-up attacks using his hybrid weapon, Trevor will also be able to call upon some classic weapons straight out of the Castlevania lexicon, including various favorites and a couple of new weapons. He can also rely on some good elemental magic from time to time, turning the tables on groups that may (or may not) have the jump on him. Though we didn't see too much of this magic employed in our hands-on demo, Konami assured us that the final release will be balanced enough where you can use it as necessary, but still have plenty of fun using your good ol' weapons of choice. Which is just the way any Castlevania fan will like it.
Though Mirror of Fate isn't backed by a powerhouse budget like Lords of Shadow II inevitably will be, MercurySteam, the developers behind the series, are assuring that quality work will pump into the 3DS release, and it will serve as a strong supplementary story to the other games. Plus, classic fans will appreciate the play style it's packing, as well as the various weapons they can use over the course of their adventure. Look for this Mirror of Fate to show a heck of a reflection when it releases early next year.