When Castlevania: Lords of Shadow arrived on the scene back in 2010 everybody was gob smacked by what Spanish developer MercurySteam had managed to achive. The Western developer had managed to propel the series back into mass-market appeal and into the realm of 3D action adventure without fudging it up. So, when it was announced that MercurySteam would not only be developing a sequel to Lords of Shadow but also creating a brand new Castlevania 3DS game, that clever invention we collectively call the Internet may have done a little sex wee (not literally the Internet, but the people on it).
Having had the pleasure of wrapping my mitts around a 3DS XL with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate jammed into the slot during the Eurogamer Expo, I can only say that I was both awed and disheartened by what I found. That’s not as bad as it sounds though. My disappointment came from how unlike Lords of Shadow it was rather than any spectacular problem with the game. For many the draw of a MercurySteam 3DS Castlevania title was that it would be similar to Lords of Shadow but on the go.
Continuing on the negatives – don’t worry, the positives are coming – this early build felt a bit cumbersome to play, and not in your traditional Castlevania way. Following the same button placement found in the console outings made this outing feel a little awkward to play on the 3DS due to it’s smaller face buttons. It was also a little disheartening to see that the bottom screen wasn’t really being used for anything at all – other than your obligatory menu screen. As this was a demo though I wouldn’t let this cloud your judgment too much, as it’s highly possible touch based puzzles will arrive as you progress.
However, despite these niggles I was impressed by the sheer sense of scale present. I don’t know why I expected any different from MercurySteam or Castlevania, as both are known for having huge sprawling narratives and levels to explore, and it seems that Mirror of Fate will be no different. The demo level on show had plenty of hidden paths and classic backtracking to unlock doors and find chests. It also had plenty of large enemies and some impressive visuals to boot.
Opening with an absolutely huge castle gate and drawbridge – all realised wonderfully in 3D – it’s clear that MercurySteam know how to get the most out of the 3DS. This is easily one of the most beautiful and detailed games I’ve had the pleasure of playing on the handheld, and it’s not only the levels that impress but the enemies too. While the majority of gameplay takes place on a 2.5D plane, the camera does swoop in for some different angles and sense of scale, which really ups the ante and creates a much more involving experience over previous titles.
It must be said that Mirror of Fate is incredibly good fun to play, for me it felt a little bit too much like the classic Castlevania titles – which is no bad thing, just not what I expected from MercurySteam. It’s testament to the studio’s ability that they’ve managed to pack a huge Lords of Shadow sized adventure into the 3DS and brought in the series signature toughness to boot. Now just to wait until 2013 so I can really give it a run for its money.