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Review: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate whips it good

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As we wait with an utmost amount of patience for the long-awaited sequel to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow to arrive, we have a spin-off piece. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate for the Nintendo 3DS is a game that ties into the storyline while delivering some aspects that will satisfy a great deal of you "classic" gamers who prefer the 2D style of Castlevania. Symphony of the Night II this isn't -- it hardly even qualifies in that regard -- but this is a good way to pass some time while you wait for details to emerge on that next big Konami thing.

Castlevania

The game puts you in control of three different characters from the Castlevania lexicon -- classic hero Simon Belmont, his father Trevor, and Dracula's son Alucard -- as they each have their own battles to fight. The story can be a bit non-sensical in places, but it does manage to tie together into Gabriel Belmont's original Lords of Shadow story. It may not be the foundation of a huge chapter, but it certainly serves as the bridge.

As for the game itself, there's a dynamic mix of the combat from Lords of Shadow with the side-scrolling roots of the original games of the series, and that's a relatively fine mix. The game features platforming skills galore, whether it's chain swinging or working your way up to higher ground; and then the combat sets in, with the ability to swing your whip (or Combat Cross, whatever you want to call it) into suave combos.

Some of the gameplay doesn't entirely work for the better, however. The quick-time events take some getting used to, because you'll be crushed into powder until you figure out the rhythm of them. Some of the backtracking can also be rather tiresome during some missions, especially when all you want to do is move forward. Other than that, the game manages to pull off the "something old yet new" approach, thanks to MercurySteam's savvy development. Fans of both the 2D and 3D styles of Castlevania will feel welcome here.

Castle

As for the presentation, it's top marks all around. While it might take some time getting used to the way 3D is interjected in a 2D Castlevania universe (especially in indoor locales, like the cave), MercurySteam did some good work with the design, recreating the dark ebb and flow of what worked so well in the first Lords of Shadow. The enemies look terrific, especially the bigger foes that require a bit more damage to go down. (Don't forget, if the 3D still can't be adjusted to after the first stage, you can turn the slider all the way off and enjoy it in 2D splendor.)

As for the audio, it's the best I've heard in a 3DS game in some time. The voice acting is paralleled with that of Lords of Shadow -- even without the heavy presence of Sir Patrick Stewart -- and the orchestral score is a joy, especially to those who loved Symphony of the Night's melodies. This is a good game to plug in headphones to.

Castlevania

Despite some slight pacing issues (damn backtracking) and questionable use of quick-time events, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate is a solid entry in the series. It's a fine game to mess around with on the 3DS if you're in dire need of something familiar, yet startlingly new. Enough talk, have at it!

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Robert Workman
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