(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 4 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 3.5 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 3 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 3 Stars
- Bottom Line
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD
- Street Date:
- October 25th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Nick Hartel
- Review Date:1
- November 11th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox 360
- Mercury Steam
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
Version reviewed is for the Xbox Live Arcade which, like its PSN cousin, is available as a digital download as reviewed and as part of the 'Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Collection.'
Outside the big guns of Mario and Zelda, there aren't that many franchises that can show a steady history of releases. 'Castlevania' however, is one of those few titles, tracking its history back nearly 30 years to the original NES. Over the years, new titles in the series have come at regular interval and with the rise of 3D gaming, the series itself has dabbled in stepping outside its original 2D side-scrolling genre with mixed results. Ultimately, with such a storied history and in the era of a the 'reboot,' 'Castlevania' needed a new starting point for a whole new generation of fans and that came with 2010's 'Castlevania: Lords of Shadow' a well-received third-person action game that told the story of Gabriel Belmont (voiced by respected actor Robert Carlyle). While a numbered sequel is set to hit consoles early next year, a return to the side-scrolling roots occurred on the Nintendo 3DS platform in 'Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate' which has now been remastered with HD graphics and released on the Xbox Live Marketplace and PSN.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
The game play of 'Mirror of Fate' is relatively straightforward and a solid throwback to old school no-frills mechanics. You can jump, do two attacks, summon two different elementals to either defend you or aid in attacks, block, and eventually rappel from specifically designated spots in the environment. While the game itself could be mistaken as a button masher, the easy to perform combos (which continually unlock throughout the game) all have their specific purposes against enemies. The easy to master controls make for exploring the very atmospheric setting of the game an inviting task, and though certain areas are unavailable at the beginning, the smooth map system of the game makes backtracking a no brainier. Despite emitting vibes of 'Metroid' or the legendary 'Castlevania: Symphony of the Night,' 'Mirror of Fate' merely uses this mapping approach to encourage exploring the setting and atmosphere and as a means to break up game play between the three main characters.
Speaking of characters, 'Mirror of Fate' offers three distinct acts (with a prologue that lets players control Gabriel Belmont) starting with Simon Belmont, before letting Alucard takeover the story and ultimately ending with Trevor Belmont's tale. It's a reasonably well-woven story, although the plot line of the game itself is simple to a fault: Simon sets off to avenge the death of his parents by the hands of Dracula's army. Of course, once he arrives at his destination, things get very strange and the plot slowly unfolds over the game's runtime (it took me just shy of nine hours to finish the main quest, at far less than 100% completion). Events are never stretched thin enough to get dull and just when you feel like you're heading to a conclusion, you'll likely find yourself at a switch in acts and in control of a whole new character with a new back-story to tell.
'Mirror of Fate' as a whole isn't a remarkably innovative game. It's little more than a 2.5D side-scroller, but all the key ingredients are present to make it well worth the $15 price tag, especially in an era of $60 games often struggling to reach the five-hour mark in a single playthrough. I can't speak as to who seasoned 'Castlevania' fans will react to this offering, but as someone who has come into the series largely via the reboot (I played the original NES game, a SNES offering, and some of 'Symphony of the Night' years ago), 'Mirror of Fate' was a genuinely positive experience and really scratched the itch for something 'old school' done well.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD' definitely lives up to its HD moniker with a complete graphical makeover from the original Nintendo 3DS version. The frame rate, first and foremost is incredibly solid with only a tiny bit of slowdown when the screen is filled with heavily animated enemy attacks and even then it's nothing that has a truly negative impact on game play. The overall detail of the textures is definitely well within the realm of what one expects from a XBLA game and while the character models, under close scrutiny don't necessarily pop as shining examples of the console's graphical power, the backgrounds add a tremendous amount of atmosphere to the proceedings, aided nicely by the game's 2.5D graphical style. Cutscenes are a bit jarring, switching to a far less detailed cel-shaded effect, but the animation is fluid and smooth throughout.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The soundscape of 'Mirror of Fate HD' isn't quite as impressive as the visuals, with a wide swath of effects that eventually become repetitive, especially during the more busy battles. The atmospheric score is greatly appreciated and it has the effect of dynamic response, with the tempo quickening when danger is a screen away. Voice acting is incredibly noteworthy with the likes of Robert Carlyle and Alec Newman tackling key roles and adding a gravitas to an otherwise melodramatic, if not cookie cutter story. The sound mix, sadly feels off at times, with cutscenes feeling a tad dialed back to the more aggressive game play sequences and is nothing that can't be fixed with a nearby remote, but a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place.
Replay value comes in two key forms: exploring and the Boss Rush mode. The latter unlocks once a player completes one playthrough and allows a player to face off against all the key boss fights, one after another. More importantly, the exploration element of the game pushes players to complete each character's chapter with 100% completion and involves plenty of backtracking that is well aided by the in-game map system. Of use to some, the map actually allows players to add custom notes, which may come in handy in accessing initially unreachable areas, once necessary upgrades are obtained. Last but not least, a few in-game achievements may get a third playthrough form some, with a speed run of less than four hours being on the table.
While an argument could be made that my general inexperience with the 'Castlevania' series may result in a bias towards this title, I'll argue the flipside is equally true and approaching 'Mirror of Fate' with relatively fresh eyes highlights how solid a release this is for a newcomer to the series. With eye-pleasing graphics, a generally engaging (or at least varied) storyline, coupled with smooth controls, and a rather lengthy map to explore, this HD remake of 'Mirror of Fate' is worthy of purchase for those longing for a modern update on the 2D sidescroller.
- Digital Download
- Dolby Digital 5.1
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