Big Question: Can Mirror of Fate satisfy longtime fans of handheld Castlevania games?
For many long-time fans of old-school franchises, the progression of time in the gaming world has meant the loss of gaming styles they were used to. Mario’s mushroom kingdom swapped flat worlds for fully rendered planets; Sonic went from running from left to right to dashing head-first into the screen.
One hold-out for fans pining for the way things used to be has been the handheld versions of Castlevania. On consoles, the Belmonts’ battles against Dracula have gone exciting, extreme, and 3D. On the GameBoy Advance and then the Nintendo DS, however, veteran Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi kept on keeping on with beautiful-crafted 2D adventures that were never ashamed of feeling a bit retro. Castlevania fans loved this: Consoles could get those major projects that Konami was hot to sell to fans, yet portables could still provide new experiences that played upon nostalgia.
That changes with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate—at least, it kind of does. Developer MercurySteam’s new project for the 3DS has an atmosphere heavily influenced by the console Lords of Shadow games—in fact, it directly sets up the just-announced Lords of Shadow 2. While gameplay is 2D, everything is built with polygons and textures, from hero Trevor Belmont to the environments he travels through. Action is also far flashier and more fierce than previous portable Castlevanias—to the point that I even caused Trevor to perform an execution on a boss in order to finish him off.
So if you’re thinking that classic Castlevania style will be dead and gone, I wouldn’t blame you. However, I’ve got good news for you—this is also that Castlevania. There on the 3DS’ bottom screen, right where it should be, is your mini map. And you’ll need it too—at least in the portion of the game that I got to play. I explored above-ground courtyards, under-earth tunnels, and dimly-lit passages, all inter-connecting at various points. Some alternate routs were clear; others had to be unlocked or uncovered. While the entirely of the map’s size wasn’t clear, what was was that exploration and discovery are both elements that are alive and well here.
Thus, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is a rather interesting project—one which serves almost as a bridge between the two worlds. Or, maybe not a bridge, but a peace offering to those of us who prefer the “good old days”. Yes, this isn’t Iga’s Castlevania, and maybe his style of game won’t be coming back (at least in retail cartridge form). However, maybe that overall style of game—or at least its core tenets—can continue to be made. One of the questions that will answer that—and it’s a question we can’t know an answer to just yet—is if MercurySteam not only can pull off such a game, but if they even understands how to do so in the first place. If they do, then maybe the longtime fans of portable Castlevania outings will continue to be happy—so long as they can find it within themselves to give Mirror of Fate a chance in the first place.
Are you looking forward to this new direction for the handheld Castlevanias, or would you rather have seen the old-school style continue?