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Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate preview

When it comes to hunting vampires, the Belmont clan is the best in the business. And when it comes to the greatest Castlevania game with a Belmont in the starring role, there are none better than 1990s' Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse--at least according to Dave Cox, producer of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate for the 3DS.

"We wanted to create a game that felt almost like a sequel to Dracula's Curse, as if there'd never been a Castlevania game since that," Cox says. "We didn't want to specifically make a 'Metroidvania' because we felt that would be copying what had been done before. We wanted to go back to the classic games and build on that."

Based on our playthrough of Mirror of Fate's opening hour, the developers at MercurySteam certainly seem to be on track. The 2.5D gameplay takes a refreshing back to the basics approach, with a heavy focus on combat, platforming, and branching pathways as you explore Dracula's castle. It's also astonishingly pretty. The character sprites and animations are gorgeous on the 3DS' screen, and story-advancing cut-scenes occur in a bright, stylish motion comic form.

According to Cox, one of the biggest inspirations drawn from Dracula's Curse was the idea of multiple characters. In Mirror of Fate, you'll slay all sorts of bloodthirsty fiends as Simon and Trevor Belmont, as well as Alucard and one yet-unnamed character. While the whole game takes place in Dracula's humongous castle (seriously, who needs that much space?), each character will have a unique route through various portions of it; very rarely will those routes intersect.

We got to play as the barbaric, whip-wielding Simon during our demo, who relies on strength and magic to lash vampires into bits. Combat in Mirror of Fate is essentially a simplified variation of the combo-centric battles introduced in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Simon started off with a few basic light and heavy attacks, which could be performed from both the ground and air. Some fights, especially an encounter with a creepy boss that could summon demonic wolves, forced us to learn the ins and outs of parrying and dodging. You'll have to rely on more than button mashing if you hope to survive.

As you defeat enemies, you'll gain experience orbs--the better you perform in battle, the more you obtain. Only by leveling up can you learn stronger combos. But you won't rely on whips alone. As per Castlevania tradition, you'll encounter a variety of secondary weapons that'll help you take down enemies with ease, including throwing axes, holy water, and more. Magic, too, will bolster your chances of survival. As Simon, we freed the spirit of Belnades, acquiring its aid as a spell. While active, Belnades would automatically block incoming attacks, with each successful block draining a bit of our magic meter. What's more, using his blocking ability allowed us to access previously unreachable parts of the map.

Platforming-based exploration plays a major role in the game. The 3DS bottom screen acts as a map while you traverse Dracula's Castle, and you can use it to drop customized notes whenever you find secret doors or passageways that you can't yet access. This is done by dragging a note symbol from the upper corner of the bottom screen to any room displayed on the map. Releasing the stylus prompts a text screen, where you can write a brief description of what you've found. This became invaluable during our play session, as many collectibles were unreachable until we got our mitts on the Combat Cross, which acted as a grappling hook of sorts. With it, we traveled back through rooms we'd already explored to reach health and magic meter increasing chests, and scroll collectibles for XP bonuses.

For all its shiny new combo attacks, fancy magic spells, and secret-ridden corridors, Mirror of Fate is surprisingly grounded in its roots. It seems to be a fresh translation of a classic franchise for a modern audience, one that's comfortable experimenting while retaining so many of the things that longtime fans love so dearly. As for whether or not it ends up being the sequel that never was to Dracula's Curse, we'll find out soon enough.

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Konami

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7 comments

  • shawksta - February 4, 2013 1:51 p.m.

    i love it when a game that barely appears suddenly have more info, even better a preview, AWESOME
  • winner2 - February 4, 2013 8:13 a.m.

    Isn't lords of shadow coming out this year? This reminded me. I don't like the 3DS and I don't have one, but i'm going to pick up lords of shadow soon. It'll be my first castlevania ever so I'm hoping It gives me a new series to love.
  • BladedFalcon - February 4, 2013 12:10 a.m.

    Hell yeah! : D Always glad to get more info on this game! :3 I wasn't very amused when you guys out this game so low in your top 100 most anticipated games of the year. But at least this preview sounded reassuring and positive. It's been almost 5 years since the last 2D Castlevania came out, so I really have high hopes for this one! Also, really appreciate how Mercurysteam keeps finding ways to give shout outs to the fans, such as with the Belnades magic.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - February 4, 2013 8:22 a.m.

    Yeah man, what I've played of it is pretty sweet! If you have any other questions about it, feel free to ask away and I'll try to answer them as best I can.
  • BladedFalcon - February 4, 2013 6:34 p.m.

    Thanks! Castlevania is pretty much the one franchise I freely admit I am a fanboy of, and I'm definitely pumped for this new game, and any info I can find. ^^ And well, one of the things I've been wondering is, how is each character's campaign structured? Do you play constantly as one single character until their story is over, and then jump to the next one, or do you jump around from one character to the next depending of how the story requires it?
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - February 6, 2013 8:28 a.m.

    Hmm, that's a good question - unfortunately I only got to play for the first hour or so, and almost that entire section is Simon.
  • BladedFalcon - February 6, 2013 1:26 p.m.

    Ah, gotcha, well, no sweat, either way I'll probably be playing the game anyway XD

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