STAFF REVIEW of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Friday, November 15, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD Box art One of my favorite gaming franchises of all time is without question, Castlevania. Growing up in days of 8-bit, side scrolling, vampire slaying greatness, I have witnessed an evolution of sorts throughout the decades that have seen amazing innovations, fantastic storytelling, and an increase in addiction to scouring the maps hoping to find that long lost treasure. The classic Castlevania relied heavily on creating multiple side scrolling environments that allowed you to explore every nook and cranny of Dracula's castle while pitting you against a seemingly endless supply of nightmarish creatures that one must fight through to reach the prince of darkness himself.

MercurySteam attempted a reboot of the Castlevania franchise and released Lords of Shadow to mixed reviews. There were some who reveled in the beauty and transition to a 3D environment, while there were some that crucified the game and all involved with it as blasphemy. In an attempt to salvage the hard work of many, MercurySteam released a title on the Nintendo 3DS called Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate. Besides having one of the longest titles for a Castlevania game, or any game period, it offered MercurySteam a chance to help tell the story with more detail leading into the next release called Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2. Knowing the fan base spans larger than a handheld gaming platform, MercurySteam decided to port the 3DS release straight onto the Xbox Live Arcade but give it and HD makeover and charge $14.99 plus tax. Some may call it a gift, others may call it an excuse to grab any cash they can off the name. Which is it? Let's find out.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD (which will be known as MoF) spans six decades of vampire slaying lineage for the Belmont family. You will get to play as Trevor Belmont, Simon Belmont, and Alucard himself. These three events take place in a nonlinear fashion and will find you ultimately taking part in a paper thin story which leads to one final destination, the death of Dracula. This is where the first fault is found because MercurySteam has decided with all this extra power from console hardware, not to include any more plot content at all from the handheld version. I'm sorry but if you wanted to explain and give more detail to help gamers bridge the gap between LoS and LoS 2, then why not utilize this release to do so? Not only is the plot thinner than water, but the story itself is ridiculously short in stature. There is even an achievement for finishing the game in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. $14.99 price tag for a game that can be beaten in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes and we are supposed to be overjoyed by this?

Another tear in the dark lord’s cape comes directly from the environment as well. Yes there are a few items to discover along the way and some will only be available to obtain after you have ventured far enough to gain new abilities and then backtrack to where you originally began to try and uncover all that was once hidden or out of reach. The latter part of that last sentence can be said about many of the Castlevania games in the past; however, what once seemed like an army of the undead now feels more like a long walk with only a few enemies here and there. The boss battles though remain the game's toughest challenges and will easily deplete any health you may have if you don't pay attention to their movements and time your strikes well. I did however find the controls did need some improvement, but unleashing that whip with brutal, unending force always brings a smile to my face.

Now the letters at the end of the title are HD, which signifies that the graphics should be greatly improved over the 3DS, and that they are. The cut scenes are done in a beautiful, comic book style scene, and although short in length, is one of the highlights of the graphics. The environments, without question, feel like a Castlevania game and even the character modeling has seen significant improvement. While all of this looks good so far, there is one element that made its horrific return in MoF, and that are the quick time events. With LoS there was a twist to the QuickTime scheme which required you to time your button presses to correspond with the rings on the screen. Now that has been replaced with either following a sequence of button presses or beating the crap out of your A button.

I have been a supporter of MercurySteam's first Lords of Shadow but sadly I'm beginning to feel that things are going a step backwards. Everything, minus the online leaderboards, has been taken straight from the 3DS, and when MercurySteam had a chance to improve upon the console versions, they didn't. They did though include a downloadable demo for the upcoming game, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. The important word to focus on here is demo. If this is the only way MercurySteam will let you play the demo, then wait for the game instead. I can't comprehend why someone would pay $14.99 plus tax for what appears to be a complete lack of effort plus a demo of an upcoming game that gamers know ahead of time doesn't resemble the final product. There was so much potential for this game, yet it feels like MercurySteam let it all slip away.

The story could be better. The controls could be tighter. The graphics could be better. Almost everything could be better. Now I know you're sitting there saying "yes but it's just a port of a 3DS game, so you're wanting too much." And my response would be, is it too much to ask for a good story in a Castlevania game? Is it too much to ask for responsive controls given the 2D environment in a Castlevania game? No, no it's not.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.8 / 10
Visuals: 7.4 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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