Castlevania has become synonymous with the platforming genre. between games like Mario, Sonic and Metroid, Castlevania has managed to stay fresh and award winning with numerous iterations of the games telling different parts of its deep and rich storyline. From the classic NES system to the handheld dominating the 3DS the games have got more impressive and beautiful. Lets look at the latest outing Lords of shadow: Mirror of fate which is now only a couple month old.
The games story follows 3 main protagonists in their quest to rid the world of Draculas evil once and for all. Throughout the game you will play as Trevor and Simon Belmont (of the famed vampire hunting clan) and the mysterious Allucard, whose storyline and history will bring some shocking revelations to the game. Each character has their own personal reasons to slaughter the king vampire and bring peace to the land and their own shattered family honour. The story is easy enough to follow and should please fans, old and new alike.
The gameplay of Castlevania has stayed simple and effective over the many years it has been gracing our consoles; side-scrolling platforming, with puzzle solving and hand to hand weapon combat with the combat cross. Mirror of Fate (MOF from here on out) is no exception, however I do have one gripe. While I may have not played the other games I am aware that they come from an era of incredibly difficult games and deep rich storylines. However MOF feels a bit easy compared to a lot of games I have ever played. while this allows for younger and less hardcore gamers to play the game easily while enjoying a slight challenge, this makes the game feel less challenging and rather easy. For example I have started playing it on New Game + on the hard difficulty and I am in no way feeling hindered or knocked around any more than normal. This doesn't make the game bad, just unchallenging. The problem I do have though, is that the game prides itself on the collectibles placed through out the levels (These collectibles count towards completion but also help to unlock one or two extras along the way), but they are so tedious to collect once so much of the game has been traveled through. For example I found one i could only gain with a certain ability, that I did not unlock for at least another hour or so. By that time I had forgotten about the collectible and could not be bothered to go through the entire game to get it.
Puzzle solving is also a major part of the Castlevania series with puzzles coming in may shapes and forms. This is where the simplistic feeling of the game shows through. Only one puzzle has stumped me for longer than a 5-10 minutes and it was purely my own idiocy in not realising that something could be moved. The major puzzles are few and far between so don't take time away from the platforming and combat however having them a bit more often to break it up, would most certainly be a plus.
Finally the combat. The combat cross is a weapon unlike most in any game other than Castlevania in that it is simply a very powerful whip and tool. Think about it honestly; How many other games have a whip as the primary weapon?.. exactly. The main weapon isn't upgraded much through the game however new skills and secondary weapons and magic are unlocked as they are found and as the character levels up through defeating enemies. These items can all be used to devastating effect in combination with one another, such as using secondary items to stun the opponent before unleashing a magical combo upon them. The possibilities are limited by your imagination.
Also of note is that the magic (once gained) can also be used to access certain parts of the game previously inaccessible due to your lack of power. It can also be used to improve damage, protect from harm and pass obstacles to progress through the game. Each character has their own set of magic and items, but moves carry over, as do levels.
The game as a whole is very solid and a very good game to add to your collection. It is available in stores near you now, as well as through a digital download from the Nintento online store (albeit for a steeper price). If you are still not certain then by all means download and try the demo available in the online store, which features around 20 minutes of game play including a mini-boss battle. Happy hunting..