Test: Castlevania Mirror of Fate (Nintendo 3DS)

Photo: DR

Gamer friends, welcome to this new space where I will try my best to talk to you about video games using tests, documents and other articles. To get started, what could be better than a well-known and well-established video game such as Castlevania (the first episode dates back to 1986 when it was released on NES, Amiga and other PCs). Now, back to 2013. Castlevania Mirror of Fate (which we are testing today) on 3DS marks the return of the series with Lords of Shadow, which first appeared on home consoles in 2010. While we wait for one of the main games of this year, Lords of Shadow 2, how about we take a quick look at this handheld episode, is it just a cheap version or is it actually a good game?

Clearly, the beginning of 2013 has not been the most dynamic period in terms of releases for Nintendo’s handheld console. So, it is with great enthusiasm that we embark on this new adventure, which allows us to play with 4 different characters, all linked, at different times, to the castle that we shall visit from top to bottom. Each one of them having a dedicated act.

The castle is also one of the main strengths of the game, and we will discover it as the hours go by. From the catacombs to the top, the enormity and exoticism of certain rooms will allow everyone to appreciate the great diversity offered throughout the environments. The atmosphere is delightful, both because of the discoverable environments and because of the music and sound effects that accompany them, all of it very well executed. I should also recommend that you experience the game with a set of headphones or earphones.

From a graphical point of view, one could expect more from the final rendering of Mirror of Fate. Characters and enemies with a questionable character design, one really has the impression that the work was not fully completed or, at least, that it was not the most important part of the game development. For example, how can we not see the obvious lack of taste displayed by one of the bosses we will encounter, who could be described as a lion’s head mounted over a grasshopper’s body. There was a lot more that could have been done on that front, especially considering the history of the game. On the scenery side, we can notice a lack of details and rough textures. However, the 3D depth effect is really well rendered, even if it leads to a very pronounced aliasing effect (or “staircase effect”, i.e. the outlines of the graphic elements are not straight but crenellated). One final word about the cut scenes, which are few but whose light effects provide sequences with a very nice look.

Fans of the series, Castlevania Mirror of Fate is not going to take you out of your comfort zone. The gameplay remains classic in its approach, which means that you have to retrace your steps to finish the game at 100%. The level design is interesting but a little too classic, nothing very innovative, except for the obstacle course in the clock tower. All areas of the game will only be accessible as you progress and improve your skills. In fact, each of the playable characters will acquire new skills, whether by using magic (offensive and defensive) or objects (electromagnetic bombs, axes, …).

Mirror of Fate is also equipped with an experience system that focuses on combat and your curiosity. As soon as you defeat an enemy, your experience bar will increase (of course, the more difficult the enemy is to defeat, the more experience you’ll gain) at the same time. However, it also works when you find scrolls, hidden throughout the game (they are recognizable by a purple halo surrounding them). At each experience level, new moves will become available, getting more and more powerful. As for the increase of the life bar and the magic bar, you will have to find chests, which are scattered all over the map.

Let’s talk about the gameplay, which offers an easy mastering, apart from a certain rigidity of the controls. The touch screen makes it easy to switch from one spell to another, from one power to another. The countermoves are also easy enough to handle due to a timing that’s flexible enough to allow you to stun your enemy for a while.

The main weak point of the gameplay, comes from the non-play phases. By this phrase, I mean the QTE (or Quick Time Events). These are sequences in which you have to press the right button at the right time, as indicated on the screen. The problem comes both from the amount of them, sometimes necessary for secondary actions (like opening a chest), and from their poor execution timing. When you press, sometimes vigorously, on the right button at the right time, you might need to try again, because the game seems to be quite demanding from that point of view. The example of the chests previously mentioned is very representative of this fact. If you have this problem, you just have to anticipate and avoid having to repeat the sequence a second time. This quickly becomes annoying, and can lead us to leave the game.

The plot proposed by Mirror of Fate lacks any real revelations, which comes across as weak considering that this episode is the link between the two episodes of Lords of Shadow. So, by being short on information, it becomes interesting for anyone discovering the franchise through this portable episode. Also, the game progresses smoothly, without being really hindered by a particular difficulty, an enemy or an unsolvable puzzle. For those who love a challenge, they will quickly explore all the features of Mirror of Fate, whether they want to complete the game or finish it to a 100%. Furthermore, once the game is completed, the maximum difficulty mode is the only thing that can be unlocked, which doesn’t offer a real New Game +. For that reason, it is preferable to play the game in the highest difficulty mode available at the beginning of the game in order to have the best possible fun.

Our opinion

Mirror of Fate succeeds in honoring the Castlevania franchise in its essence, even if we are still wanting more due to the obvious lack of finishing details, both from a graphic point of view and from the presented challenge. Nevertheless, it remains an interesting alternative for those who want to discover the saga through this episode, which is very approachable in terms of maneuverability. But here again, given the big guns that will be released on Nintendo’s handheld console (Luigi’s Mansion 2, Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem…), it may quickly be left on the back burner.

Our Ratings

Graphics6 / 10
Soundtrack7 / 10
Gameplay7 / 10
Scenario4 / 10
Life span6 / 10

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