The first step to enjoying Castlevania: Lords of Shadow- Mirror of Fate for 3DS is to accept the fact that it doesn't necessarily play like those handheld Castlevania games that appeared on Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. Although you view the action from the traditional side-scrolling perspective, the developers at Mercury Steam modeled everything in 3D, in addition to making environments and characters resemble those found in the studio's Lords of Shadow for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; say goodbye to Konami's 2D sprites. Meanwhile, that sense of exploration (AKA Metroidvania) was somewhat nixed in favor of a game that for the most part pushes you forwards instead of backwards. Hyperventilating yet? Don't panic, since Mirror of Fate still delivers a satisfying experience.
The plot revolves around the famous Belmont clan and its struggle against the evil Dracula. In fact, you eventually get to play as three different characters, with the list including the famous Simon Belmont, Trevor Belmont and Alucard; technically it's four, if you count the brief intro as Gabriel. Each hero possesses a whip/ranged weapon of some sort, along with secondary items like the axe, a Castlevania staple.
Despite this character switching, the gameplay remains consistent throughout the adventure, with you guiding the vampire hunter through dank-looking catacombs, underwater and outside the castle. Along the way, you run into a variety of creatures in need of a beating, from harpies and skeleton warriors to fish men and werewolves, to name a few. This also means tangling with several bosses, all of which require old school pattern memorization to defeat.
By and large, combat mostly lives up to the Castlevania standard. There's a cool sense of fulfillment as you grab enemies with the right shoulder button to deliver a pulverizing finisher, while mashing the whip buttons produce combos. Later, the game lets you take a break from the action to solve puzzles that involve pushing crates, swinging via grapple points and using a protective ghost shield to walk through pure evil cascading from the ceiling.
It's all in good fun, of course, despite Mirror of Fate's obvious flaws. Quick time events happen too often, especially during boss fights and opening chests. On top of that, there's no threat of death, largely because the game always restarts from specific checkpoints that favor the player. This remains consistent throughout the entire quest, and such handholding diminishes whatever hardcore challenge fans probably expected.
Also, the glasses free 3D does little to enhance the game. We spent too much time attempting to locate a sweet spot, only to shut off this feature due to ghosting and resulting eyestrain. Quite frankly, it's one of the worst examples of 3D we've seen; we're talking launch game bad.
As for backtracking (what there is of it), we didn't feel compelled to revisit previously explored areas. First, the castle pales in comparison to those found in previous titles, and second, the rewards (new entries in the bestiary, story scrolls) are not worth the effort.
These complaints ultimately make Castlevania: Lords of Shadow- Mirror of Fate disposable and just short of being considered a classic, but so long as you except the game for what it is, you'll most likely have a zombie-whipping good time.
Review copy provided by Konami.
What's Hot:Multiple characters to play as, fun mix of monster bashing and puzzle solving, dramatic soundtrack.
What's Not:Bothersome quick time events, boring rewards don't justify backtracking, lame glasses free 3D.