Saturday, May 10, 2014

Video Game Review: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD

This review is the second in a series. Find the first here.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD. God damn that title. It's like something you would expect to see on a bargain bin game from some no-name company no one's ever heard of. For those of you wondering, Mirror of Fate is not actually part 2 of the series. It's more like Lords of Shadow 1.5, and its main purpose was to bridge a certain gap.

One thing I regret not mentioning in my first review (mostly because I didn't find out about it until said review was almost finished) is that Lords of Shadow was not developed as a Castlevania game. It was originally intended to be a completely separate IP, titled simply "Lords of Shadow." Then, at the last moment, Konami realized it was generic crap that would never sell without a big name like "Castlevania" attached to it. So they changed the name to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and then put the least amount of work possible into a half-ass facelift for it. They stuck some Castlevania names to it, put some old school Castlevania music in the Baba Yaga's Music Box level, and added the end credits scene where Gabriel becomes Dracula.

That was the gap that this game was meant to bridge: taking Lords of Shadow and turning it into an actual Castlevania game. Insofar as achieving that goal it was moderately successful, though the fact that they needed an entirely new game to fix all the bullshit they broke with their first game makes me want to take another point off of the first game's review score (or another 5 points).

But about this game... one of the first things you notice is that this game's presentation is much, much worse than the previous game. The dumbest among you will probably say, "well, of course! It was originally designed for the Nintendo DS!" It is true that the DS version was grainy and awful, but that's hardly a flaw of the Nintendo DS, especially when you consider Dawn of Sorrow came out 8 years earlier and looked like this...

While Mirror of Fate looks like this...

The first is beautiful, lovingly rendered sprite work. The second is... dark. Very dark. And the entire game is like that, if not even worse. I had to turn my brightness setting all the way up and even then I could barely see what was going on.

The second thing you notice is that this game abandons the 3D adventure style of the first game in the series to go back to the franchise standard 2D platformer style of gameplay, except it's not nearly as much fun. It's short, there's barely any really noticable variety in the different areas, and somehow it manages to be even more linear than the first game in the series. What little exploration there is in this game never feels like it's being rewarded at all. At least in Lords of Shadow you could find the occasional Life Gem or Magic Gem. In this game your reward is usually a flavor text scroll, or the occasional bestiary entry. (Yeah, that's right. You have to FIND bestiary entries in this game, they don't unlock on their own.)

Oh yeah, and Alucard is in this game! Except instead of being a badass supernatural predator conflicted over his dark nature and determined to right his father's wrongs, he's an emo Trevor Belmont with gray skin. Oh yeah, spoiler alert except not because you'll see the "Alucard is Trevor" plot twist coming almost immediately after he appears. The point is, yeah, this game ruins Alucard too. And Simon Belmont, who is now a Scottish barbarian apparently. And Sypha Belnades, who is no longer a witch! And... possibly the pirate king Grant DaNasty too; I don't know, only his name appears in a scroll that talks about how dead he is. Ugh. At this point I would rather they just left the two series disconnected if this is how they plan on treating the returning characters. I mean, who's next? Seriously, who? Is Lords of Shadow 2 going to include Soma Cruz as Dracula's pet talking dog? Ugh.

KR Rating: [1] HORRIBLE

The one good thing that this game actually did was give us some more interesting enemies to fight, though they still don't give us anything that looks like it belongs in a Castlevania game, and the enemies aren't really any more fun to fight than they were in the first game either.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow might have been a train wreck attempt at sticking the name onto a mediocre game in order to sell copies, but at least that meant it didn't ruin fan favorite characters like Alucard. At least Lords of Shadow looked good.

This game really has absolutely nothing going for it and I can tell you that I was honestly tempted to just give up on this franchise right here. Nonetheless, expect part three of this review, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 next week.

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