Castlevania : Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate

Date Completed: 5/5/2013

castlevania-lords-of-shadow-mirror-of-fate-box

I bought Castlevania : Lords of Shadow based solely on screenshots and it turned out to be AMAZING. The ending totally blew my mind and I immediately started searching online for hints of a sequel.  The last place I expected to find a sequel was on the 3DS.

Screenshots simply can not do this game justice.  It must be played in 3D to properly appreciate the quality of the graphic design. The environments are detailed to the POINT OF INSANITY.  The work that went into designing the levels and the objects in the levels almost makes me forgive Konami for the 20 minutes of credits (OK, I didn’t time them but it sure seemed like 20 minutes).  The game itself has a side view like a classic Castlevania game but the backgrounds are layered into beautiful 3D.  Gothic Arches, Statues, Stained Glass, Gates, Lava, Water – everything looks great, and is fully realized in 3D.

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Looks even better in 3D!

The locale for this game is the castle of the most notorious vampire of all time, Dracula.  The castle is huge and you spend a lot of time exploring, picking up new abilities so you can access new areas.  Over the course of the game you’ll play as four separate protagonists, each with different abilities that give them access to different portions of the castle.

I usually don’t think about the rating on handheld games so when my boys sat down next to me to watch I let them.  Almost immediately I had to close the 3DS.  Enemies explode into clouds of blood, heads are chopped off and bodies get torn to pieces.  Furthermore, Women appearing have yet to discover suitable clothing retail opportunities and appear mostly unclothed.  My wife happened to be sitting next to me during my battle with the sex demon…awkward…

Periodically you are treated to a toon rendered cut scene that pushes the story along.  Previous portable Castlevania games would have used text bubbles so animated cut scenes are a welcome addition.  The toon rendering looks different enough from the normal graphics to be a bit jarring but it still looks good.  They look even better in 3D.

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Toon-shaded cut scene.

Combat uses a combo system similar to the previous Lords of Shadow game but this one is a lot more manageable.  Instead of having hundreds of combinations of button mashes of dubious utility there are a handful of combos that are actually useful.  Unlike the previous Lords of Shadow game I didn’t have a hard time remembering any of the key sequences since they mostly build upon each other.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mirror of Fate and I went for the full 100% (Which gets you an extra cut-scene).  In order to adequately describe my feelings about the ‘Lords of Shadow’ re-imaginings of the Castlevania series I must borrow the catch phrase of an old friend : “I dig it.”

Pros

  • Awesome, detailed, 3D graphics.
  • Improved combo system.

Cons

  • Rated M! Not for kids.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length: 11 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Action / Adventure

Castlevania

Date Completed: 4/11/2013

Castlevania Box ArtShortly after complaining that Castlevania wasn’t available in the 3DS eShop it suddenly appeared.  Either Nintendo is reading my blog, or their marketing wienies determined that the best way to drive sales was to release Castlevania games in order of their desirability.  Probably the latter.  Marketing wienies can be devious.

I never owned the original Castlevania but I had a friend who had a copy and we would play it regularly.  I remember thinking I was getting pretty good at the game and after one lengthy gaming session I thought I was close to the end.  Using the state save system of the 3DS I finally cheated my way to the finish and I found that young me couldn’t have made it much farther than level 3 of 6.  

Castlevania is HARD.  Enemies do progressively more damage to you as you progress through the game and they are difficult to avoid because of the slow, realistic physics.  Enemies (dang Medusa heads!) fly out of nowhere as you are making difficult jumps often knocking you into a bottomless pit of death, or knocking  you into another enemy.  Making any mistakes is a quick recipe for disaster.  The early bosses aren’t too bad but later bosses (especially the last two) are extremely difficult, even with state saves.  After finishing the game you unlock ‘hard mode’ and progress through the game again with MORE enemies that do MORE damage.  Like many old NES games the trick to success is memorizing movement patterns and locations.

Some old NES games translate well to portable consoles but this is one game where I don’t think the smaller form factor works well.  The 3DS game pad is too small and I often felt that I was making mistakes I wouldn’t have if I had a larger controller.  I think a larger screen would have enabled me to see the play area better and respond quicker.

Castlevania on the 3DS is fun and worth the time.  The controls and size of the console weren’t ideal but the state save system makes up for any issues with the console form factor itself.  I’m very happy to finally have completed the game.

Pros

  • Good old-fashioned classic console gaming.

Cons

  • Medusa Heads.
  • Not ideal on the small screen.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length: 4 hours
System: 3DS eShop
Genre: Action / Adventure

The Castlevania : Adventure

Date Completed : 4/4/2013

Game Boy Castlevania The Adventure Front Cover

One of the games I never completed back in the day was the original Castlevania.  I ventured into the 3DS eShop to see if I could correct that great wrong but I was unable to find a copy for purchase.  My search was not fruitless however, I was able to find ‘The Castlevania : Adventure’ so I grabbed it instead.

I owned the original back in the day and anyone who played the original may be surprised to hear that I actually did beat it.  This is one of the hardest games I have ever played through.  Your character walks as if moving through molasses which makes jumping and fighting frustrating.  If you fail to time a jump perfectly you’re probably going to fall to your immediate death.  I’m happy to say that with Virtual Console state saves worrying about failure is a thing of the past.  I beat the game without ever dying and then I beat the game a second time just to see what would happen (as it turns out, nothing).

Castlevania has always been known for great music.  The music on the game sounds crappy by today’s standards but it does have a catchy tune and I’ve been humming it for the last few days.  I had a feeling that it would make a good guitar cover so I checked into YouTube and found this.

The game played exactly as I remembered and with Virtual Console state saves and retries it’s a lot more fun and a lot less frustrating.  It’s one of the best games to come out on the original Game Boy and well worth a look for anyone interested in classic gaming.

Pros

  • Great Music (for a GB title)
  • Good design work.

Cons

  • Slow play control.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length: 2 hours
System: 3DS Virtual Console
Genre: Action / Adventure

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

Date Completed: March 8th, 2012

This game took my forever to finish.  It was way to mature to play in front of my kids, and there were even some scenes I wouldn’t have wanted my wife to walk in on, so I had to play in short intervals when no one was around.

First Impression – Awesome.  The graphics are among the best I have seen for the console.  The environments are amazingly detailed and you can really tell the team cared about creating a quality experience.  Patrick Stewart narrates the cut scenes and does a fantastic job.  Overall the presentation of this game is amazing.

Second Impression – Man, this game is hard.  There are a ton of button combinations that I never really did master.  I would often forget how to play the game since I was often away from the game for several days.  I eventually resorted to using a FAQ I found online so that I could know which combat combos to memorize before going in to a particular level.

There is a LOT of content in this game for an Action title.  Each mission took me about 30 minutes to beat, and that was with a FAQ open on a second screen.  Even with all of that content each area of the game was new and fresh.  There are Towns, Forests, Mountains, Castles and other various locations to explore, all of which are highly detailed.  Enemies are interested and challenging and boss battles were just FUN.  Bosses came in many varieties from Werewolves, Vampires, Necromancers and Titans which were several hundred feet tall.

Not to say the game is perfect.  The camera angle is fixed in most scenes.  For the most part this isn’t a problem but there were times when I was unable to see my character and respond to being attacked.  The game also relies on Quick-Time-Events periodically, especially as a finishing move for boss battles.  The QTE’s are irritating when they come up but I must admit they do add a bit of variety to the hacking and slashing.  If you miss a button press during a QTE your foe usually regains some health which is especially irritating on later bosses when the QTE’s get extremely fast.

Prior to playing this game I was a casual fan of the Castlevania series, but now I want MORE.  I spent much of last night trying to find hints that there would be a sequel (which it appears there will be) and reading up on back story.  I wholeheartedly recommend this game to anyone allowed to play M rated games.

Pros

  • Gorgeous environments
  • Awesome Combat
  • Patrick Stewart

Cons

  • Fixed Camera
  • Quick-Time-Events
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~12 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Action