The Next Castlevania on the 3DS Isn't What You'd Expect and That's OK

E3 2012: Fans of modern 2D Castlevania games will have to shed their expectations for Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate in order to appreciate Mercury Steam's new direction.

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Nintendo just wrapped up its Nintendo 3DS Software Showcase, and the opening act was none other than Mercury Steam and Konami's Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate, the second entry in the rebooted Castlevania from the Spanish studio. We've had a chance to play the game on the show floor, as well as interview David Cox, producer of the Lords of Shadow series. We had many questions about the game, and today, we've got some answers.

First and foremost, despite the shift in perspective from 3D to 2.5D, Mirror of Fate is not necessarily a tribute to or a rehash of older 2D Castlevania titles. According to Cox, they've focused on honing their particular take on the series. There's no deliberate dodging of hallmarks from the past, but they aren't letting them dictate their craft either.

Stepping back from Dracula's story, Mirror of Fate redirects its focus on the Belmont clan, 25 years after Lords of Shadow's conclusion. You initially take on the role of Gabriel's son (Trevor Belmont), but you also get the chance to play as Trevor's great grandson (Simon) in later parts of the game. Shockingly, fan-favorite Alucard (historically known as Dracula's son) was announced as a playable character at Nintendo's Showcase earlier tonight and may resolve the mysterious character reveal at the tail end of the Lords of Shadow 2 trailer.

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The most notable carryover from the first Lords of Shadow is the relatively deep and action-oriented style of combat. Combos and tactical maneuvers drove the action, resulting in common enemies requiring more than a single strike to defeat. When playing the demo, this threw us off a bit. The limited selection of abilities meant that we had to rely on the most basic of maneuvers, and it was odd to face a common skeleton capable of surviving multiple hits in a 2D Castlevania game.

After speaking with Cox, however, I realized that perhaps my expectations were getting in the way. This is, after all, not the work of Castlevania veteran Koji Igarashi, but instead, a wholly unique game with its own personality and mechanics. Without labeling the old-school approach as mindless, Mercury Steam wants you to feel challenged. Without hands-on experience with Trevor's additional abilities, time will tell if our initial struggle is due to the shift of the 3D combat mechanics to 2D space, or an intentional design choice on their part.

There are moments when the camera rotates for added depth.
There are moments when the camera rotates for added depth.

Exploration is one element they've sought to correct based on critical and fan reactions. Thankfully, this is resolved quite easily with the incorporation of a sprawling map. This may lead you to believe that they'll fall back on the "Metroidvania" token of discovering power-ups that grant access to additional portions of the map, but again, they're taking a new approach. Exploration will net you items and secrets, but those won't necessarily extend your ability to explore every nook of the map. Instead, it's the additional playable characters and their unique abilities that will allow you to discover every secret of Castlevania.

We anticipate fans of Castlevania will have a lot to say once the game ships this fall. Mercury Steam is dedicated to their craft, and some fans may have a hard time swallowing the changes to their beloved formula, but like us, a bit of reeducation and shedding of expectations may open their eyes to the potential that lies within. If one thing is certain, it's that David Cox has a vision, and it's doubtful we've uncovered every surprise that's in store.

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