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Demo Impressions: Castlevania LoS: Mirror of Fate

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Today, the demo for Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirrors of Fate was released unto the European eShops. Here is my write up about it.

Castlevania Lords of Shadow:Mirrors of Fate (3DS)
Developed by MercurySteam, Published by Konami

The demo begins outside the Castle Entrance as Trevor. You control him on a 2.5D plane on the top screen- the character moves either left or right, but the world is 3D, and the camera pans to different angles as you move along the area. The bottom screen all has to do with your inventory, map and skills – you can set blips on the map to mark certain areas with text messages, help keep track of your progress in the Mansion. A problem with this feature is while you can access these blip messages on the map screen when you touch the status button at the bottom, you cannot do so on the in-game map. Your inventory lets you swap between the secondary weapons you collect throughout the game, and lets you view your current character’s stats and weapon. The demo starts you off at Level 12, with the EXP bar nearly full; presumably to show off the Level up quite early.

In the Castle Entrance, you encounter your first fight with skeletons, and this is where the similarities with the original Lords of Shadow begin. You fight with the Combat Cross, and press Y for a direct attack, or X for an area attack, and you can grab enemies with the R button to perform a finisher, similar to the original game. All of main combat elements feel fast and smooth, with combos(or something similar to them) being quick and easy to create. Leveling up unlocks new combat moves for the player, and I presume that the game sets you at Level 12 to experience a wide array of moves, and what kind of combat you’ll experience in the full game.

Evil_lurks_behind_tif_jpgcopyYou press L to block attacks, and press L in conjunction with a motion on the Circle pad to roll; this system gets some taking used to; you quickly learn that blocking is pretty much something you have to do as soon as you get attacked for it to work properly; doing so will deflect enemy projectiles or stun enemies who physically attack. After killing enemies, you receive EXP, similar to LoS. After the skeleton fight, there is a small battle with a bigger, red enemy, and it’s here I learnt of the checkpoint system. When you die, you re-enter the game at an earlier point; in this case, it was in the same area I fought the skeletons in, but it returned me to the fight with the red enemy. I finished off this battle by grabbing it for a finisher. After the fight, two more elements from LoS are introduced; picking up scrolls from dead knights for EXP, and drinking from a green health fountain.

The next area, the Unholy Church, introduces many more gameplay elements into the demo; the first one being Secondary Weapons, which are essentially the limited-ammo sub-weapons normally found in the franchise. You pick up the Boomerang, a triple-bladed device that when thrown at an enemy, digs into them and explodes. You can charge these up for a stronger attack, although this leaves you vulnerable. If you throw the boomerang, and you miss, the boomerang returns and adds one more to your ammo count. It was at this point, however, I noticed one glaring flaw in the combat; when fighting giant bats, I couldn’t launch the Secondary weapon diagonally, neither could I whip diagonally. This led to a lot of throwing misses, and eventually I stuck to the long-range whip to hit them all. Pretty poor enemy choice to show off what is presumably the first ranged weapon of the game. After the fight,  you are introduced to the platforming elements of the game.

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The platforming in this game is essentially a 2D version of Lords of Shadow; you can use the Combat Cross to swing across ledges, climb down a hanging cross to lower yourself to not receive fall damage (yes, fall damage in Castlevania), and use it to climb up a wall, then kick yourself off. For the most part, the platforming is serviceable, and quite fun, except for the jumping. You can double jump in this game, but it feels slow and delayed- pressing B the second time activated the animation into the second jump, not the jump itself. This gets annoying later on in the demo.

Next, you go into the Crypt below, and it’s here you get a feeling for the “metroid-vania” style of gameplay the series is now famous for; there are, at first, two branching paths – one going straight right leads you to a locked gate, and one leads you to the Cemetery, where you can find an item which increases your Secondary Weapon ammo count by two. To get this, you must open a chest by pressing R to interact with it, then perform a button-masher Quick Time Event to get it open. You cannot progress anymore, and must return back to the Crypt after this.

However, returning from the locked gate along the path you entered the crypt in triggers a scripted event in which skeletons jump up from below, breaking the floor and opening a new area, which leads to a switch which opens the gate found above for a limited time.

Trevor_swinging_in_the_chapel_tif_jpgcopyIf you get past the gate, you find a strange shrine area, with a man cowering under an angel statue, surrounded by blue mist. Up on this statue is a switch; pressing it tells you that you cannot activate it yet, as you have no Light Magic, another returning element from LoS. The statue cannot be activated in the demo; you simply move on into the final area.

The Entrance Bridge opens with Trevor noticing a small creature snatch a blue Light Magic pendant off from the neck of a dead soldier, and throw it down a waterfall; we can assume that, in the full game, we’d be visiting the area where it landed. For now, however, we simply run up a staircase to the bridge, where we fight the boss of the demo.

The boss is a tall creature, shackled by more of the little creatures we saw earlier on. It brandishes a bloody axe, and once let loose, comes right for you. The boss’s main attack seems to be to headbutt the player by charging into it; the game prompts you to double jump out of it’s way, and this is where that feature gets annoying. You can’t jump out of it’s way in time if it’s too close; you must jump at least a second or two before he’s near you, for the delay to kick in and to dodge him in time. After you dodge him, he’ll run into a gate, and you can attack him.

Trevor_confronts_the_Dragon_tif_jpgcopyI found the strongest weapon a charged boomerang, so keep them stocked up. If he manages to grab you, you need to complete a QTE to escape. After hitting the halfway point, we are introduced to a body slam attack, which you need to combat roll to dodge. However, he barely does this, and seems to prefer to run into you; this made the boss easier than i’d imagined, especially as his attacks do a lot of damage in general. If you die after hitting the halfway point, you restart there, you restart with your health and item progress just as they were at that point, and you need to do the combat roll again. A nice touch. After you deplete all of it’s health, you do one more grab and QTE to kill it.

After this, you walk up to a door, which opens. A floating white mask in a tattered black robe tells Trevor that he cannot pass yet, and closes the door. This ends the demo.

The graphics are a mixed bag;  the environments look stunning and well-detailed, and it’s always a pleasure to walk along a large stretch of road to get to see more of the game’s beautiful design. The same cannot be said for the character models, however; while they are fine in the animation department, they are a bit on the blocky side and their textures are blurry; think early/low-rate PSP models. Playing this on a regular 3DS, I can’t imagine how much uglier it would look on an XL. The game runs at a smooth framerate, which makes combat even more fluid and enjoyable.

I played a small section of the game in 3D, the first fight in the Castle Entrance. To start with, the first panning shot looks amazing, and it really shows how well the 3D can be used to create an immersive world; I know this sounds silly but some sections of the castle really did stick out. The fight itself had decent 3D too, it’s just your typical 3DS “Foreground sticks out a bit” stuff. It gets the job done if you like 3D.

Simon_investigates_in_the_library_tif_jpgcopyOverall, I found the demo to be a fun experience; despite the flaws, I managed to find myself dodging and pulling off combos with ease. It’s certainly a game which would take a some time to get used to, but not too much time. While I enjoyed my time with the demo, i’d still say wait for the reviews to come in; it’s clear that, while you’ve done a lot, there’s still much more of the game to see.

I mean, you either download this from the eShop, or Castlevania: The Adventure. (Don’t pick The Adventure.)

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