I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never played a traditional Castlevania game, and quite frankly after Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, I’m pretty sure I still haven’t. You see, I’m well versed in the ‘Metroidvania’ style adventure games if only from the first part of the genre’s namesake but having never touched the gothic fantasy horror story of the latter I didn’t really know what to expect from Castlevania: LoSMoF except that it was supposedly a middle ground between the new action direction of the 2012 console reboot and the more traditional 2D exploration gameplay. What I got instead was something I would have preferred to have lay dormant in a mausoleum deep underground.
The story puts you in the shoes of Simon Belmont, Alucard, and Trevor Belmont in their quest to take down the infamous Dracula. I don’t really know if this is the standard Castlevania story or not but it’s told in an interesting perspective. Two of the characters are playing through their mutual stories simultaneously while the other takes place in another time, but all of them occur in the same castle. The curse of the Belmont family is to kill Dracula as ordained by their destiny. I liked the presentation, an overly dramatic family tale of monsters and vampires, and it was told through really pretty cel-shaded cutscenes which makes me wish the whole game decided to follow through with that graphical style.
It begs to ask why the actual game looks…bland in comparison. Polygons are constructed to build an opulent Gothic castle and terrifying creatures but it comes off as cartoon-ish and just plain uninteresting no matter how I look at it. Both the castle and monsters, which are less terrifying than they are ugly, don’t give off a sense of excitement. There are moments where the artistic aspirations are visible and you can get a glimpse of a shimmering nightmare image that would have been breathtaking to behold but instead I was treated to incredibly long stretches of boring scenery.
I guess this is a fine transition to bring up the topic of pacing. The game isn’t actually more than about 8 hours, which makes me wonder why the whole thing felt really tedious. It has the backtracking and exploration that the genre calls for but there’s no sense of excitement returning to previously unreachable areas. Instead I thought to myself “Eh? I have to go back?” The castle just wasn’t something I wanted to explore and that’s a shame for a Castlevania title that wanted to return to its traditional roots.
Combat, I had hoped, would be the thing that held the whole thing together. Sadly, it is uneven and unresponsive. There are moments where I feel like I’m just flailing around my whip without any real contact and just hope that the enemies die. They distinguish when you need to dodge an attack or block an enemy’s attack but it’s an inelegant system to switch between the two mid-combat. The problem is that the developers attempted to transition their 3D combat system from the original Lords of Shadows into the 2D plane and it just didn’t turn out to be a fun way to play a 2D side scrolling adventure game.
There is one saving grace however which is the soundtrack. Grand, operatic music accompanies this game and sets a mood far more atmospheric than the actual game. In fact, the music just makes you wish the game was able to match its style.
If Castlevania: LoSMoF can be boiled down to a single fault, it’s that the game isn’t exciting. I never felt the desire to explore or see more of the game and the combat just further diminished my desire to continue playing past completion. For what’s supposed to be an adventure game, the adventure isn’t thrilling and that’s probably the greatest sin the Belmont family has committed this time around.
[+Great voice acting][+Great music][+Pretty good 3D effects][-Bland visuals][-Uneven combat][-Lacks atmosphere][-Not an exciting adventure]