On October 31, 2013, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate HD was released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as an HD port from its original Nintendo 3DS release. The game continues MercurySteam’s Castlevania reboot both in gameplay and the Lords of Shadow narrative.
As a Nintendo 3DS port, the game is a side scrolling action game with gameplay featuring constant enemies that are defeated with combinations and special abilities while multiform bosses require specific tactics. Combat is intermingled with platforming and puzzle sequences. In Castlevania fashion, the story is not restricted to the chronological order of events but begins with Gabriel Belmont’s wife Maria shortly after he leaves her for his quest to hunt Dracula in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. The player ultimately plays as three characters in the order of Simon Belmont, Alucard, and Trevor Belmont. The playable characters weave in and out of each other’s story arcs while all three vampire hunters hunt Dracula throughout his castle.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate HD is centered on the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow narrative. While showing early hints of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow’s complex story that tackled the relationship between God and mankind, the Mirror of Fate story is a straightforward bridge between Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2.
With three playable characters, the gameplay introduces new abilities and features that are character specific. Each of the three characters has special abilities that are not usable by the other two characters. Switching to a new story is akin to restarting and leveling up a new character each time. The special abilities are tied to a magic meter that allows the player to trigger a defensive or offensive ability. The defensive ability provides additional life with each hit, and the offensive ability strengthens attacks.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate HD as an action game includes the expected concerns for disabled gamers with fine motor skills where combat combinations and boss specific tactics require complex and ever-changing button sequences. With three playable characters, the sheer variety of gameplay hints at accessible action even if that accessibility is not fully realized.
The initial combat is relatively simple. Combinations with the traditional Castlevania whip are variations of holding down a button coupled with one additional press of the same button. The first playable character, Simon, has as his special defensive ability a shield made of his mother’s love that deflects all enemy attacks for a short time. His offensive ability is a warrior spirit that fires arrows at oncoming enemies thus assisting Simon with combat. These two abilities mitigate some of the difficulties common to action games for gamers with fine motor disabilities by providing protection and assistance during overwhelming combat. The abilities can be enabled during platforming as well and provide more forgiving gameplay for hits taken during platforming, whether by environmental obstacles or attacking enemies.
Unfortunately, the switch to the other playable characters changes the special abilities, and each level introduces new controller requirements. For example, Alucard’s mist form that phases through enemies and his wolf form that heightens his attack damage do not provide the same relief from combination based combat and missed platform jumps as Simon’s abilities. Additionally for gamers with fine motor disabilities, context specific gameplay is routinely introduced, such as rotating an analog stick to move forward a mining cart, and platforming that requires a mix of nearly all control schemes introduced thus far, such as timed double jumping with a face button then the whip grabbing ledges with a trigger while fighting off enemies.
The game features a variety of difficulties – easy, normal, hard, and the unlockable hardcore – but there are no customizable or alternative controller schemes. Overall in settings, the options are to adjust the volume and brightness as well as to enable subtitles and the controller’s vibrations.
For gamers with visual disabilities the side scrolling game relies more on visual recognition than on audio cues for discovering secrets. Notable obstacles are seeing the “glint” that belies hidden switches and signals ledges that the whip can grasp as well as a visual warning that precedes enemies’ unblockable attacks. These glints pose barriers for gamers with visual disabilities, who will find it hard to recognize a pinpoint of light that is “shining” (especially in the midst of combat) in order to progress the game—as responding to these glints is necessary to navigate platforms or have success in combat by dodging rather than blocking. Additionally, Trevor’s special abilities are light-blue- and shadow-red- magic that are triggered with the controller’s bumpers. When enabled, a magical flame surrounds Trevor that is only differentiated by its color but assigned to different bumpers. However, each boss fight requires that the player use the opposite of the magic type of the boss, who constantly switches between magic types. This requires the player to change their magic to be the opposite of the boss throughout the fight. For the menus, most items are represented in unique icons, but the traditional Castlevania gothic text is cramped with hard to read flourishes.
Other special moves, such as equipping the correct ability or having the needed equipment to reach locked areas, are clearly delineated visually by specifically shaped walls, such as an iron ring or a wolf’s head. Additionally, the 3DS functionality of taking notes in-game is carried over onto the consoles, allowing disabled gamers to note the locations of secret areas on the in-game map with any text written by the gamer.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate HD is most accessible for deaf and hard of hearing gamers. The side scrolling game does not rely heavily on audio cues to announce approaching enemies or impact the gamer’s understanding of the environment while exploring. Subtitles clearly depict all dialogue which occurs during dedicated cut scenes, not simultaneously during gameplay sequences. In fact, an audio cue for a timer is also provided visually with an hourglass counting down the available time.
Overall, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate HD provides obstacles for disabled gamers with fine motor or visual disabilities due to an increasing complexity of gameplay button presses with no controller customization options and an increasing need to interact based on potentially unclear visual cues. Deaf and hard of hearing gamers experience an accessible game that brings a side scrolling action game to the consoles that inherently does not require the audio cues common for open, 3D worlds.
A free demo gives disabled gamers the opportunity to have firsthand experience with the gameplay’s accessibility with their individual disability related needs. Simply note that any difficulties become more pronounced later in the game. For disabled gamers for whom the game is accessible, the game continues the much discussed Castlevania: Lords of Shadow story while returning the 3D action franchise to its roots as a 2D side scrolling game that includes puzzle and platforming segments. Unlockable features such as Boss Rush Mode and Hardcore difficulty provide classic reasons to replay for the 100% completion that proves mastery of the game.
Overall Rating: Partially Accessible
Visual Rating: Partially Accessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Partially Accessible
Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Released For: Xbox 360, PS3
ESRB Rating: M
GameInformer Score: 8.50
The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate HD
-Distinct icons in menus.
“Glint” in combat signals unblockable attacks.
-Trevor’s special abilities differentiated by color.
-Text hard to read.
– Combat initially provides abilities that assist both combat and platoforming.
– No controller customization options.
-Combat increasingly requires particular button presses.
-Platforming requires careful timing and alternating button presses.
– Subtitles provided.
– Subtitles difficult to read at times.
This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.