Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dracula's Curse

Sometimes the path our lives take is automatically shaped by those who gave us life in the first place. It's not unusual for a child to end up becoming a similar person to how their father or mother was. On the other end, it's also not unusual for a child to fight to become a completely different person than their parent(s), removing all shackles of similarity and relation. However, the effect a parent has on their child could also be akin to a curse at times. Sometimes the wrongdoings of a parent may go unpaid for by them directly, becoming a sort of plague on their child, continuously haunting them throughout their life. But by a textbook definition, a parent is there to leave a positive impact on you, and influence you in a way that will ensure you the best possible life. That's not the case if your parent happens to be Dracula


- Mirror of Fate's plot revolves around the central theme of "the sins of the father." Whereas the original Lords of Shadow introduced players to Gabriel Belmont, the man who would go on to become Dracula in this revamped Castlevania universe, Mirror of Fate introduced us to the seeds of his cursed blood: Simon, Trevor and Alucard. Yes, in this universe, Simon and Trevor are actually part of Dracula's bloodline, with Trevor being Gabriel's son and Simon his grandson. And it gets better, with the revelation that Alucard is actually Trevor Belmont (I'll get to that in a bit!), making the Belmonts' battle against Dracula even more personal and profoundly tragic. I really appreciate this new origin for the Belmonts. They were no longer just go-to heroes seen by people as the only ones that can stop Dracula, now they were actually directly related to him by blood, chained together by a quest for vengeance. And their conflict against the Prince of Darkness was even more engaging thanks to the fact.

MercurySteam decided to tell this tale of revenge in a very clever way, too. Taking a Memento-style approach, Mirror of Fate's plot played out backwards, taking players across different time periods as they jumped from Belmont to Belmont. For the purpose of this piece looking back at the game, to commemorate its HD release this week, I'll be looking at the chapters in chronological order.

It all starts with Gabriel Belmont in the game's prologue segment. Taking place a year before the events of the original Lords of Shadow, we see how and why the Br0therhood of Light took away Gabriel and Marie's child, Trevor; a child Gabriel had no idea existed at all. The Brotherhood told Marie of Gabriel's fate, as it was shown to them, and how Trevor will be the only one that could stop him in the future. This prologue sequence then goes on to put us in the role Gabriel, showing his first run-in with the Daemon Lord.Though he did defeat him, by casting a spell with his own blood and showing that he can be a Pokemon master one day (he really does conceal him in a round object), the confrontation leaves Gabriel wounded. This marks a significant event since the Daemon Lord becomes a personified "sin" of sorts that will await the arrival of his descendants in the titular castle. It wouldn't be unwise to expect the monster to return in next year's 2.

Then we have the story of Dracula's curse, personified in the form of his own son, Trevor. Trevor leaves behind his wife, Sypha, and son, Simon, to embark on a quest that will hopefully (for him) end with his combat cross impaled into Dracula's heart; an act of revenge for killing his mother, Marie. As expected, things go awry. Trevor battles his way through Dracula's castle and battles his creatures of the night, with the return of the Daemon Lord from his father's previous venture. Their face-off is pretty darn awesome, resulting in the beast's defeat, as is the battle with the Lady in the Crypt, but it would've been even better if it weren't restricted to an abundance of quick time events. Despite that, Trevor's story is still my favorite. Trevor also ends up confronting the Lost Soul, who tells him that he won't succeed in his mission. After hearing this, Trevor destroys part of the Lost Soul's face, making it unable to speak anymore. Trevor's story ends up packing the biggest emotional punch thanks to Trevor's tragic fate in the end, which results in another tear-inducing scene with Gabriel as he watches his son die in his arms, rivaling the ending of the first . And this is where the big twist comes in, one that could've completely failed had it been in less capable hands.

Trevor Belmont becomes Alucard.

This wasn't exactly that much of shocking development when you think about it, what with Trevor being confirmed as Gabriel's son pre-release. Sure, the thought of Trevor Belmont and Alucard being the same person can seem baffling to longtime fans of the series. But in the Lords of Shadow universe, it works out very conveniently, resulting in a version of Alucard that, dare I say, I ended up loving more than the original timeline one. Not only that, but one look at both Trevor and Alucard's outfits should garner quite an eye-brow-raising sense of similarity. Right from the moment images for both characters were released, I firmly believed the game's big twist would be that Trevor would end up becoming Alucard. Despite this lack of total surprise, this revelation was still effective and evoked a strong emotional response from me. I felt really bad seeing Gabriel cowered over his son's body. After having lost his wife and failing to bring her back, he wasn't going to let his son's loss fly. So he turns him into a vampire, bringing his own blood curse to life fully, resulting in this universe's Alucard. From that moment on, Trevor/Alucard's fight against Dracula became even more personal and tragic.

Then we got MercurySteam's version of Simon Belmont. Simon is one of gaming's iconic figures, so it's safe to assume MercurySteam feared the wrath of legions of blood-thirsty fans waiting for their heads if they ruined their beloved, super-manly vampire hunter. Luckily for the talented team, they got it right, offering a different take on the character while still maintaining aspects of his classic version, Scottish influence aside. Simon's story feels quite classic and nostalgic. What with him actually battling his way through exterior areas before entering the castle, as well as utilizing classic sub-weapons and confronting a couple of classic baddies along the way. Simon's story was also one of revenge, starting with him having a nightmarish flashback where his mom is killed by monsters in the woods when they were fleeing after Trevor left them. He ventures into Dracula's castle to search for his father, who went missing when he was still a young lad. Before leaving for his own fight against Dracula, Trevor left Simon a piece of a magical mirror, which he proudly wears around his neck. This brings the Lost Soul into play, a cloaked entity seemingly connected with the titular Mirror of Fate. The Lost Soul shows Simon that his father's combat cross is somewhere in the castle. After obtaining the weapon, he get its stolen by one of Zobek's necromancers (serving as the traditional "Death" fight), who claims that it's needed for his master (a plot point that's sure to be major in 2). After beating him he obtains the cross once more, and ultimately ends up confronting Dracula in his classic throne room (after a brilliant fight with the Succubus). But Simon wasn't alone. Throughout his quest, Alucard was aiding him in the shadows, and he joins him in that pivotal battle against Dracula.

Alucard's story is my second favorite in the game. It felt the most like his beloved sophomore outing, Symphony of the Night, what with a healthy dose of back-tracking, more so than the other playable characters. Throughout his story, Alucard would help Simon out in key moments, like the big fight in the Toy Maker's (who will play a larger role in 2) domain. Alucard's was also a revenge-fueled quest, with memory of his past life as Trevor Belmont seemingly wiped away until the Lost Soul shows him the truth. The Daemon Lord also returns for a rematch against Trevor in his new vampiric form, which doesn't end too pleasantly for the beast. Alucard's adventure results in an epic handicap match between himself, teaming up with Simon, against Dracula himself. Dracula is defeated in the end of this thrilling battle, but Alucard points out how his "death" wasn't fitting for a vampire, aware that he will return once more.

While it may not be numbered, Mirror of Fate is a crucial part of the trilogy. It followed up Gabriel Belmont/Dracula's origin story by letting fans play though the Belmont family's main generational one-man wars against the Price of Darkness. While the mixed will have you think otherwise, Mirror of Fate is one of the best in the series, weaving a solid and tragic tale about a family cursed by a man who loses everything, and yet gains everything in terms of power and immortality. Like I said in my review of the game's original 3DS release, Mirror of Fate is a beautiful modernization of the old-school style of the series, mixed with just the right amount of Symphony of the Night-inspired elements. This is the template I would love to see Konami use for future side-scrolling entries after Mercury Steam unfortunately departs from the franchise.

And this generation's finest family feud will continue when 2 hits early next year. Players will once again take on the role of Gabriel Belmont (in full Dracula mode, as well as a weakened one in modern times), with Alucard, a young Trevor and Victor Belmont all caught up in what's sure to be another epic tale in this grande finale.

The daddy issues ain't over yet.

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