The lights are on
The 3DS' Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate is the first in the series to be developed outside of Konami's internal studio. MercurySteam, the developer behind the successful franchise reboot, is taking the helm on this portable entry featuring Dracula's kin. We spoke with producer Dave Cox about everything from story details to his personal thoughts on the Castlevania franchise. He even hints interest in rebooting another beloved Konami franchise featuring a shirtless, gun-toting duo.
From what I gather players will control Simon, Alucard, then Trevor. Is this correct? Why did you choose this order?Correct, we are telling the story backwards. We did this because there are a few surprises and few twists and turns and we wanted to maximize the impact of these on the player. The ending in particular, is a very powerful moment and this would have been diminished if it had happened chronologically.
A very nice side effect is that when you play through the game again, you really see hidden depth and nuances you wouldn’t have picked up the first time around. I think doing it this way, keeps the player guessing until the end and delivers a really powerful and unexpected conclusion to the game.
In the beginning of the game, Gabriel hunts and evil creature and traps its essence in a metal sphere. Can you offer more context for this?This creature is a powerful demon whose fate is deeply intertwined with that of the Belmont clan. This game is one that tackles the subject of fate and how fate and destiny are the ties that bind us all. What Gabriel does has big repercussions across the ages and I think this aspect of the story amplifies Gabriel's own fate as he becomes Dracula...That what we do in life has consequences that will affect many things not least those who are close to us and we can never know the true results of these consequences or how deep they will go.
Early on, Simon fights a cloaked wraith wielding a scythe that seems to know his father. It’s never explicitly said, but is this Death?This character is a necromancer who is under the control of Zobek. Zobek if you recall, was one of the Lords of Shadow from the first game. He is Death in this universe. He will play a very prominent role in what is to come but to answer your question, this is not THE death..
Zobek is not exactly the same character as the Death character from the old series either, he is a kind of amalgam of Death and Shaft rolled into one.
The portal hub in the game are arranged in such a way that backtracking has been minimized. Was the goal to make the game slightly more linear without doing so in an obvious way?Not really, we wanted to make a game where the player could explore but it’s not the main focus of the game for us. This is an action combat game more than anything else. Some players like to explore and some don’t, so we offer a teleport system for those who want to get around a bit quicker and move forward with the adventure if they wish. It's all about giving the players the option and freedom to choose.
How long do you expect the game to take most players to complete?During testing the average first play through was 16 hours but this wasn’t collecting everything 100%. So on average you would be looking at around 20 hours to get everything 100%. Of course, everyone is different as some have completed it quicker than that and some longer but this is a good ball park.
As a fan of the Castlevania series yourself, do you hope to see more traditional Symphony of the Night-style games in the future, even if they don’t come from MercurySteam?I don’t see Symphony as a “traditional” Castlevania game to be honest. I suppose for a lot of younger players it is. I guess for me being of a certain age, I grew up with and loved the original Castlevania games of the 1980’s and its those games that have inspired me and the team in creating the Lords of Shadow series. I think Mirror of Fate has more in common with those games than Symphony or the games that followed it.
That’s not to say there aren’t some influences from the later games or that we don’t like them or anything like that, no... but this game has been more heavily inspired by Castlevania 3, Dracula’s Curse than anything else, I would say.
I was inspired playing those classic games to work in video games and more importantly to work at Konami. As a producer and studio head now who has been working in the industry for 25 years, you hope that the next generation of game makers will come along and be inspired too.
Whoever comes after us, I wish them nothing but the best and hope they will realize their vision and their ideas. Don’t be afraid to put your own stamp on things, you’ve worked hard to get to this point, now is your opportunity, take it...you’ve earned it..
Portable Castlevania games traditionally have some sort of new game plus mode or unlockable character. Is anything like this planned for Mirror of Fate?No. We have put everything into the game that we felt was important. We have a story to tell with these characters and we wanted to focus on telling that story not padding things out. I think when players have finished the game a few times they will be totally satisfied.
You mentioned that you and MercurySteam may step back from the Castlevania series after Lords of Shadow 2. What other developer would you like see handle the series, or would you prefer to see more in-house Konami titles?Yes, after Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 we will step away and let someone else carry the torch, so to speak. Honestly I don’t have a strong opinion on it who it might be. There are a lot of talented developers out there who could bring their own influence on the series and make a success of it.
What other types of games are you interested in producing in the future? Any other franchises you’d like to help reboot?I am a big fan of the Contra series and would love the chance to bring it back into the light of mainstream gaming where it truly belongs. That’s my dream! :-)
Do you have a favorite track from the Castlevania series?I like Vampire Killer in all its various versions and I adore the entire soundtrack of Super Castlevania IV. It’s my favourite Castlevania soundtrack. I like “Belmont’s Theme” from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and there are some wonderful pieces from Mirror of Fate too. I also like the OST to Symphony of the Night but mostly the orchestral pieces which are fantastic.
The Castlevania series is filled with tons of memorable bosses and enemies. Which is your favorite?I like Medusa when she appears especially in Dracula’s Curse and Igor and Frankenstein in the original game, but I guess my favorite boss would be Dracula himself.
Click here to read my massive list ranking the Castlevania games.