Hi again folks! This week my colleague RAD has brought us a review of the XBLA download “Castlevania: Harmony of Despair”. He’s not a full-fledged contributor yet so I’m putting it up for him on this page. Show some love so he keeps on writing for us!
I have no idea what Konami’s Castlevania team was taking when they envisioned Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (HoD), but as a veteran Castlevania nut I can safely say I wish they’d taken more. HoD creates a unique Castlevania experience both homogenous and foreign to all of Castlevaniadom.
For only $15 on the Xbox Live Arcade, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair creates a unique and fulfilling gaming experience out of what, at first, seems like a hodgepodge mashup of prior 2D Castlevanias.
While at first the game looks like it was slapped together using old levels, one begins to see level design themes that have been transposed directly from the 2D Castlevanias dating back to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night matching boss and enemy themes.
Along with level design the six vampire hunters from these games are all included for the battle against Dracula and his minions.
Each character’s techniques and abilities, along with equipment (for the most part) are exactly what you’ve come to expect of them from their respective games. Soma from Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, for example, still collects the souls of his enemies while Shanoa from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia uses her power of Magnes to hop around on magnets stationed throughout the levels.
What makes this game stand out from other downloadable arcade games on the Xbox is the multiplayer. With the ability to host up to six vampire hunters at a time boss-rushing and castle-looting gets very intense very quickly.
On the opposite end of the spectrum: the game becomes considerably less fun when playing alone, not to say that it is no fun at all, but without a partner to help you reach the treasure only about 75% of any level is available to the single player.
Unlike past games your vampire hunter does not gain experience from slaughtering baddies. Instead different characters evolve their abilities either by collecting them throughout the levels or through repeated use.
Of course there is an equipment system and shop readily available to the player looking to buff up his character, which is a good thing because almost immediately you will realize that better equipment is needed in order for you to succeed. So begins an endless cycle of boss-farming and loot-running in order to progress further.
The steep learning and statistical curve sucks players in and always leaves them wanting just a little bit more, I mean that sword has to drop one of these times, am I right?
If six levels seems small to you, you obviously haven’t played them yet. Each level has a half hour time limit set on it and, believe me, when you’re just starting to go through it you need more time than that. Each level is capped with a different boss dating back to a prior Castlevania, eventually leading up to Dracula himself. Then, once you’ve finally beaten Dracula and cleared out his castle hard mode comes and it’s a whole new ballgame with even better equipment.
While Castlevania: Harmony of Despair does create a beautifully unique experience, its single-player experience leaves something to be desired. I eagerly await a sequel, should Konami decide to make one.