Genre: Action Developer: Publisher: Classification: M Release Date: 12th Aug 2010 Platforms:
Login to submit your review score
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is the latest in the long standing series of games put out by Konami and produced by Koji Igarashi - one of the driving forces behind every Castlevania game from Symphony of the Night and onwards. Anyone familiar with the Castlevania series
will know he is not content to rest on his laurels - while fans continuously request a sequel to the SotN or Aria/Dawn of Sorrow games, he pushes his team to change up game mechanics for better or for worse.
Castlevania HD is yet another change for the series, bearing most similarity to Order of Ecclesia - the third DS game and most linear of the series. Like OoE, Castlevania HD features specific set levels as opposed to one giant castle and a high difficulty compared to other games since the beginning of Igarashiís tenure. Like OoE, Castlevania HD is an attempt to combine elements of the old school side scrolling Castlevania games and the newer, more exploration based Castlevania games. The problem for Castlevania HD lies in which elements it combines.
Older games like Vampireís Kiss (re-released as Rondo of Blood on the PSPís Dracula X Chronicles) and Draculaís Curse were phenomenally difficult and incredibly unforgiving, with almost impossible to notice secret areas and limited health recovery options. I still remember unlocking Hard mode in Draculaís Curse the first time and wondering how they could possibly make it more difficult (I quickly found out.)
The newer games were much easier - especially those for the DS and Gameboy Advance. With their focus on RPG platforming they usually included elements of grinding - whether for souls in the aforementioned Aria/Dawn of Sorrow games or items and experience in Portrait of Ruin and Circle of the Moon. They also included a large variety of additional extras to unlock and play after finishing the game - Different characters, Boss Rush and Time Attack modes and often some sort of increased difficulty option.
Castlevania HD primarily combines the difficulty of the older games with the grinding of the newer ones, with a time limit thrown in for good measure. Playing through the levels with one of the five different characters, you have a limited time to work your way through to the boss and defeat it. Grinding is certainly the name of the game with the three male characters - Alucard and Soma both need money to buy weapons and Jonathan grows stronger the more he uses his sub-weapons.
The girls seem to need luck more than anything else - both start off weak and donít really gain strength until acquiring spells or glyphs - Charlotte randomly absorbs the attacks of her enemies when she blocks and while Shanoa can absorb spells off some monsters by
pressing up (not many at all) she gains her weapon glyphs randomly from the treasure chests bosses drop.
Having finished that paragraph you will now go into Castlevania HD with 100% more information than any person jumping in without reading about it, as Harmony of Despair tells you absolutely nothing at all. Itís not restricted to the different gameplay mechanics of each character either, the game seems to go out of its way to make things unintuitive. A great example would be the different types of chests. Blue chests always have Waters of Life in them in multiplayer levels, used to bring fallen comrades back to life. How can you find this out? You can guess, ask a team mate in game who knows or look it up on the internet.
Another excellent example would be the Main Menu selection at the level and character select screen. If you thought Main Menu would take you out of single player or multiplayer mode and back to the ďMain MenuĒ you would be wrong - selecting Main Menu allows you to equip your character and look at their various statistics instead. If I hadnít accidentally gone into a single player game when I wanted to play multiplayer I would currently be complaining about how you can only change your characterís equipment and view their stats once you start a level.
The multiplayer is... interesting. Itís certainly a lot of fun to play through a level with five other people and the game runs well whether you are connecting to a fellow vampire hunter in Melbourne or Copenhagen. While the available communication system - a group of all-encompassing, non-specific phrases isnít as useful as talking to your companions out loud, it puts everyone on the same level no matter where on earth they are from.
The difficulty increases with each player added, making the game extra challenging if you are still trying to figure everything out - even more if you are playing as Charlotte or Shanoa. While you might occasionally matchmake with a group of similarly skilled individuals as yourself, you are more likely to end up with one person at your level, two people who havenít stopped playing the game for a second since acquiring it and two people who have apparently never played video games before in their lives, making teamwork unlikely.
There is also a possibility of ending up in a level you donít like - like the first level after not too long. Thanks to the grinding required to get your character to an acceptable level, the levels grow stale quickly and the way each level has been cobbled together looks haphazard overall. Fans of the Castlevania music will be pleased to hear what Harmony of Despair offers, but those unfamiliar with the series might grow tired of the epic guitar riffs and cathedral music after the seventh time through the loop.
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is, overall, a game for hardcore Castlevania fans. You neednít bother picking it up if you havenít played the Castlevania games, especially (but not limited to) from Symphony of the Night onwards. The probability of you enjoying running through the maps as a variety of different people youíve never seen or played as before is minuscule.
If you arenít familiar with the difficulty of the Castlevania games previous to SotN you will probably see Castlevania HD as nothing but an exercise in frustration. If you want to get into Castlevania you can pick up the excellent Symphony of the Night from the Xbox Live Marketplace - and while it doesnít have multiplayer youíre much more likely to have a good time.