Review – Castlevania: Harmony of Despair

Castlevania HD Title

One of Xbox Live’s “Summer of Arcade” titles came out last week, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.  Being a fan of the many dungeon exploration titles from the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS,  I picked this title up with little question.  I had read prior that this title would offer a large online component to the gameplay but that only made me more excited.  Thoughts of exploring dungeons with others in a large HD-res Castlevania would be awesome.  Unfortunately, that’s not what this game is.

From the main menu you are given two options of play, Single and Multiplayer.  Let me first say, forget the Single Player mode even exists.  Playing through an entire level by yourself is slow, boring and sometime extremely difficult (and not in a fun way).  So that leaves us with Multiplayer.  Co-op mode allows you and five friends or strangers to crawl the different rooms search for the final boss of that stage.  My first reaction to all this was,  “Where’s the story?”.  Well back out to the main menu go to the help section and there you will find this information.

“Your ultimate goal in this game is to destroy Castlevania, a ghoulish citadel which has manifested it’s self within the pages of the cursed Grimoire. Within each chapter lies a twisted re-imagining of one of the castle’s prior incarnations, guarded by a boss symbolising that particular area.”

Further you can obtain information of the Grimoire

“A cursed book within which lies the sum of all Castlevania’s history–as well as in incarnation of the castle itself. Fortunately, the forces of good which have time and again been the castle’s undoing are also recorded within these pages.  Borrow their power and forever erase Castlevania from this unholy tome.”

So this is Konami’s explanation as to why all these characters are in one place fighting against Castlevania.  It’s little but it will have to do.  Once you have found a group to play with, you select one of five characters (weird since there are six players) and a choice of eight color palettes.  Then you can equip your character with items bought or obtained but that will become more useful after you have played a couple games.  Onward to the gameplay!

Castlevania HD

You can even play the game in this view

The game is broken up into six “chapters” or stages.  At the beginning of each stage you are given a zoomed out view of the stage followed by an target indicator as to where the boss is hiding.  If you have a full party of six then you will be broken up into several groups with different starting points.  This creates the illusion that team-work is involved,  but often you will find players trying to rush to the boss on their own (experience may vary based on who you’re playing with).  After fighting through many monsters and opening the path to the boss your are tasked with taking him down.  After playing a boss battle once you will quickly remember its attacks as their is little variety.  After defeating the boss you are brought to a results screen where you are given a score and then wait for the next level to start.  This is also where you buy new items and equip your character.  I found it annoying that I could not equip my character on-the-fly in game (you can at the starting points).  I found that items i obtained while in-game were more powerful then the ones that could be bought so I think it is best to save your money for health related items.

Castlevania HD Jonathan

My character of choice, Jonathan

When it comes to leveling up your character, each one is different.  In my short time with the game I have played only as Jonathan.  His level is raised by the amount you use his sub-weapons (knives, axes, boomerangs).  The higher level your sub-weapons are the more powerful your whip becomes.  Other character have different leveling styles.

The graphics are all 2-D sprites ripped from the portable games.  No HD upgrades here but you are able to zoom out to the full map by pressing the right analog stick in.  Fans of the series may enjoy seeing their favorite characters in their original form but I was a bit surprised by this.

Overall I think this game was enjoyable for what it is, a online beat-em up.  If you are expecting anything like Castlevania you will be sorely disappointed.  Also I think this game is very overpriced at $15.  Too bad this is one of Microsoft’s toted “Summer of Arcade” titles. Check out the video quick look below.

Written by Bryan

GD Star Rating

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