jessicaboo's Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

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Castlevania: HD. The Good the Bad and the Undead.

     

Castlevania: HD.
Castlevania: HD.

Sitting down to play Castlevania: Harmony of Dispair, I was excited to play a new side-scrolling Castlevania in the style of Metriod. All the way back to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Konami has been delivering  ways to keep fans interested, and intrigued when playing each new interaction of this style of gameplay. 
 
After a while however, with this installment, I feel confused. I want to like it, but there are so many drawbacks to it as well. 
  

Graphics

  
Visually, this game looks good. Zooming In and out with the click of the right stick looks good and the transition is well done. However while some of the enemy sprites looks good, a lot of them seem to look like they've been ripped right out of a DS game. Having multiple players on screen as well as enemies seems to not lag or bog down the gameplay at all. In fact, with all 6 players on screen, in different parts of the map doing different things, does not seem to be any slow down of any sort. Which is good of course if you are wanting to get a full party of people together for a game.  The drawback to all of this of course is the unpolished look of the sprites. This is something they could have polished a bit better concidering under XBLA the title it's classified as Castlevania:HD. 
 
Gameplay.

 
This is where all the action is at, while single player is ok and still fun, the BEST way to enjoy this game is with multiple people.  
 With different types of mechanics like levers to help pull your friends up or over bridges, to helping defeat the end stage boss

with the help of a  gaint spine cord hammer, this is where your going to sink a nice heafty chunk of time into. Throughout the stage there are chests which contain gold, weapons, armour, and other little goodies to help satisfy that loot monger inside of you. As well as to keep you playing through multiple times to find that special loot piece that's better than what you have.  
 

Full map view.
Full map view.

The good thing about grabbing a chest is that even if you grab it everyone who is on the map no matter if they are near or far get    the benefits of the spoils within each chest. 
 
However I've found a lot of repeats on levels and from what it seems like so far not all characters are created equal, or more sence, are given equal types of loot. While people like Soma Cruz and Alucard have tons of different items like weapons, and armour. Characters such as Jonathan Morris however do not.   
  
The trade so far with the sole Whip weilder is that he does have access to various types of sub weapons. Things like hand grenades and wrecking balls you swing around your head are very useful as well as the classics such as the knife and the axe. 
 
 Other characters like Shanoa and Charlotte, the two mage style characters have the ability to cling onto spheres that hang in the air to propel themselves higher to a spot where another character may not be able to access. The two Vampires types have the ability to use enemie powers ( Soma) and shape shift ( Alucard) where as John Morris is kind of your standard, however he can flail his whip around manually, which oddly enough can help in certain situations. 
 
Another interesting aspect when playing with muliple people is the Duel attack. A attack done when two people have full energy(which regenerates at that) and press the RT to deliver a cool looking and often if done right a huge damage boost. 
The downside to this is some of these attacks require you to be in a short range visinity of the boss or thing your trying to kill. 
 

Boss fights are fun!.
Boss fights are fun!.

The boss fights are fun , and can become even more fun and chaotic with more people. These bosses however are not new, many of these bosses have been included in various other castlevania games, but they each have been tweeked a little to make use of the map this time around. When a boss is defeated a chest drops from him similar to many types of RPG's, and everyone receives an item, unless of course, you are a skeleton, which is what happends when you die, in which you still can attack until revived. Then you get boned out of an item.  
 

There are 6 stages in total, each with a theme and its own metriodvania style map. It's kind of like a mix of the older games in the series like Castlevania 3, Bloodlines, Rondo of Blood. Mixed with map styles of the newer games, such as portrait of ruin, and order of ecclesia .  

Menus 
 
This is where everything goes bad. While playing the game is fun, getting to the game and inbetween is a pain in the ass. While you can change music of each level, you cannot change music of the menus which is probabaly the worse music in the game. While it has your standard Single Player and Multiplayer menus with options and achievements, navigating through them feels like a chore. 
 

Jumps can be tricky.
Jumps can be tricky.

While Multiplayer is key to this game there seems to be a few problems. Getting online requires you to pick the type you want, creating, joining, or quick match, then it brings you to a menu which asks if you want 'Your country' or 'Worldwide'  and THEN it brings to to a list of people after a few minutes of annoyingly watching blank pages flip forever until it connects. A lof of this would have benefited from just all being on one page. 
  
The other biggest problem with all of this is if you try to connect to anyone and it fails, you are brought all the way back to THE MAIN MENU. Not the Multiplayer menu, in which you have to do everything all over again. Which can be fustrating if your unable to join a game for the 3rd or 4th time.  Other things like the equip menu and shop menu, which I find, depending on the character is pointless to buy any upgrades when you can get them from drops could be handled better and a lot less confusing. As well as simple things as picking a character could be made a bit simpler.   

Music

 
As with any Castlevania game, the music kicks ass. With exception to a few tracks, each level and song is pure guitar shredding castlevania music which reminds me Trans Syberian Orchestra, only doing  Castlevania covers. Just awesome all around. 
 
Over all I like it and would recommend it if you enjoy Castlevania, and multiplayer, but this game is far from what it could have been but if you enjoy boss hunting,loot, and doing it all with 5 other people online, then I'd say try it. However, if your looking for a rich story driven Castlevania like past titles. Your out of luck.

Other reviews for Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (Xbox 360 Games Store)

    Co-op can't save everything 0

    The Castlevania franchise has been incredibly stubborn when it comes to trying new things, but I thought that with a new-found focus on cooperative play that all might change with Harmony of Despair. And it kind of does- but unfortunately the changes are all for the worst. Harmony of Despair can be an okay time waster when played with a few friends, but the low quality of the game itself makes it one that is very hard to recommend otherwise.  First and foremost, all of the traditional strengths ...

    5 out of 5 found this review helpful.

    Overdosing on loot and Somas (Cruz) 0

    I’ve spent the last few days indulging in Harmony of Despair and I’m still not exactly certain what exactly Harmony of Despair is trying to be. Is it supposed to be a Diablonian gear-driven fire sale? A co-op adventure where players are made to work together to reach a common, anti-vampire goal? A developer trying to showcase as much low-resolution art on a single screen as humanly possble? An attempt to fill my heart with as much despair as humanly possible? A harmony of desperate guitar riffs?...

    6 out of 8 found this review helpful.

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