Review XBLA: Castlevania Harmony of Despair

Castlevania Harmony of Despair is not for the faint of heart. With monsters, labyrinths of platforms and that almost un-beatable end of level boss, Castlevania leaves most gamers furious in its wake.

You have three modes to chose from, Single player, Co-op (2-6 players) and Survival mode (Versus multiplayer). The Single player campaign seemingly doesn’t want you to progress past the second level as a lot of switches and puzzle elements are multiplayer designed, plus the boss is too strong for just one player. This causes abit of a slope in enjoyment but if you get online and battle it out with other keen players you can end up having alot of good fun and get further into what the game really has to offer.

At the menu screen you’ll need to select one of five players that are available, there are some more recognisable cult characters to choose from but become unlocked when playing throughout the game. Each character has their own unique set of weapons, armour, abilities and spell combos to wield and all the characters pros and cons are balanced well between might and magic, which leads to some great varieties of teams online. You can switch between any of the  characters before taking off into battle or you can try and raise that characters attack spells or skills by killing foes while playing the chapters, there’s also a shop to purchase additional equipment if you have the gold or you can find apparel in chests or looted from fallen creatures. The main menu option is where you can also change or equip the things you have found or bought, offensive or defensive, and you can also check Compendiums or change the games settings.

When you start the game there’s some basic movements to grasp before you tackle Castlevania’s maze of paths and obstacles, then there’s the fighting moves and spells to learn and wield. The analogue stick is used to move left or right, A button is used to jump then again for a double jump, the RB button is used to block, X and Y are your attack buttons and will activate what weapons you have equipped into those slots and the D-pad is used injunction with the spell casting. Easy it may sound but blowing away those 2D Vampire hunting cobwebs again can be difficult in this game. If indeed you are finding it hard you’ll have to resort to plundering chests for essential stat boosting equipment and items within the first level as you defiantly need them for Castlevania’s line-up of resurrected PITA bosses – prepare for each of the level’s happy suicide surprise time, as I like to call them.

Unlike the structures of Castlevania games past this one reveals the entire map straight away and gives you an idea of your task ahead as there’s no shrouded areas. As you scan over these cool labyrinth levels and get stuck in with your mates you’ll instantly rejoice a little inside, especially when that same friend gets lost and cornered by Minotaur’s, Again. The levels are dived into six huge platform mazes that you’ll fight, jump and plunder your way through for at least thirty minutes every chapter. I imagine this will cause problems for some gamers as this title is, and thankfully, made in mind for very talented and persistent players. Every level has a couple of cliché traps lined-up for you in the familiar gothic fashion of spikes and flame contraptions but the foes themselves are the actual challenge.

Classically the old favourites like Mermen, Zombie’s, Skeleton’s, minotaur’s amongst others, are can be easily dealt with using perfect timed precision, but it’s the end of level bosses which are truly suicide educing monsters. So prepare to die, prepare to die alot and then expect to die after that when facing all these bosses but have hope after two hours of getting your assed kicked you may have gathered enough crap to sell to buy something half-descent to finish that git off with.

The amount of items floating about in the game is quite generous but there isn’t much character stat progression or visual change alongside the collecting of items, so most of your success hangs on what items you have, leaving the game a bit bland in that area. The only other slight problem aspect Castvania has is hinged on the games graphics, visually nothing much has been improved and it seems they’ve simply imported ideas from other titles, but nether the less the magic of the game stays within that anyway. As well as that if you look at the detail of the levels and monsters it’s aged well and keeps alot of its intricacy – overall this doesn’t hamper the experience at all it keeps it original and true.

I’m really enjoying Harmony of Despair even though it’s a hard game to conquer but the Co-op feature makes this Castlevania even more worthy of a purchase, even for the fans who are weary of the changes that have been made to the way the levels compensate more for more players. As the difficulty is quite high it puts it way out of the reach of many gamers and the game does focus’ a little too much on the multiplayer aspects so it needs those players it’s losing, which does reflect badly on the Single player campaign when you want to play alone, leaving it a bit unbearable.

Otherwise its – great bosses, some good changes and a whole load of Capes.

Score: 7/10

Publisher: Konami

Developer: Konami

Genre: Action Adventure

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