Review: Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (Xbox 360)August 2nd, 2010 | Written by Filippo Dinolfo | Topic: Reviews, Xbox 360
When we first heard of a multiplayer-focused Castlevania game slated to come out as an XBLA game during this year’s Summer of Arcade, we were skeptical to see whether or not the tried and true action/adventure style could work as a multiplayer game. For the most part, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair works, though the game does have a few rough edges.
First and foremost, we need to establish that this game really doesn’t have much of a story to speak of. If you are looking for the next chapter in the Castlevania saga, then this is not the game you should be looking towards. What this game is, in effect, is a mash-up of characters, enemies, and levels themed from past Castlevania games. A lot of what you will see in Castlevania HD will feel familiar to you, though there are a few new elements brought in for this new take on the Castlevania series.
There are three modes available in the game. One Single Player mode and Two Multiplayer modes. If you have played any of the previous Castlevania games on the DS, GBA, or PS1 then you will know what to expect here. You choose a character, then choose a Chapter to play through. You’ll then be tasked with defeating a giant boss monster. Along the way you’ll pick up items, skills, gold, and all the things you’ve come to expect from the now classic 2D action/adventure series. What you will not find is a lot of story or dialog. Each level is effectively a self contained adventure. All you need to do is get to the end.
There are six playable characters in Castlevania HD, each of them from a different Castlevania game. For the most part they play similarly, though they do differ when it comes to their unique abilities. Alucard has his shape shifting abilities, Soma can summon enemies he defeats, etc. It all works very well and is fairly intuitive. That is to be expected at this point. It would be a huge disappointment if Konami somehow managed to mess up the mechanics that have served them so well in the past. Thankfully this hasn’t happened and Castlevania HD plays as you would expect it to.
That said, Castlevania HD is not meant to be a single player game. You can play the game in Cooperative mode, or play a Survival mode where you try to be the last one standing. Each of these two game modes can be played with up to six players. In Coop mode each player starts the game in a different part of the map, and the goal is to converge on and defeat the boss. The levels are laid out to allow for players to cooperate to reach hard to get to areas. Players can even combine their skills to perform a Dual Crush move, dealing out some serious damage to any baddies unfortunate enough to be in the way.
If one player dies, another can revive them and keep them in the game. This is a nice change, since in the prior games death meant an instant end to the game. Survival mode is a bit different. Players can turn against one another and fight to the death. As fun as this might sound, it didn’t feel very satisfying. The group we were playing with wasn’t really feeling it either, and after a few minutes we went back to co-op.
If there is any real problem with the multiplayer modes, it’s the lag. The games we were able to find all had mixed results. Some played smoothly, and some did not. As it is always with network connectivity, your mileage may vary.
With only six chapters to play through, you might think that Castlevania HD is a short game. Compared to the previous games it is. The game Is not meant to have the epic scale of the previous single player games, but instead bring that classic 2D gameplay style into a multiplayer game. With a good group of friends it is very possible to get through all six chapters in one sitting, but even if you do that there is enough reason to go back to try to find the numerous secrets. Downloadable levels may also be a possibility as well.
Castlevania HD’s presentation is quite good. One minor annoying thing is the default camera view makes everything look very small. Thankfully you can zoom into three times the normal size and play the game with sprites that are sized more appropriately. The environments and enemies all look good, the pixel art looks surprisingly crisp on a HDTV. This was a pleasant surprise for us. The game’s sound is top quality. Particularly the goth-rock soundtrack that they went for in this game. A lot of it sounds familiar, but given the series tendency of including influences from previous games in the series this shouldn’t be that surprising.
If you have been waiting for another 2D Castlevania game with an epic quest to complete, sadly Castlevania: Harmony of Despair isn’t the game for you. If, on the other hand, you’ve wanted a multiplayer cooperative action adventure game to play with your friends, then this one has quite a bit to offer. The Survival mode may not be the game’s strongest point, but co-op mode makes up for it. Castlevania HD is essentially the gameplay you know and love, without any of the back story. Hopefully Konami will consider doing a full 2D single player Castlevania game in the future.