Review: Castlevania: Harmony of Despair

Konami’s Castlevania series is one that the majority of hardcore gamers hold dear to their heart. There’s just something about its gameplay, cast of interesting and dynamic enemies, and each version’s protagonist keeps us entertained for hours.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is an exclusive Xbox LIVE Arcade title that brings all of these recognizable elements to the Xbox 360 along with some new things such as the updated map system & multiplayer for up to 6 players. The game sounds like a dream come true, but does it end up being a nightmare?

In Castlevania: HD, there’s no real story to speak of compared to previous Castlevania games. Instead, you’re given access to five characters from various Castlevania titles throughout the years. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses in how they move, fight, and their special abilities. Certain characters also are only allowed a specific weapon type, which limits them further. Instead of a character based experience system, Castlevania: HD focuses on the gear you equip your characters. The gear can be purchased through the game’s shop, or by discovering them through chests that can be found in each level.  The higher the level, the better the rewards in those chests.  Players can either change their gear before entering a level, or while they’re in a level by accessing books that are strategically placed throughout the level.

Each level in Castlevania: HD has its own unique layout and style and requires you to complete within 30 minutes.  As you complete each level, the next level unlocks, but you can revisit previous levels in order to beat your completion time.  As I mentioned earlier, the map system has received an upgrade that I feel should be mimicked by other 2D platform games. During play, instead of pausing the game to access the map, you can now zoom in and out on the map in real time. Players can also play the game while they’re zoomed out, but I found it to be a little difficult to keep an eye on enemies that were my size. Although, the zooming out feature was most helpful when enemies were too big to battle while zoomed in (I’m talking really, REALLY big.)

For the first time in a Castlevania game, Castlevania: HD supports online multiplayer for up to six players. There are two multiplayer game types available: Co-op & Survival. Co-op allows you to play through any of the levels in Castlevania: HD alongside up to five other players. Each level has specific portions of the map that can only be accessed through co-op as they’re impossible to navigate to alone. Survival mode pits players against one another to see who the best 2D fighter is.  Online leaderboards is supported which it keeps a tally of your score throughout the single player, co-op, and survival modes which can be compared with your friends, as well as everyone else who has played through each mode. Konami has also promised DLC support for Castlevania: HD to include more characters and stages that will extend the life of the game post-release. I just hope that means I can get the chance to play as Grant Danasty from Castlevania III once again!

FINAL THOUGHT: Castlevania: HD is a must-buy for fans of the Castlevania series. Not only is the game fun and challenging, but the enjoyment factor increases once you play online. With an already strong cast of characters to play as and levels that will require you to play more than once, I can’t wait to see what new characters and levels Konami will offer in upcoming DLC.


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