I know the Ninja is the Castlevania Guru, but I was given a pass to review this one. This is going to be a tough one for me to review, as this may be the first game I have EVER positively reviewed on the site since its inception. However, it’s no big surprise as to why I would enjoy this game so much, as you will soon see. This is a game we may never have gotten to play, as it was exclusive to Xbox-360 (much to the Ninja’s chagrin at the time). Thankfully for us, the game was finally released on the PS3 last September, over a full year after its Xbox launch. It was definitely a WTF!? moment when we saw the game available on the PSN, since we had long forgotten about it. Was it worth the wait? Read on and find out more about one the best downloadable games you may have never played.
Harmony of Despair is not your usual Castlevania title. It is not a canon title, but more like a collaboration of numerous previous Castlevania titles. Still confused? OK, picture this. Have you ever wanted to make a Castlevania dream team? Ever wonder what would happen if Simon teamed up with Alucard to slay the foul minions of the night? How about putting Simon, Julius, and Richter Belmont together for a Belmont Brigade of Holy Cleansing? Getting the idea? That’s essentially what Harmony of Despair allows you to do. This game brings together multiple generations of vampire hunters to do battle with the dark forces of Count Dracula. Could it possibly get better? It sure as hell does.
Now as we all know, I love the old school. If you don’t, you better familiarize yourself with some of my material, because I talk about it all the time. I love the 8 and 16 bit eras. I love sprites, I love 2D platformers. Upon purchasing HoD, I figured I’d be seeing 3D characters with a bunch of new bologna to make it look more updated. Not the case! HoD retained the original character sprites! Holy crap dude… Alucard is Alucard from Symphony of the Night… Richter is in his Rondo of Blood form… Even Simon Belmont is his good old 8-bit self! My dream come true… A bunch of sprites running around stages modeled from previous Castlevania titles, fighting the old school enemy sprites of the good old days. This was shaping up to be a stellar game.
Probably the best thing about this game is the incredible replay value. To begin, you can play with up to 6 players in co-op mode to conquer these massive stages. Teamwork is especially important for particular stages as you will find out. There are a total of 11 different stages to battle through, and with two difficulty settings (normal and hard), you will be rerunning these stages over and over again.
Running stages on hard is not only an added challenge, but improves the quality of loot you acquire from treasure chests and boss battles. This gives an extra incentive to play on hard mode since you will need the best equipment to conquer the later stages on hard mode, I promise you that. Also, with 11 characters to choose from, each with different skills and abilities to develop, you can play through with multiple characters for a different experience each time around.
I only have one major qualm with this game, and that’s the item drop system. Now i’m no noob when it comes to how items generate. I played Diablo II for many years and researched the convoluted system the game uses to generate items. When I tell you that HoD has no rhythm or reason to its item drop system, I assure you there is NO RHYTHM OR REASON to it. The Ninja and I have done a great deal of research on this, and all we could dig up were theories and hypothesizes from other players, either on the internet or in actual games. Some say taking no damage will yield better items, some will tell you having zero LCK (luck statistic) is the way to go, while some argue your completion time and score (each stage has a 30 minute time limit) determine the quality of your drops. Everyone has a different story behind their method of finding rare items it seems.
Even Konami has no official information on item drops for HoD. If you’re looking for a particular rare item, good luck to you. You will be spending many many hours farming for it. I personally don’t mind farming to a point, but if we’re talking running a stage more than 50 times (some have reported it took over 200 runs to find certain items), then I’m bowing out. To me, that’s overkill. To date I am still trying to procure a Simon’s Cloak, which is easy or impossible to find depending on who you talk to.
All and all, this is a game worth picking up, whether you’re a fan of the series or not. HoD is a nice break from the modern era of action/adventure titles and brings us back to its roots. Throw in some platforming and RPG elements and you have yourself an enjoyable title that is fairly inexpensive, even if you add on all the DLC packages. I say buy it if you haven’t, and while you’re at it, come help the Ninja and I out (PSN only though, sorry Xbox people). We still have some unfinished business with this game, so feel free to join our merry band of vampire murderers.
Game Play: 3/5 – Plays well, but some maneuvers are a little tricky.
Story: 1/5 – Start a stage, kill the boss, move on to the next stage.
Visuals: 3/5 – I love them, but they are dated.
Sound: 4/5 – Great soundtrack. Loses a point for lack of a Bloody Tears track.
Replay Value: 5/5 – Very high. You’ll be logging 40+ hours, I guarantee it.