Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is an all new type of Castlevania game, although it does share some noticeable similarities with previous Castevania titles. You control one of six vampire hunter who has traveled to Castlevania to find and defeat the dark lord. All 6 characters in the game have been protagonists in other Castlevania games such as Alucard from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. You will traverse through 6 different stages before your final confrontation with Dracula. This title doesn’t feature a story with any real depth; so, you’d have to play the game each character is from to find out their reason behind hunting down Dracula.
What Castlevania: Harmony of Despair lacks in a storyline, it helps make up for in gameplay. Although there are only 6 stages, they get considerably more difficult to progress through. You will have to make your character stronger by collecting powerful weapons, armors and accessories off of your defeated opponents. Your characters do not gain normal experience points, but they can unlock more powerful magic for collecting different items throughout the game. All of these things will help you progress through the game, but nothing will help more than teaming up with up to 5 other people at the same time.
6 player cooperative play is the biggest difference from other Castlevania games, and it is the biggest reason why you should pick up this game. With a lackluster storyline and a shortage of feelings of individual achievements, this game needed cooperative play. Some stages will separate teammates at the beginning, but there are a number of ways to meet back up with your teammates. Stages are pretty long, even with teammates, and they should take you around 15-20 minutes to complete until you’ve strengthened your character quite a bit.
Once you’ve completed the main missions of Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, you will unlock Hard mode. Hard mode is identical to Normal mode, except that enemies drop better loot, have a much greater amount of health and they deal a lot more damage with each successful attack. This makes the game enjoyable for much longer, as you search for incredibly rare items that grant you access to powerful moves and incredible stat boosts.
There is also Survival mode, which is a miniature versus mode of sorts. It places up to 6 players in a free-for-all arena against the boss of the first stage. Players then gain points by dealing damage to both the boss and other players. Whoever has the most points when the timer runs out is declared the winner. There isn’t a prize for winning besides bragging rights, and there is only one arena in the entire game. This mode was very poorly executed, and it it most commonly used as a means to boost magical powers.
The graphics in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair aren’t anything special either. At best, they look as advanced as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, an original Playstation game. The soundtrack in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is nice however. It is like a greatest hits album from past Castlevania titles, and this game series has a long history of having great music featured in its games. The rest of the game’s presentation is solid, including individual cameras for each player that can be zoomed in or out to fit the player’s preference.
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is a solid game but nothing spectacular. It does enough things right to make existing Castlevania fans love it, but it fails in a number of other key areas. The game is unlikely to draw in a new crowd, and that’s a bad thing when you consider that more recent games in the franchise have been handheld exclusives. If you haven’t played any of the newer Castlevania titles, there are probably better choices than Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.
Platforms/Release Date: Xbox 360 – August 4, 2010, Playstation 3 – September 27, 2011
Genre: Action Horror