|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Konami||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: August 4, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-6||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Though the different views sound like a small feature, it is these small touches that give Castlevania: Harmony of Despair its great gameplay. For example, the gameplay is improved by the presence of "safe" rooms where characters can equip and use items. These rooms are smartly done, as you don't want members of your team suddenly stopping mid-level to equip every item they find or check their character's stats. Although there are only a handful of safe rooms in each level, they are frequent enough that you should be able to navigate to one easily if you (or your team) decide to use some newfound items.
In addition to the straight-up co-op mode, there is also a competitive mode that pits you against up to five players. The competitive mode adds a nice bonus to the gameplay, but the real replay value will come from the cooperative modes. Not only do you get the shared experience of playing through Castlevania, but you can build your characters quickly through cooperative play and discover more items. If you are like me, you hate leaving any item unclaimed in RPG-style games, so if you are trying to unlock everything, you'll need to play through the game several times.
The visuals in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair recall older titles. The entire visual scheme is pixel-based, but like the BlazBlue and King of Fighters series, the pixels are small and make up a gorgeous and unique picture. The only qualm I had with the visuals was the way the look of the game changed when you switched from the full to the zoomed-in view. Although animations were smooth throughout, when the game is zoomed-in, some areas appear blocky. Still, these occasional hiccups never impacted the gameplay, and I was impressed with the level of detail throughout as well as the quality of the animations in the full view (you'll have to squint, but you can see every character and enemy in the level moving)!
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is a great title for both fans of Castlevania and for those just getting into the series. The new co-op element will certainly add a layer of depth to the title unseen in previous releases, and the RPG aspects ensure that there is plenty of replay value here. Although the game does seem a bit hollow if you are playing by yourself, playing with friends is a blast. Be warned, the game is one of the pricier XBLA titles (weighing in at 1200 points) and it only features six levels. If you like playing with friends or have a passion for Castlevania, you'll find some enjoyment with this title, but if you prefer a single-player focused experience (or have never played a Castlevania game), then you may not be as impressed with Harmony of Despair.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor