STAFF REVIEW of Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Saturday, July 31, 2010.
by Brent Roberts

Castlevania:  Harmony of Despair Box art *CUE OMINOUS CATHEDRAL MUSIC*

The Summer of Arcade is in full swing, and this week we are treated to an innovative marvel of a title in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. Konami has been putting forth a lot of effort in this latest installment of Castlevania for the Xbox Live Arcade which will hit the marketplace like a shattered cross. Come follow me into the depths as we explore the 2D world resurrected to perfection in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.

From the very opening screen you can see that one innovation of many that stands out in front is the addition of multiple characters. Each one brings to the table their own benefits and has their own individual skills that they can learn which when combined w/ other players enhances the gameplay to a whole new level. The innovation of Castlevania Co-Op Multiplayer makes its first introduction in this Xbox Live Arcade title. With different multiplayer modes, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair ignites a flame in the series that rekindles the desire even more for Castlevania.

You want to take Alucard into battle w/ five other players? Go for it. With a total of six player Co-Op gamers will have to work together more than ever if they wish to scale through the castle and defeat the Dark Lord himself. I know some purists out there will say that "Konami has hurt the franchise with the addition of multiplayer" or they may say "Castlevania is supposed to be a single player game". Well rest easy your worries because there is a dedicated single player mode which takes you through all the adventure you can swing a whip at. Take heed though bold adventurer, for the challenge of Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is not to be taken lightly. After going through this on single player, I cannot stress enough how difficult the challenge is. We won't go into the story so you can experience it for yourself, but be ready for one challenging adventure.

Graphically Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is pure to its 2D roots. As you wander and venture through the different floors of the castle, and experience different rooms, your eyes will gaze upon amazing and colorful detail. Enemies are brought to life with exceptional detail and quality and the surrounding backgrounds are a sight in themselves to see. This however doesn't do the game justice, for as you start your quest and zoom the map all the way out, you will see how every level overflows with beauty and how every inch looks and feels just like Castlevania should. The boss characters have all been designed with amazing detail, and provide gamers with a definite feel of joy when you bring one of these demons down. Everything from the characters, levels, enemies, and even the individual weapons have all been done with precision attention to detail and quality. Welcome back to the world we all love, Castlevania.

How can you do a review of Castlevania and NOT talk about the music of it!? From the opening menu selection screen your ears hear a choir chanting which immediately makes you feel at home in Castlevania. The previous game Symphony of the Night opened with a choir, and this takes it to a whole new level. When you are in the game each level has not only its own dedicated soundtrack, but its own dedicated boss music as well. One cool little innovation that I love was the fact that you can now change up the music by individual level, and you can also change up the boss music accordingly. The soundtrack can be summed up as "CC" or Classic Castlevania. High energy synths erupt out of the songs all the while injecting tons of excitement with each passing moment. Grab your whip and say a prayer because we're not done with Castlevania yet.

The gameplay of Castlevania has always been known for providing hours and hours of enjoyment and Castlevania: Harmony of Despair delivers us one amazing experience that should not be missed. As it was mentioned earlier, this game is a serious challenge. The basic jumping, hacking, and dashing are the core foundations for Castlevania, and you will need to utilize all of these and more in order to breech through the castle and defeat evil. Gamers will be excited when they see that the standard controls are all there, but this time they are enhanced. By simple adjustments to enhance an already proven control scheme, Konami ensures gamers that the core controls remain unchanged, and that gamers are given the option to change up the control style as they see fit. Time to play Castlevania, the way YOU want to. Thank you Konami!

As we put the final nail in this coffin, we look back at the experience and feel a sense of uneasy peace. From the enhanced 2D glory that we have grown up with, the amazing customizable enhanced classic soundtrack, six player Co-Op, to the time tested proven gameplay, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is an amazing addition into a series already known for quality titles. This is one of the best arcade titles released, and for 1200 points you and your friends can finally track Dracula, and put an end to his evil..... for now...

Overall: 9.5 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.3 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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