As it turns out, I managed to find a couch buddy for Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, and thanks to that, I managed to worm my way further into the game. I’ve got some good news and bad news, most of which relates to the gameplay mechanics. The rest of the bad news is for you solo players out there. Without further delay, let us begin the followup review!
The first thing I notice when playing through all six levels is that equipment is sorta kinda hard to come by, even in the long term. Unlike in other Castlevania games where you can pump up your LUK stat to increase the drop rate of items, Harmony of Despair discards that in favor of grinding. Normally, that would be okay, but not in this scenario. Each stage takes upward of 15 minutes, and there’s no backing out once you’ve begun. So if you just want to nab an item that you missed early on in a stage, tough luck. You gotta play the whole thing. Or, you know, grab it then kill yourself. I’d kill myself to escape grinding.
Second, mechanics related, is the fact that not all characters have dynamic mobility. What I’m referring to are the magnetic hook points that Shanoa and the 8-direction whip wielders can use to navigate the stages with ease. Characters like Alucard and Soma Cruz just have to tough it out and find alternate routes. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that some bosses require that mobility. Specifically, Stage 03, End of Chaos, where you have to fight Menace. Dude’s tall. Unless you have magnetic point mobility, you have to run back and forth to trigger the giant hammer all the way on the top of the stage. Worst of all, reloading said hammer takes a good four minutes. ICK.
Next up is a half complaint. I believe this may have been touched on in the last article, but solo play is not a valid option. If you play solo, you suffer major disadvantages. You don’t have access to the Water of Life (necessary for resurrection), you can’t complete several of the puzzles that offer you rare loot for finishing. Which means you have to grind levels even more! Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Additionally, the number of players acts as a multiplier for enemy health and damage, making this into a full complaint. Geeze.
Son of a bitch, nothing but complaints so far. But I thought the game wasn’t that bad! Maybe having a buddy over dramatically heightens my bullshit tolerance. That seems viable. But seriously, what’s something innately good about Castlevania: Harmony of Despair? All the characters in one game? Each level being all one area with no loading screen transitions between start and finish? The different upgrade systems unique to each character? No, that’s a negative, because if you like to play everyone equally, you have to waste a lot of time grinding…
Screw it. You come up with an equal amount of positives. I’m pretty sure that I just painted a big “1/10 do not buy” on Castlevania: Harmony of Despair’s face, but you know what? The multiplayer is actually kinda fun. You can’t play it alone, but at least it’s relatively cheap. And the DLC costs more than the game itself. Er… Alternate review!
Jeremy Parish of 1up brings it all together by branding Castlevania: Harmony of despair with a big old “meh.” Either you like it, or you don’t. It’s original, but it doesn’t have the feel of other Castlevania games. A hardcore Castlevania fan might like it, but a newcomer would not. Lights on, lights off. Clap clap. And here’s the review link: http://www.1up.com/reviews/castlevania-harmony-despair-review