Castlevania: Harmony of Despair Review for Xbox 360

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Castlevania: Harmony of Despair screenshot
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair screenshot

As far as sequels go, modern Castlevania games are some of the least adventurous: endlessly recycling the core ethos of 1997's iconic Symphony of the Night, right down to regurgitating the same art assets over and over again. It must put Konami in a right old pickle, as whenever it tries and branch out into something new – ill-advised 3D attempts, or the loathsome fighter Castlevania Judgement – its efforts are always significantly less successful than if it had just developed another entertaining rehash: Order of Ecclesia, for instance, was both derivative and excellent. Harmony of Despair is just the former.

It's all been upscaled to suit the 360's fancy high-definition potential, though, which means all those recognisable Castlevania sprites – hello, Mr Blue Knight! – have been made slightly crisper and smaller. You're also given control of the camera, allowing you three levels of zoom to cycle through: one so far out you can't see anything, one that gets a bit closer but is still too far out and one that you can actually play the game in.

While previous Castlevania games slowly unwound to create ornate expanses of territory, Harmony of Despair dumps you into singular snapshot scenes and has you team up with up to five other adventurers to take down gnarly bosses. You can pick from Aria/Dawn of Sorrow's Soma, Jonathan and Charlotte from Portrait of Ruin, Shanoa from Order of Ecclesia or Symphony of the Night's trusty old Alucard. Yes, it's a six-player game with only five characters. A silly oversight like that is indicative of the game as a whole: a good idea that's been poorly researched and clumsily executed. But it doesn't really matter, as everyone will just pick Alucard anyway.

Harmony of Despair winds the clock back to the series' pre-Symphony takes on Dracula-slaying escapades, forcing you through humongous but claustrophobic and linear corridors, with you winding your way around sprawling architecture and treading the beaten path to each boss' domain. Where you'll be promptly killed.

Opting to go solo can only be described as a gigantic mistake – and a waste of time – as the game is geared entirely around online play. No local co-op mode is provided, so it's a case of Xbox LIVE or the highway. Your combined offensive prowess is essential, as enemies – bosses especially – are humongous HP sponges, requiring colossal amounts of deft manoeuvring and solid attacking to take down, and many levels have prime shortcuts and treasure troves only accessible when working as part of a team.

There is absolutely no margin for error: like Demon's Souls, Harmony of Despair will decimate your HP bar if you put a step out of line. Your first run-in with each boss will likely end – very quickly – with a messy defeat, which is understandable, but so will your second, third and fifth attempts. Bosses take time to fully understand, and the latter two (mandatory appearances from Death and Dracula) are very tough indeed.

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Highest Rated Comment

Geraface's Avatar

Geraface

Deadliest Warrior > Starcraft 2
Posted 13:52 on 10 August 2010

User Comments

Endless's Avatar

Endless

I played the demo and was immediately disenchanted by the whole game. Same. Thing. All. Over. Again.

Castlevania needs a reboot imo, a slight change in direction. A Metroid: Other M kind of reboot. I was just bored. bored bored bored.
Posted 10:38 on 14 August 2010
Stegosaurus-Guy-II's Avatar

Stegosaurus-Guy-II@ IndoorHeroes

Rehashed characters is a bad thing?

Click for Image
Posted 15:44 on 12 August 2010
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

Played it for myself the other day and do not agree at all. WHY is every reviewer bemoaning this and ordinary people loving it?
Posted 13:03 on 11 August 2010
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams

Haha, brilliant Emily
dunno why someone thumbsed down :)
Posted 19:24 on 10 August 2010
Geraface's Avatar

Geraface

Deadliest Warrior > Starcraft 2
Posted 13:52 on 10 August 2010
IndoorHeroes's Avatar

IndoorHeroes

I'd rather play Deadliest Warrior. I'm not convinced any of the Castlevania characters are deadly enough for my taste.
Posted 13:52 on 10 August 2010

Game Stats

Technical Specs
5
Out of 10
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
  • Can get a bit addictive
  • Co-op concept badly shoehorned
  • Regurgitated visuals
  • Rehashed characters
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 04/08/2010
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Genre: Action
No. Players: 1-6
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 4,549 10
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