Xbox LIVE Summer of Arcade Review: Castlevania: Harmony of Despair


With the “Castlevania” franchise at a crossroads of sorts, it might have seemed like a good idea to create a game that helped remind fans why they fell in love with the series in the first place, but “Harmony of Despair” doesn’t even do that right. Recycling old characters, enemies and bosses from past installments, it’s like a Greatest Hits collection without any hits. There are only six levels to play through, and no story bridging them together. Instead, you just select one of five playable vampire slayers (Soma Cruz, Alucard, Jonathan Morris, Shanoa and Charlotte Aulin) – each with their own unique weapons and abilities – and trudge through each level hacking away at baddies until you arrive at the final boss. This is easier said than done, however, as you’ll often spend 20 minutes travelling through the labyrinthine mansions, only to be killed cheaply in the boss fight and have to start from the very beginning all over again.

Additionally, the mansions have plenty of hidden areas and treasures to discover, but since each level is timed, there’s little room for exploration. (Though this wouldn’t be such a problem if your character didn’t move like he was walking through quicksand.) You’ll also have trouble navigating through the sprawling 2D maps using the 3x zoom feature, as you can only make out what you’re character is doing in one of them. Thank goodness for multiplayer, then, as it’s the only good original idea in the game. Though completing levels with a six-player party can be a little too easy at times, it still makes for a much more enjoyable experience. Fallen teammates can be revived using Water of Life items found in treasure chests, and while you wait to be brought back from the dead, you get to play as a skeleton. But good luck finding a party that actually stays together for more than one round, let alone long enough to make it past the lobby. Fans deserved a lot better than this, because the only Harmony of Despair you’re going to find here is the thousands of gamers uniting to complain about how bad this game is.

Want more Summer of Arcade? Be sure to come back every Wednesday through August 18th for a first-hand look at Microsoft’s newest XBLA exclusives. Next week: get ready for the most lethal sport of the future as a player on “Monday Night Combat.”


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