Castlevania Harmony of DespairESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
Rated T for Teen (Blood and Gore, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language and Mild Suggestive Themes)
1200 Microsoft Points
The next release in Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade is a reimagining of sorts of the beloved Castlevania series from Konami. Konami decided to take the fast paced side scrolling action that fans of the series know and add a few new twists to it such as co-op and competitive multiplayer. Did Konami continue the quality everyone loves?
If you have played any of the recent handheld editions of Castlevania (Order of Ecclesia and Portrait of Ruin) then you will notice that the graphics are extremely similar. It looks like they took the recent DS games and ported them over. The game was designed to show you one giant level so that you can see where people you are playing with or against always are. You will, however, want to zoom in on your character to make it easier to jump and see all the enemies around you. This is where the game can look a little blurry and pixelated. You can zoom out to a point where the game does look better but it makes it hard to see your character (Even on a 32” TV like the one I played on).
If you like metal video game guitars then you are in luck. If you do not then you are going to get annoyed really fast because they repeat over and over again. The music has a nice feel that fits right in with the atmosphere of the game but the songs repeat during your entire time in a level and can really drive you insane while you are battling in some tough parts of the game. You listen to the exact same song every time you play the same map. The songs do manage to have a retro feel though, and with a game that looks and plays like an older Castlevania game, it does match the style and feel of the whole experience.
Right away you will notice this Castlevania is different. There is no storyline, just six maps you battle your way through to earn better gear and destroy a large boss at the end of each level. The game has become more focused on achieving higher scores and speed rushing through levels.
You get to choose from five characters (Soma Cruz, Alucard, Jonothan Morris, Shanoa and Charlotte Aulin) all from previous versions of Castlevania. Each has his/her own special abilities and starting weapons. The game does not tell you a lot of things that you would have learned from previous versions such as what the special abilities of each character are and what they do. The game could have really used a tutorial to help you fully understand all the abilities and happenings inside of the game.
Gear is the key here because at first you will die and die a lot. As you play through these giant maps you find treasure chests which hold gear or gold. You can then use the gold to purchase better gear for your character of choice to improve the character’s stats. But until your stats are boosted by the gear all the enemies in the game, especially the bosses, can be extremely tough.
The game becomes more enjoyable when you jump onto XBOX Live and play multiplayer with some friends. Not only can you go to areas you would normally not be able to get at without someone but the game just becomes more exciting setting up strategies on how to take on bosses and how to get the best loot. Also available is Survival Mode which pits you against 2-5 others in a deathmatch style gameplay where the winner is whoever is left standing. Once again though, without high end gear you will get beat up online pretty quickly.
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