I love me some metroidvania. In fact, I consider Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to be one of the best games EVER released. Now, whenever Konami talks about releasing a side-scrolling Castlevania adventure fest, I’m there waiting with puppy dog eyes and a slack jaw.
Enter Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. It’s a six-player side scrolling action platformer that attempts to marry cooperative play with Castlevania’s classic gameplay, and it’s set to hit gamers during Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade in July.
So, how are things coming along?
I scrolled up to the booth and began the game as the whip toting Jonathan Morris from Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, and I immediately noticed several differences to the gameplay compared to the popular handheld titles.
The game takes place in a castle that is broken up into segmented levels that are like large quilts with patches of levels borrowed from the Castlevania series. Players can zoom out and take in the entire level at once – while still controlling their character – or they can zoom in a little further for a little better control, or they can set the camera to the traditional single room view
The objective of the map I played was a race to the boss with a time limit. The game felt just like you would expect a metroidvania to feel. On top of the traditional attack and double jump, Jonathan could cast spells based on what direction held with the B button. There was also some inklings of character customization with items I picked up from chests scattered throughout the map, but the demo didn’t offer any actual gameplay of it.
But, there were inklings of character progression with the ability to increase the power of Jonathan’s abilities. There is also a shop where players can purchase items between missions. This, on top of each of the five character’s (characters from previous Castlevania titles) handling differently, will give players a lot of choice when tackling Dracula’s nefarious foes and traps.
As I made my way to the top of the tower, I noticed that each of the levels were almost direct renditions of rooms in previous Castlevania titles. The throwback is nice, but the rooms felt like they were stitched together haphazardly; there was no synergy. There were little traps and levers that brought a little puzzle to the action, and there is an obvious push towards players working together, but I was unable to access the multiplayer on the show floor.
To my delight, the game was a bit challenging. The enemy placement, and allure of treasure, kept me off balance as the time limit crept closer and closer to failure. I ended the demo by deftly felling a large minotaur with an even larger halberd, only to find the time limit line up goose eggs. A confidence boosting, large FAILURE popped on the screen and I was kicked back to the main menu.
With all of the character customization, and the possibility of effective co-op, the game might be shaping up to be a valuable member of the summer of arcade. Yet, this title falls under the safe words of “interesting and possibly.” It looks good, and plays well, but nothing has been proven for sure just yet. Keep an eye out for Castlevania: Harmony of Despair during Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade.