XBLA Review: Castlevania: Harmony of Despair

Multi-vania? Now I’ve heard it all…

Does anyone recall ever asking for a multiplayer version of Castlevania? No? Me neither. Despite that, Harmony of Despair hit XBLA a while back and allows up-to 6 players to battle Dracula and friends at the same time, although you won’t be all put in the same area of each stage. Even when playing solo, the game automatically zooms out to show the entire level which can prove tricky when trying to control your tiny character, but you can zoom back in to see your character better.

If there’s one thing that annoys me about Harmony of Despair, it’s that each stage is timed. So not only do you have the difficulty of the enemies that you face, but the difficulty of going against the clock. Castlevania has never been about rushing through Dracula’s castle quickly, but to take your time and find meaningful items to use against his minions. Instead the items you gather only serve as a means to an end, which is disappointing.

The traditional combat formula of Castlevania remains, but you and your allies can pull off combos together for better effect. You can play solo, but with the size of the maps, the amount of enemies and the little time you get, it’s best to tackle it with as many players as possible. There’s also a Survival Mode where you fend off your friends while fighting to survive. Apart from playing with friends online, there isn’t anything new to bring to the Castlevania table. The visual style is traditional of the series, but I hoped it would look better than it actually does.

The Verdict

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is actually a decent and enjoyable game, which is more than I expected when I first heard about it. It may not play to the strengths of the franchise, but it’s good fun nonetheless.