Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is not the game I wanted from the Xbox Live Arcade. And I’m thinking there’s a very strong chance it’s probably not what you wanted either. There are some fun multiplayer moments to be had, and beating up monsters certainly feels like a Castlevania title, but it’s just not the same.
I want every single monster I defeat to add to my total badassery quotient. I want a game where I can get lost in the bowels of an ever deepening castle, taking my time to furiously slash at each wall, floor and ceiling in hopes of finding a hidden doorway. I don’t want to play for only 30 minutes and then be forced to break up my party. Maybe I do get to play with five other vampire hunters, but you know what? I don’t want to give up all the things I love about Castlevania to do so.
Here are the six things we should have gotten from a Castlevania title on Xbox Live Arcade, but didn’t.
Just go for it, and go all out, even if you have to fudge it. If there are repeated rooms and monsters, we’ll manage. If the rooms are all the same size, I’ll live with it. If I’ve been playing the whole game, and then I think I have beaten it, and then it turns out that I have to play an upside down version of the map I thought I just finished exploring, I’ll love it. It was awesome when that happened in Symphony of the Night, and I miss that kind of creative twist. The bigger the castle, the more rewarding the exploration, the more opportunities to level up and the more intimidating Dracula’s castle will ultimately be. Bigger is better.
Above: LIKE THIS
One of the few things Harmony of Despair did well was to give the player the ability to zoom in and out of the map. Obviously, it might not be possible to present a castle as expansive as the one I am demanding with the level of zoom offered in Harmony of Despair – but you can just keep zoomin’. Barring that, having the option to zoom out to at least take a look at the surrounding 15 or 20 rooms without having to pause the game would be invaluable for exploration and it would also speed up the gameplay. One of the best things about the Castlevania titles for DS is the ability to have your map open at all times on the upper screen. This zoom function can be a sort of stand in for the absence of two screens. Also, it looks really cool.
Above: This was good. Keep this
Harmony of Despair had a pretty fun multiplayer component, but for whatever reason, Konami wanted to make sure your partnerships (or team efforts when you were beating up monsters with a group) were limited to 30 minute intervals. I know the stigma still exists that gamers tend to be loners who don’t like people, but there is no reason to split us up after 30 minutes. We like playing games together, often for hours at a time. Just let us drop in and out so that we can leave to do those important things like go to work or eat food. We are perfectly willing to spend huge amounts of time together, as long as we have a worthy goal, and curb-stomping the Lord of Darkness sounds like a pretty good incentive to me. I am not an eight year-old and I do not have a bedtime. Let me play with other vampire hunters, and let me play for as long as I want.
Above: Wrong. Just wrong