Jul 142010

When Castlevania: Harmony of Despair [CHoD–not to be confused with Ch’od of the Starjammers] was announced, I was totally psyched. A Symphony of the Night [SotN] styled game on the 360? Featuring multiplayer? And characters from past SotN-type games? Where do I sign up?

That was then. Thankfully, they didn’t release the game that day, or I would have been, as they say, all over that. Konami has since revealed more details of the game. Saddening details. First, and potentially worst, there will be no character leveling. Yes, that’s correct–you will be playing a game in the vein of SotN, but unlike that game and so many handheld successors, your character will not get stronger with continued play. There are items to find and equip but there’s no information on how much influence they will have

Second, areas of the castle are not contiguously linked; CHoD is a number of unrelated levels (six, it sounds like), and the goal of each appears to be madly dashing toward a boss located in a set spot and defeating it, all in the shortest time possible. Apart from potentially looking for enemies to kill for equipment, this removes the impetus for exploration, save perhaps for trying to chart a shorter path.

And even if you want to disregard that goal and delve into CHoD’s depths, it seems you’ll be severely curtailed by how long you can spend. Each level is timed. Videos have shown limits of 10, 20 and 30 minutes so far. I’ll grant that 30 minutes is pretty leisurely compared to what we would have seen back in the NES days, but still, I don’t think we’ve had a time limit in a new Castlevania game (discounting re-releases of older games like Dracula X Chronicles) in over 15 years.

I’m not bothered by the blatant reuse of sprites and art from half a dozen already-released Castlevania games, nor the lack of new characters — if Konami wants to put out a “best of” Castlevania megagame featuring elements from each, I’m all for that. Unfortunately, this looks to be more a collection of speed-run maps with a style more Capture the Flag than Castlevania. I wouldn’t mind being wrong, though.