Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is a multi-player game featuring characters, sprites, and locations from several different Castlevania titles. The story, such as it is, involves a cursed book called the Grimoire, in which the story of the evil citadel Castlevania is recorded.
However the castle comes to life within the pages of the book, taking various forms from previous incarnations, and the heroes of the past, also recorded in the book and coming to life within its pages, must once again fight to put an end to the curse.
This story allows characters from eras ranging from 1797 to 2036 to come together in the same castle to fight evil. There is up to six-player online co-operative play, and while it is beneficial to stick together, as characters can perform powerful combo attacks together, players have the ability to wander the castle freely, regardless of the location of the other players.
Released on August 4th, 2010 for the Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade, and later on September 27th, 2011 for the Sony PlayStation 3, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is the first multi-player online game for the franchise. Most of the elements including characters, enemies, music, weapons, armor, etc, are all borrowed from previous Castlevania titles. Upon it’s initial release, Harmony of Despair had 5 different playable characters to choose from, but since has expanded to 9 with downloadable content releases. While it is a multi-player game, you can also play it solo if you desire, however it was made with the idea that you would be relying on others to complete the game. When playing with others, you are able to unlock secret areas of the castle and acquire more treasure. Over the course of 6 months after it’s initial release on Xbox Live, numerous Downloadable Content was released including music, additional characters, additional chapters, and more.
At first glance, Harmony of Despair looks like the DS and Game Boy Advance titles that have been able to mimic the success of Symphony of the Night. However the game play is a little different as you are given complete access to the castle immediately, unlike the SOTN style games in which you map the castle as you progress through it. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is definitely unique when compared to other titles in the franchise. While it has good moments where game play is reminiscent of recent classics like Order of Ecclesia or Dawn of Sorrow, it also has bad moments involving playing online. You can run into issues during online play that can become very frustrating. An individual on your team could be a weak Castlevania player who forces others on the team to compensate for their lack of skills. Other teammates may not own a headset, which is almost required in order to communicate effectively during game play.
Overall Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is a decent game, and worthy of being part of the Castlevania franchise. If you can overlook or easily deal with any problems that occur during online play, you will find yourself on an enjoyable quest through several levels, battling many enemies and bosses of Castlevania games of the past.