Thursday, August 5, 2010

Demo Assessment: Castlevania Harmony of Despair

Castlevania Harmony of Despair sounds like it would be right up my alley.  In an earlier post I said, “Konami and everyone else -- we will gladly pay $15+ for classic games on our modern consoles if you put some effort into optimizing them. Widescreen and high definition are the main things I want. Achievements, enhancements, different modes of play are also nice.”  CHoD has all of those things going for it.  Its price is exactly $15.  But...



The graphics are attractive.  They’re widescreen.  They’re HD.  By today’s standards though, I’m afraid they just don’t cut it.  They’re too pixel-y.  They’re too 16-bit.  I would point to Braid as an example of a sprite-based game on a modern console with excellent graphics:


Braid’s sprite’s don’t have jagged edges.  The game looks like a painting in motion.  It’s an independent game, released two years ago.  You’re telling me that a game released by Konami today can’t look nearly as good as that?

Visuals aren’t the only problem for CHoD.  The controls are stiff, and the pace of the game is slow.  This is typical of Castlevania games, but I think Konami could have retained the basics and still have made the controls feel more fluid and responsive.  I keep mentioning Bionic Commando:Rearmed, but it is the standard for games of its type (as far as I’m concerned), and it has great controls that are faithful to the original.  When you consider that just about any random platformer on the XBox 360 – Rocket Knight, for example (another Konami game) – has better controls, it’s hard to make the case for playing Castlevania.

The lack of local multiplayer is disappointing.  Hydro Thunder Hurricane, last week’s XBox Live Arcade release, has to render complex 3D environments and water effects.  That game has a 4-player split screen mode.  All that CHoD has to render is 2D sprites.  Given the zoom out / zoom in feature of the game (which is very cool), you’d think that a multi-player split screen mode would be easy.

Castlevania has a lot of good qualities and I’m pretty sure it’ll be a hit.  The effort that went into it is clearly about 2000% greater than the effort that went into the terrible emulated Contra releases for XBox Live Arcade.  I’m sure I could have a lot of fun playing it online with 5 other players.  But given the other great games to choose from, I can’t justify buying this one.

I still have high hopes for Konami’s upcoming Hard Corps: Uprising (a Contra modernization) and Rush’n Attack Ex-Patriot.

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