Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
By Chad Sapieha,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Extremely difficult action platformer shows plenty of blood.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
This game is pure fantasy. It's about a group of heroes exploring imaginative castles and fighting evil, non-human entities. Violence is sensationalized, but the dated graphics keep the action from becoming visceral.
Positive Role Models
Our protagonists don't have much in the way of personalities. We know simply that they are heroes and that they use violence to achieve their objectives.
Ease of Play
This is an extremely tough game. Players unfamiliar with side-scrolling action platformers in general and Castlevania games in particular will have a hard slog of it and be forced to restart each of the game's levels many, many times.
Violence & Scariness
Players use swords, whips, and magic to dispatch a wide variety of non-human creatures, including zombies, demons, skeletons, ghostly knights, floating eyes, and large monsters. Blood often sprays from enemies, and some creatures fall apart when defeated. Dead bodies can occasionally be seen hanging in the background. While the fighting action is pretty much non-stop, it is of a fantastical nature and presented in relatively simplistic 2D fashion, taming its impact.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some female characters show cleavage.
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The words "damn" and "hell" can be seen in text format a couple of times.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is a challenging platformer with bloody combat. Note, though, that it's retro graphics make the fantasy violence less visceral. It also supports online play with open voice communication, a feature Common Sense Media does not recommend for anyone under the age of 13. Its content is suitable for teens, though its extreme level of difficulty will likely leave players of all ages frustrated.
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Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
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What’s It About?
There's not a lot of story in CASTLEVANIA: HARMONY OF DESPAIR, an old-school side-scrolling platformer that has players running around a series of giant castles fighting a wide variety of fantastical creatures, including skeletons, demons, and zombies. The goal of each level is simply to work your way through a long string of rooms towards a boss. If your hero dies along the way you must restart the level, though you will keep all of the collectibles you've found up until that point. The game can be played in single player mode, but it is significantly easier if played online with the help of others in multiplayer.
Is It Any Good?
It's difficult to recommend this classic-style game to anyone save hardcore Castlevania fans. It assumes that the player has an existing knowledge of the franchise, including how to beat certain, very tricky enemies. What's more, the level of difficulty is all but masochistic. Even skilled players will find themselves restarting levels time and again. And the old-fashioned sprite-based visual design, while in keeping with older games in the franchise, isn't exactly eye candy for players weaned on modern graphics.
Harmony of Despair has moments of innovation that have potential to appeal to a broader audience -- like the ability to zoom out and view all of the rooms in the castle while continuing to play (your hero becomes a tiny speck, but he or she remains active) and cooperative play -- but it is by and large designed for the franchise's zealots. Rookies venture in at their own risk.
Online interaction: This game supports online competitive and cooperative play with open voice chat. This leaves the door open for players to share personal information and younger gamers to be exposed to inappropriate language and ideas from other players.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about game difficulty. Should developers set difficulty according to the anticipated age of people who play their games? Should they take into consideration the likely level of experience among their audiences? Should all games have a "casual" difficult setting to allow rookie players enjoy some level of success?
Families can also discuss violence in retro style games. Is pixelated blood as disturbing as that which has been rendered with lifelike realism? Is it the idea of seeing blood that is worrisome for some parents or the way in which it is depicted? Do you think the style in which gore is represented should have an impact on age appropriateness?
- Platform: Xbox 360
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Konami
- Release date: August 3, 2010
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- ESRB rating: T for Blood and Gore, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes
- Last updated: August 30, 2016
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