In case you’re wondering if I’ve abandoned the Game Heroines series, well, no, I haven’t. I decided to post it on Sundays instead of Fridays, because it is infinitely easier for me to write a detailed blog post at work on Saturday night than it is at home on Thursday. Fewer distractions, see.
So most of my gaming time at home this weekend has been devoted to Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. I’ve done a lot of multiplayer with buds, and quite a lot of solo grinding. I’ve dabbled a bit in random multiplayer, but since none of my characters are maxed out yet that just sort of makes me feel like a chump. There’s six levels available right now, and I’ve essentially bent them all over and had my way with them at this point. I haven’t yet cleared the Hard versions of those levels, nor have I downloaded the Egyptian-themed seventh level. All in good time.
Castlevania is a unique choice for a multiplayer game because it has a long and storied history spanning pretty much the entire time people have been playing games on consoles. A game like this, there’s a temptation to just say “Let’s have every character! Ever! Fifty Belmonts? Line ’em up! Simon Belmont and Richter Belmont and Trevor Belmont and Julius Belmont and Christopher Belmont and Skinny Pete Belmont and Weird Uncle Al Belmont!”
There are two reasons not to go that route, though. For one, the game only includes things Konami already had acceptable art assets lying around for… which means all the characters and stages reach back to the DS and PS1 games, but no further. An “HD” title with graphics yanked out of a handheld system is already pushing the envelope enough, let alone trying to shoehorn 1980s spritework into the mix.
And two… well, pretty much every Belmont is the same. It really wasn’t until very late in the 16-bit era that characters with unique playstyles started appearing in the series. You just don’t need the game to have fifty dudes with whips.
Right now the game has five pretty unique characters. Well, no, there are four pretty unique characters, plus one overpowered character who can do absolutely everything:
- Alucard has his wide variety of weapon choices, plus his dark magic from Symphony of the Night.
- Shanoa has a severely limited set of glyphs, but can still combo her weapon slots for quick double-hits, and has increased mobility thanks to Magnes.
- Jonathan has a whip, karate attacks, all the standard-issue Castlevania subweapons, plus cool new subweapons like grenades and paper airplanes.
- Charlotte has a whole book of magic spells, including the game’s only healing spell.
- Soma can do everything, so everyone always plays as him. Forever. Seriously, I had to scroll down 225 spots on the Chapter Six leaderboard before I found someone who wasn’t Soma or Alucard. (And the Alucard players were probably just grinding for Soma gear.)
In addition, we have three confirmed characters coming down the DLC pipeline:
- Yoko, who probably has the same fire/ice/lightning spells she did in Dawn of Sorrow,
- Julius, with a multi-directional whip and the ability to grapple on Magnes studs,
- and Maria, who will no doubt come packing her doves, turtles and dragons.
The obvious question is, who’s next? How many Castlevania characters do you really need to add before every unique and interesting playstyle in the series has been sufficiently covered?
The Belmont and Belnades trees have probably been sufficiently tapped. You don’t need Simon or Trevor, because they can’t do anything Jonathan and Julius can’t already do. You don’t need Sypha either, because Yoko was specifically designed to be a modern version of the character. You could probably get away with adding Richter, though, if you denied him Jonathan’s arsenal and Julius’s flexibility in favor of a flame whip and item crashes.
The only other two characters I can think of who could add something new to the game are both probably far too old to make the cut without forcing Konami to redraw some graphics, which of course they won’t do. But if they did, they’d be:
- Eric Lecarde, with the long spear and high-jump attack. I think he had unique subweapons too, but it’s been years since I’ve touched a Sega Genesis, let alone played Castlevania: Bloodlines, so I’m not certain. I think he made it into that Wii fighting game I didn’t bother playing.
- Grant DaNasty, who is basically a flea man. I think wall climbing would be really fun and useful in Harmony‘s freeform maps, and his weak but long-range daggers would be a neat change of pace. I’m pretty sure the bosses in this game could kill a tiny man clinging to the ceiling and slinging knives at them.
For my part, I’ve logged 18 hours as Charlotte and a combined 2.5 hours with the other five characters. I am so close to having a maxed out spellbook. The plan then is to switch over to Julius once the DLC hits, and never look back. I think I might be unfarily biased against Soma, but that’s okay. There are 40,000 other players out there to pick up the slack.