We’ve had the new guys in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair for a couple weeks now! So how do I like them?
This guy’s in the game! He wears blue. I’ve actually only played him for a couple minutes… just long enough to humiliate himself in Hard Chapter 3. He has neither Julius’s multi-directional whip nor Jonathan’s vast library of subweapons… but apparently he gets some pretty sick martial arts to make up for it. I might put some time into him down the road once I have a few other characters maxed, just for a change of pace, but otherwise it looks like he might end up as “not as good as the other Belmont”.
Yoko has very little to recommend her. She gets three magic attacks and a single weapon — full stop. Her spells apparently get pretty crazy once they’re leveled up; Holy Thunder in particular is supposed to absolutely wreck bosses. My gripe, I guess, is why would you want to play a character with so little versatility? She lacks the ability to drop-kick which… well, let’s just say that drop-kicking is kind of a big deal in this game. It really limits Yoko’s mobility and leaves her coming up short on potential defensive options in certain fights. It’s true that my #1 character also lacks a drop-kick… but in Charlotte’s case that drawback is balanced out by the game-breakingly awesome Heal spell. Yoko has no such asset.
It’s also incredibly annoying how she shouts out the name of every spell she casts, every time she casts it. Again, Charlotte also has this problem, but Charlotte has more than three goddamn spells to cast. How Yoko players deal with the constant cries of “Holy Thunder! Holy Thunder! Holy Flame! Holy Thunder!” without bleeding from their ears is beyond me.
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. J is absolutely the man. At first glance he just looks like a less versatile Jonathan; J only gets access to about half the subweapons Jonny does. The things J gets in addition to those supweapons, though, make him stand out in such a way it’s bewildering why he wasn’t in the default cast. His whip goes in any of eight directions and can reach through walls, which enables him to take out dangerous monsters from a safe distance. He can grapple onto Magnes blocks, which let him reach some previously Soma- or Shanoa-only areas (though not all). Finally, he gets a great teleport martial art which zips him through fire traps and Final Guards without sustaining damage — a trick only Charlotte had previously.
Playing J takes some getting used to. The 360 controller is pretty bad at precisely aiming his whip at an angle, which takes the wind out of his sails a bit. It was also a bit of a head-scratcher as to why he has two distinct whip buttons, at first. You can whip in any direction with either button, but his “whip flail” and “Magnes grapple” skills are mutually exclusive. The reason for this is clear if you try to fight Menace or Death, though; attempting to whip a monster through a Magnes stud, and grabbing hold of it instead, can be devastating in close quarters. The imprecise aiming and use of an off-button make navigating Magnes studs somewhat more finnicky than it probably needs to be, but it’s the type of thing you can get better at with practice.
I know a few people who only downloaded Castlevania HD once Maria became available. The reason for this is that, just like in Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night, playing as Maria is a fun and unique experience. There’s just no other character even remotely like her! She gets all four of her magical animal buddies: a turtle shell to shield her from damage, an upward-launching firebird attack, a kitty cat that rampages along the ground and a weakly-homing dragon attack. In addition, she can sing Bloody Tears to damage bad guys. This is one of the few special attacks in the game that can kill Axe Knights with a single application.
Maria’s greatest asset, though? She’s tiny. Being shorter than the other characters, coupled with the fact that her primary weapon doesn’t stop her in her tracks like the others, means she can zip through and around attacks while constantly keeping up the pressure. She can walk right underneath Dracula’s giant claws, she can drop-kick over the annoying headless knights without bumping into the ceiling, and she can weave in between Brauner’s screen-controlling attacks with ease. She’s simply a joy to play as.
The summary is: Julius and Maria are must-owns. They each offer unique experiences you can’t find in the rest of the cast, and they each have strengths that make them major assets in multiplayer co-op. Yoko and Richter are probably skippable, unless you just really love those characters for some reason.
Now if I could just get Menace to drop a friggin’ Chaos Ring, I think I’d be set for a while. At least until new chapters come out, anyway…