By Jeff Neuenschwander / April 8th, 2013
|Release Date||March 28, 2013|
|Age Rating||ESRB: E|
When you think of Game Freak, you primarily think about the Pokemon series, which they’ve played a major role in creating. But Pokemon isn’t the only game they’ve ever made. Long ago, they had Pulseman on the Genesis and Yoshi on NES and Game Boy. Today, they have HarmoKnight on the 3DS.
Back in August when HarmoKnight was revealed, we were excited and fully anticipating a localization, as well as looking forward to any sort of Pokemon cameo. Fortunately, we got both. Initially, I was taken aback by the asking price of $15 (one of the higher digital-only prices in the eShop) but that was quickly dispelled when I started playing the full game. HarmoKnight is well worth the asking price and deserves a spot on your 3DS. Let me show you why…
You play as Tempo, a student under the tutelage of Master Woodwin. After practicing with your rabbit friend Tappy, you see a meteor crashing onto the world of Melodia. From it come the Noizoids, creatures who intend to cause discord on the planet. Partnering up with sharp-shooter Lyra as well as the team of Tyko and Cymbi, you make your way across the land to drive out the Noizoid.
I like to think of it as this: You’re Phillip Phillips, training with Mick Jagger. You and Savion Glover travel the land with Avril Lavigne and the team of Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley and Keane drummer Richard Hughes to stop the Bieber-Swifts.
I loved the art direction. My favorite parts were the cut-scenes that looked like they were ripped straight out of a comic strip. With 3D on, they kind of looked like those images you would see in a View-Master (I know, I’m showing my age here). Unfortunately, there only seemed to be three or four of these in the entire game.
By the way, 3D looked good in this game. However, unless you’re one of those people that can keep completely still while playing, I’d suggest keeping it off in places where you need to concentrate. It felt like I missed a few enemies because I was moving and hit a blind spot with the 3D.
I also enjoyed the music to this game. And, similar to a game like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, you can add musical flair to the song by either collecting notes or by hitting enemies or percussion instruments in rhythm.
Gameplay was rather simplistic in its design but incredible in execution. Controls primarily dealt with the A and B buttons (or Y and X respectively, since they do the same thing) for attacking and jumping. During boss levels, you’ll also be called upon to use the D-Pad to control Tempo.
Level design was well done, with some levels featuring multiple paths you can take. Taking a certain path will lead to more notes that you can pick up. There are around 54 levels, which seems to be the sweet spot for rhythm games (both Rhythm Heaven Fever and Rhythm Thief have around 50 levels each). Collect enough notes in a level and you’ll receive a gold rating and unlock the Fast Mode of the level.
There is also a great difficulty curve in this game, never spiking at any point and building all the way to the final boss. And then there are the trial levels after beating the Noizoids. These levels are not only the hardest levels in the game but are absolutely ruthless. These levels will make even the most rhythmically-inclined person cry in their sleep, particularly that last level.
However, even with the Noizoids gone, not everything is in harmony with Melodia. There were a few things I was annoyed with.
First of which was the music. I said I liked the music, but the song choices were limited. I know for a fact that Rhythm Thief, one of my favorite 3DS games from last year, had repeating songs. However, this was only the case for a handful of regular levels and most of the boss battles.
For the most part, the levels in HarmoKnight had variations of the main theme of the particular land/world it was. This creates a different sound for each level, making it somewhat unique, but still leaves me annoyed.
Another nuisance is the use, or lack of use, of the supporting characters: Lyra, Tyko, and Cymbi. It seemed like they rarely showed up at all in the game. Personally, I would have loved to play a boss level with either one of them. Instead they show up for about 30 seconds in one level in a world, leave, and never come back until the next world.
And the change between characters is jarring. You’re in a groove and then the music stops for a second or two as the characters change. And most of the time, the pause isn’t in tempo, which forces you to start finding the groove again. Why there wasn’t a smooth transition is beyond me.
But none of this really takes away from the overall experience, which was incredible. If Rhythm Thief was my best of retail music and rhythm games for the system, then HarmoKnight is my best of eShop music and rhythm games. Ultimately, I give the edge to Rhythm Thief for the scope of the gameplay mechanics as well as production value in story, animation, and music. However, in a fight over value, these two are equals.
Game Freak, you did a tremendous job in giving the world a great game. Don’t ever be a stranger with your non-Pokemon games. I’m sure we’ll enjoy them.
Review copy was provided by the publisher.