Release Date: March 28, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Nintendo (Game Freak)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone” for Comic Mischief and Fantasy Violence
Game Freak is a respected developer. Putting out five, soon to be six, generations of Pokemon games tends to inspire confidence. It isn’t just about Pokemon though. Game Freak makes other games too, like the classics Yoshi, Pulseman and Drill Dozer. Now, with HarmoKnight, it proves it’s still capable of making a fantastic game that isn’t just about catching and battling adorable monsters.
You need rhythm to save Melodia.
Tempo is a want-to-be warrior. He and his friend, Tappy the rabbit, been training with Woodwin, who once worked in Symphony City as a Royal Guard. Tempo’s hoping one day to hold the same role. For now though, he’s just an amateur.
Yet, he’s not just any novice. Tempo has an important task. Woodwin has given Tempo a legendary note staff to deliver to the princess of Melodia. The boy and rabbit take this mission very seriously, and battle many Nozoid monsters as they journey to Symphony City, even joining with current Royal Guard Lyra and a random mercenary named Tyko on the way.
However, Tempo and his friend soon find they have a higher calling. The recent influx of Noizoids is being caused by a villain named Gargan. The group will have to search for the legendary HarmoKnight that can wield the legendary staff, protecting Melodia and defeating Noizoids along the way.
Harmoknight has got the beat.
HarmoKnight looks like an 80’s cartoon come to life. The characters all have this funky, retro look going for them. It perfectly compliments the decent story and above average soundtrack. You could even consider each level an “episode,” if you were so inclined. The characters have plenty of personality, even our silent avatar Tempo, and the songs are quite infectious. Of course, the Pokemon bonus track levels were my favorite, but the entire package is solid.
HarmoKnight is also the kind of game that’s easy to play, but difficult to master. Tempo, and occasionally Lyra or Tyko, run through a level. Players must press the A and B buttons to help characters past obstacles. For example, Tempo can smash enemies with his staff, jump over obstacles and gaps and sometimes run left and right to dodge attacks. Lyra uses her harp to shoot distant enemies with notes for sort segments. Tyko portions in levels let him or his pet monkey Cymbi take out enemies by hitting their drum and cymbals. Learning the basics is simple, but using them to master a song takes quite a bit of practice.
I did notice that sometimes HarmoKnight doesn’t feel as responsive as it could be. I think this is less about the controls and more about the audio cues not being as notable as they could be. If I play with headphones on and the volume cranked up loader than usually comfortable, I find it’s easier to play than with headphones off and the sound at a reasonable level. I’m sure this is something that players can compensate for with time, by playing the same level repeatedly until muscle memory kicks in for the win. Still, this is a minor quibble and could be attributed to personal sour grapes about not being as perfect as possible at some levels.
It could also be because I started expecting more from myself as I played HarmoKnight. Aside from the notes Tempo must grab and the enemies that have to be whacked, there are also optional drum and cymbal plants in the background. Hitting these with the staff also produce an optional note for the song and often provide a note in return. To really earn a perfect score in a level, all notes must be collected, enemies hit and instrument plants played. Plus, some levels have secret areas with birds that unlock bonus levels. It provides quite a bit of extra incentive to return to a level as someone attempts to get every note and find every secret. That, combined with a “Fast” version of each song that’s unlocked after getting a “Great” grade adds a surprising amount of replay value. It makes the 50 available stages feel more like 100.
Game Freak has made a note-able game.
Sorry for the pun, I couldn’t resist. HarmoKnight is a fun game. The best word for the experience as a whole is campy and I think it has the makings of a cult classic. It has a way of satisfying that need for a quick game and perfectly melds the music and action genres. Game Freak has a it on its hands and I’m already eager for a sequel. Especially if the next round includes bonus levels with other classic Nintendo songs in it!