Game Freak is a developer that is famed for their Pokemon RPGs. But because of a change in their inner structure which allowed developers to partake in their own projects, while still working on the Pokemon franchise; James Turner, alongside Shigeru Ohmori, created HarmoKnight.
HarmoKnight falls into the rhythm genre, though it’s interesting to note that the game was initially going to be a simple action platformer. HarmoKnight is done in a “runner” type style, where the character continuously runs forward. You are tasked with collecting musical notes in each level that seamlessly meshes into the background music which creates slight immersion. You play as the hero, Tempo, who is on a quest to stop the Noizoids from running rampant on Melodia and save the Royal Family. However, it doesn’t take too long before this game turns into a very generic “save the princess” story-line.
Tempo is accompanied by his pet rabbit, Tappy, who will provide guidance to our hero. Along the way, you meet-up with two more characters that will help you in your journey. The first one is Lyra; she’s a skilled archer and is used for enemies that are too far for Tempo to attack. Then you meet with Tyko and his pet monkey, Chime. He is usually used in areas that will see two different enemies coming at you, at varying heights.
As I booted the game up and started my journey, I was welcomed by a narrative in the opening sequence. I found it quite entertaining as it wasn’t your typical professional voice-over, but instead offered a sarcastic tone to it. I was excited to play what I thought would be a game full of quirkiness and sarcastic narratives, but as I continued I was rather disappointed. The only time that it was utilized was at the opening scene, and after that the only “voice-overs” in the rest of the game were grunts and laughs.
The over-world in HarmoKnight will immediately remind you of Super Mario World, and it’s no surprise as Game Freak is associated with Nintendo. But the similarities don’t end there, as some of the sound effects for creatures are easily recognizable from characters of the iconic Mario franchise, such as Boo. With a generic, yet similar story-line of saving the princess, it’s hard to see how HarmoKnight tries to separate itself, but don’t worry, because it does… just not that well.
In HarmoKnight, you are tasked with finding the “Royal Notes” in each level that is used to unlock certain areas. This is usually done by getting a Gold or Silver medal ranking in each level, which sounds easy, but proves tiresome. The gameplay is very repetitive, and I would grow tiresome of it quickly. Game Freak does implement the other two characters to help Tempo in a level, but they executed it poorly. During a level, you might come to an area better suited for another character. So, the gameplay ultimately pauses and switches to either Lyra or Tyko. This causes your momentum to stop dead and the rhythm you had to be interrupted; something that is huge in conquering each level. HarmoKnight is also a very trail-and-error experience; I would sometimes find myself surprised by a gang of enemies and killed, or surprised by a jump. This is further helped by the button commands not always being recognized by the game. I found this to be very true when you were forced to mash on the “A” button in rapid succession.
HarmoKnight demands that you be precise with your actions. In order to collect musical notes from a defeated enemy, you had to strike at the correct moment. If you struck too early, you’d defeat the enemy, but get no musical note. Yet, if you struck it too late, you’d get injured. What was poorly thought out here was that I found the “correct” moment was always so close to Tempo that it was either hit the enemy, or suffer a hit.
HarmoKnight does do things right however. The graphics for this game are beautiful and the characters are very well designed, especially the villain. Once I saw the 3-dimensional graphics I found myself getting very excited for Pokemon X and Y, because this shows that Game Freak knows how to do 3D and make it beautiful. I also liked the music that they had implemented in this game. However, I found that at least one song was re-used in another level, or perhaps it was a very similar sounding BGM. Game Freak did add in several surprises and also gave a nod or two to their Pokemon roots. This alone, I think, makes HarmoKnight a game worth trying, however, the $15.99 price is rather steep for what you get in the package.
This review was based off of a download code provided by Nintendo