Castlevania HoD is a arcade game available exclusively for Xbox Live, and rather than a new entry in the series or a remake like Symphony of the Night, it is a culmination of most of the games within the series, bringing their main protagonists into the game, such as Alucard, the son of Dracula, from Symphony of the Night; Soma Cruz, the reincarnation of Dracula, from Dawn of Sorrow, and many more!…Okay, there are only three more, such as Jonathan and Charlotte from Portrait of Ruin, and Shanoa from Order of Ecclesia. And there are of course more characters and stages available via DLC. And together, with all of your friends, you are to brave the castle’s rooms and levels until you reach the lord of darkness and evil, Dracula himself!
The story…there is no plot whatsoever, which is odd considering that this is a Castlevania game, and they usually have a story behind them. In any case, the only thing you should be focusing on is the fighting. The basic idea is controlling one of the five playable characters and roaming the levels collecting treasures and slaying any demons that lay in wait. As opposed to other games in the series, there is no level-up system. However, to replace this, certain characters do grow stronger the more you use their skills, collect them, or even absorb them in Charlotte’s case. Continuing to gain new spells and skills, and leveling them up, your own stats will increase in power. As you might expect, this can be pretty difficult and will take a long time to master, but there is a wide variety of moves each character can perform. And you can also find better equipment for each character to help get bonus stats.
And regarding the characters you can play as, they each have different functions and tactics required, especially due to the way they need to grow stronger or travel around the map. So if having a close-to-mid-range fighter like Soma isn’t your style, then Charlotte can be a perfect substitute for long-range with an arsenal of powerful spells. Levels are also designed well enough and in the classic 2D style found on the Nintendo DS versions of each individual series here, but some have sections that force you to need other people just to get to that specific section to obtain treasure (example: Shanoa is needed to use the magnet glyph to travel faster). As you might expect, most of these levels are direct cut-outs from previous games, but they are also combined with several parts from each of the games, and each level contains a boss from that series’ game, including everyone’s favorite, Death. Sadly, there are only six stages, with more coming their way via downloadable content, along with more playable characters. Unfortunately, I have yet to get a chance to test all the DLC out.
But the real joy from the game comes from multi-player, in which up to six people can play together, each one able to use their own character no matter what, so a team of Jonathans is entirely possible. Also, this helps in not only beating levels that have you stuck on in single player, but can also gain a multitude of treasures and possibly skills depending on your character. Naturally difficulty is increased, depending on how many players are with you, so team work is needed to take down each boss effectively. And if you are alone, you do have to observe the boss patterns when faced against them.
Overall, Castlevania is definitely worth its price on Xbox Live, especially if you enjoy playing with your friends online. As a single-player experience, this might be interesting to test your skills, but if you are hoping for a story, then you may want to look elsewhere. With that in mind, you should definitely find some friends to party with online. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair gets a 4 out of 5!