the gang's all here...
Castlevania: HoD is a game that's available on the X-box live market place. Since it only costs around 800 Microsoft points, and I've deeply enjoyed some of the other Castlevania games that I've played, I figured that this was a steal. And, hoo boy, did it go against my expectations. Let me just sum this entire game up in one word, for those of you that may be thinking about downloading it: Grinding.
This entire game is nothing but a massive grind fest, from the moment you push the start button to the moment you turn off the power, all you're doing is grinding. Grinding for what, you may ask? Grinding for souls, new abilities, new gear, better weapons, you name it. The only kind of grinding you'll never find yourself doing is level grinding, and that's because HoD doesn't have a level up system. That's right, in this game, you DON'T get exp. for killing monsters, and you don't increase your attributes by leveling up. Instead, you raise your attributes by equipping better gear, and you raise your ATK stat by improving your abilities.
Each character has several abilities that you can chose from, and the more you use them, the stronger they get. This is just about as close to a concrete level up as the game ever gets, as improving your sub weapons or spells, depending on the character, is the only way to increase your damage potential. This results in players spending HOURS in verses mode just spam attacking the boss monster for weapon experience.
Okay, so you've spent about 4 or 5 hours spamming the same 6 attacks over and over again to get them all maxed out, now what are you going to do with your newfound power? Why, hop into co-op mode and go grind for superior gear!
gear that lets you run faster
gear that improves your attack as you take damage
gear that makes your spells more powerful
gear that makes you move slower in exchange for INSANE amounts of defense.
you name it, this game's got it, and the amount of characters that you can change in between at any time ensures that you'll be grinding for many, many days to come if you want everybody to be respectable. Prepare to run through the same 4 levels more times then you'd care to count just looking for that one piece
of equipment that you need for your top character to be perfect.
Alright, with all that talk about grinding, and mechanics, out of the way, let's address a few other key factors in determining if this game's right for you.
The core gameplay is still familiar to those who have played any Castlevania game past Symphony of the Night. It's still awesome 2D side scrolling fun, with a badass soundtrack to back it up. And, for the first time in any Castlevania game (to the best of my knowledge), there's an actual online co-op mode. Actually, let's go ahead and call it a Co-op GAME with a single player option thrown in for good measure. If you want to tackle any of these levels by yourself, good luck. HoD highly encourages you to get a few buddies together to navigate the levels quicker, and get a lot more of the rare treasure hidden throughout the level. Hell, some of the rarest drops in the game are absolutely impossible to get to unless you've got 2 people working together to get to it.
Though, as long as the people you're playing with aren't complete and total jackasses, you shouldn't mind at all, since running through the levels with a few friends is a very smooth and natural process. Plus, it's kind of awesome seeing all of the Castlevania greats chipping in to take down the boss of the level.
And that brings us to the character roster, and this game damn well brought it's A game in that category. Imagine this as the Castlevania version of Super Smash brothers, all of the best Castlevania characters throughout the ages coming together in one massive crossover. The roster, as it stands right now, includes the likes of:
Soma Cruz (Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow)
Alucard (Symphony of the Night)
Shanoa (Order of Ecclesia)
Johnathan Morris (Portrait of Ruin)
Charlotte Aulin (Portrait of Ruin)
And those are just the characters that come with the game, characters that are available for DLC include:
Julius Belmont (Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow)
Richter Belmont (Symphony of the Night, Dracula X)
Maria Renard (Dracula X version)
Yoko Belnades (Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow)
Simon Belmont (8 bit version)
Getsu Fuma (?)
So yeah, pick your poison. You want to go all out brawn? They got a character for that. You want to be swift and agile? They got a character for that. You want to stay behind and cast spells? They got a character for that. You want to take on the hardest level on the hardest setting on your own, and still beat it in under 5 minutes? Buckle down and dedicate 100+ hours to a single character, ANY of them can do that.
There's one last thing that you need to ask yourself before you download this game, how much free time do you have? Because this game is addicting as hell. Odds are, I'm going to finish writing this review, and jump right back on, find a party, and grind for that pair of goddamned sonic boots I want so badly. Even though the game revolves itself around grinding, it's fun as hell, addicting as hell, and has a shocking amount of depth once you start to scratch the surface of what may appear to be a rather shallow game at first.
If you're looking for a game that you can play casually, like for a few hours a week, stay the hell away. If you've got the time, dedication, patience, and are a fan of the Castlevania series, you're bound to have a fun time running through the levels, playing as all the different characters, and figuring out a play style that best suits your needs. Plus, the community kicks ass, and once you make a few online friends to run through the levels with, the game gets several times more enjoyable.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a pair of sonic boots with my name on them.