Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, Silver, Crystal, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, Black, White.
Whenever a conversation is brought up about Game Freak, these colors are used in sentences to specifically talk about the games that they’ve worked on, those games being Pokemon specifically.
And that’s about it, at least from what most people know, as they are a group specifically known for Pokemon, and nothing more.
I mean, who remembers Pulseman for the Sega‘s Mega Drive? Or 2005’s Drill Dozer for the GBA? (admittedly, these games were released in dying consoles in their respective times, so it‘s fair to say those wouldn‘t be remembered much).
But after some welcome changes in Game Freak’s internal structuring, employees were allowed to create new titles (while still working on Pokemon, mind you, that’s never going to change). And just like that, development began on this new game (surprisingly, this game was the brainchild of James Turner, who was the guy who created both Golurk, who is now loved by fans, and well… Vanille… But that’s besides the point).
That game, is called HarmoKnight.
Unlike anything previously created by the team, this title is a different breed altogether, not an RPG, not an action/adventure title, but instead; a rhythm/sort of platformer..
The story (yes, it has a story) put you in the control of Harmo, who after a meteor crashes on the planet, bringing along an evil entity known as Gargan that corrupts the planet, is send to deliver a note-shaped staff that has the ability to defeat this evil being to Symphony City, where someone who has the potential to become a HarmoKnight should be.
In all honesty thought, the story is forgettable, as are the characters, I applaud the effort to bring some sort of story telling, but it just falls flat and it just feels tacked on, then again, no one buys a rhythm game for the story.
The gameplay is where is at. You control Tempo, using only the A and B buttons, gameplay sometimes gets switched around every few stages to keep the game fresh, you are in control of a mine cart, other times you control an archer and fire away at far off enemies, and other times you use a drummer and a monkey… Yeah, don’t take this game seriously.
There are also boss stages sprinkled throughout the campaign, these stages are actually on the easy side, thanks to the fact that the game gives you the timing for each, another complain from these stages, is that you must always hit the last note, if you don’t, that means an automatic fail, which brought a frustrated grunt out of me more than once, since I had done it perfectly until then, fortunately, the stages aren’t overly long, so it’s not that much of a problem, although a skip for the first part of the track (EBA style) would have been nice.
(Don’t mind the German translation here)
The goal of each stage is to collect the most notes possible, this can be done by grabbing the notes floating around, hitting an enemy with the staff, as well as the instruments around the level, if enough are grabbed, a Royal Note that is needed to advance is received, this sounds easy enough, but this game is unforgiving in its rhythm and timing, if the hits are off by even a little bit, you will miss and will be damaged, or the target will bounce off completely missing the note, unlike past Nintendo rhythm games, this one can be a bit tough to master, even after I finished it, I still had trouble going through it.
How does the game look? It looks great! The graphics sport a cartoonish style that fit the lighthearted atmosphere of the game, even the enemies look silly for the most part, the models are well done and visible enough when they appear on-screen, allowing you enough time to react in order to hit them in the face while following the rhythm.
In the sound area? Well… The sound cues are great, but the music itself is not the most catchy music ever created, I would go as far as to say it’s forgettable, I honestly cannot remember any of the tracks outside the Pokemon bonus tracks (which are a welcome addition to the game) and the Final Stage, which is only possible due to my repeated failure.
Another thing I noticed that other reviewers didn‘t address, was that the music in certain stages was recycled through each level, only being very minimally different, and the stages themselves being slightly altered, which is a lazy thing from the music department to do, seeing how the music was already forgettable enough, this is okay in games where platforming is key, but not in rhythm games, where music must definitely be good.
The game itself is also rather short, but for an eShop title, the length is to be expected, although the price tag of 15 bucks will surely put off some people.
But still, even with all of my complaints, I still can’t let this game go, using two buttons is simple enough, but mastering it has been a blast, I still think this franchise can do better, a sequel that deals with all of the issues this game has would be welcome, Game Freak, so when you are not working on Pokemon X and Y, that would be appreciated.
In conclusion, this is a game that I would only recommend to rhythm game fans, and for that matter, MAYBE Pokemon fans for the bonus tracks alone, although I don’t expect those guys to shell out 15 dollars for this game, it’s still a pretty solid entry that it wouldn’t hurt to have on your 3DS, but you really wouldn’t miss anything by waiting for the game to go on sale.