Developer: Game Freak
System: 3DS (eShop)
Release date: 2013
It has to be said, right from the start, that I've been chomping at the bit to play this Game Freak-developed digital title since it was unveiled during a Japanese Nintendo Direct broadcast back in August of last year.
I liked pretty much everything about the chunks of HarmoKnight that were highlighted during its first trailer--its art style, its music and its rhythm-based gameplay, especially. Each of those aspects continued to enthrall me after I played the title's demo for the first time about a month ago, which prompted me to assume this would be the next 3DS release--after THE DENPA MEN and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, among others--to consume my so-called free time.
In a way, this creation is much like Sega's Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure, which similarly intrigued me in the lead up to its release, only to disappoint and even enrage me (on occasion) afterward.
As for which elements were most responsible for letting me down: the most notable revolves around too many of the game's stages--I'm looking at you, Baroque, Jazz and Rock worlds--feeling cheap from a difficulty standpoint. Sometimes that's due to the background music being too subtle (making it hard to discern an actual beat), while at other times it's due to enemies or obstacles literally coming out of nowhere. (Both of these issues are present in every one of HarmoKnight's maddening mine-cart stages, by the way.)
Three other components that contributed to my more-negative-than-I'd-originally-hoped assessment of HarmoKnight: its lack of checkpoints (although this only becomes a real problem during this eShop title's later levels), its love of narrative text (especially annoying when you consider its story basically boils down to "save the princess from the bad guy") and the fact that it's a fairly short-lived experience (I beat the final boss and encountered the game's end credits after just three hours of play).
Do all of the above-mentioned cons outweigh HarmoKnight's pros--which include not only its art style and soundtrack, but also its Space Channel 5-esque boss and mini-boss battles and Pokémon-themed bonus stages? Sadly, I think they do.
I have to say, though, that I'd probably respond to that question in a more positive manner if the game cost $5 or even $10. At $15, though, it's far too flawed to recommend to anyone other than huge fans of rhythm-based platformers--and even those folks are likely to wish they'd refrained from hitting the "buy" button at one point or another.
See also: previous 'somewhat gay' reviews