Ever wonder, “What if Game Freak made a game other than Pokemon?” Well, wonder no more! Game Freak‘s second game that isn’t Pokemon-related is now about to be released. Entitled HarmoKnight, you play as, well, a knight who likes harmonizing. Oh you think I’m kidding? Nope! HarmoKnight is what I like to describe as Mario meets Rock Band with Pokemon-style music. Trust me, it is just as cool as that sounds.
HarmoKnight features 50 levels of musical platforming. For a digital-exclusive title, you are getting the value of a full retail game for the price of a digital game. The 50 levels are divided up into several worlds, something you know and expect from a Mario game. The difference and uniqueness that is HarmoKnight comes into play when you, well, play it. There are a few short tutorial levels at the beginning that not only introduce you to the game mechanics, but the story as well. The story goes that you play as Tempo, a young boy that lives on the planet Melodia. The planet is attacked by evil Noizoids, and it is Tempo’s quest to defeat them alongside a few friends, including a quirky little rabbit. You actually play as several characters, not just Tempo, each having unique abilities from ranged attacks to controlling a monkey with cymbals and a muscular man at the same time. This game is weird, but it works. The cut-scenes play out as comic strip-like sequences that work rather well with the 3D feature (yeah, I pretty much forgot about that thing too).
The actual gameplay itself plays out as an on-rails, side-scrolling platformer with 3D backgrounds, characters, and levels. While the whole on-rails thing may be unappealing, you actually totally forget about it because of the control you do have. Each level is totally revolving around the notion of music. Similar to the coins from a Mario game, you jump and hit enemies to collect musical notes. Don’t kill an enemy or hit a particular random instrument in harmonization (get it?) with the music, and you won’t receive the note. Everything has to be in perfect harmony, because each level requires you to collect a specific number of notes to receive a special Royal Note, which in turn is necessary to progress to the next world and so on.
Boss battles play out in a QTE (Quick Time Event) fashion. Facing anything from a huge noisy dog to an evil ship that toots its horn way too loud, a narrator will warn you whether to jump or hit and in what order to successfully complete each section of the boss battle. It is not nearly as gamey as it sounds and actually fits really well into the context of the battle. The action becomes very intense, and trust me, you will mess up. But that’s the point. I replayed the first boss battle probably 20 times before I beat him, and that’s not a bad thing at all. You will get it wrong at first, but you won’t want to quit right away.
You’ll desire to keep trying, and eventually, you’ll learn every beat and rhythm of the battle and you’ll beat it easily. It isn’t for everyone, though, only those willing to learn the minute details of the system and each song. Trial and error is what makes this game so fun. In fact, I still play my favorite level over and over, because each time I get a little bit better than the last. It helps that the music is great, too. A lot of times you’ll have the same theme rehashed, from tropical to spooky to heavy metal, but it works. The music is uplifting (except weird creepy parts that are still cool) and will get your foot tapping, which is useful so you can get your timing perfect.
Overall, HarmoKnight is a strange and quirky musical game that you would expect from the makers of the Pokemon series. Since this is a digital eShop game, I can’t wait to see what Game Freak could come up with in a full retail game that isn’t Pokemon. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pokemon, and I can’t wait for X and Y this fall, but it’s nice to see Game Freak’s unique talent and creativity being fully used and makes me excited for whatever is next from the studio.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Nintendo 3DS version of HarmoKnight by Game Freak