Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Review: HarmoKnight

12:00 PM on 03.25.2013 // Tony Ponce

PaRappa the Space Channel Gitaroo Runner Man

It's difficult to gauge the extent of a studio's talent when it's locked into making sequels in a single franchise over and over again. Such is the fate of Game Freak, bound to the mainline Pokémon series with criminally few opportunities to branch out. What a shame it is that the public often overlooks the company's small stable of original titles, such as Pulseman on SEGA Genesis and Drill Dozer on Game Boy Advance.

Hoping to give hungry young designers a chance to explore non-Pokémon avenues, Game Freak instated a new internal policy that allows small teams to work on a game concept independently with the potential to turn it into a full project. The first fruit born of that policy is HarmoKnight, a rhythm platformer that feels like a mashup of all the best bits of past rhythm genre greats.

An adorable and addictive good time, HarmoKnight demonstrates that Game Freak has a lot more to offer the world than just Pokémon.

HarmoKnight (3DS eShop)
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Release: March 28, 2013
MSRP: $14.99

The beauty of HarmoKnight lies in its duality -- simple yet challenging, inviting yet demanding, generous yet punishing. In a genre that often expects perfection from all players, this game gives you the freedom to make mistakes without the fear of swift and brutal consequences. It's only as rough as you want it to be, allowing everyone to enjoy the adventure at their preferred pace.

Similar to BIT.TRIP RUNNER, your hero Tempo will march through the levels automatically; you merely need to press two buttons -- B / X to jump, A / Y to attack -- to overcome enemies and obstacles. You must time your movements to the beat, and the game is not afraid to throw off your flow. In particular, the percussiplants -- drums and cymbals that sprout from the ground -- are difficult to target by sight alone, while in certain levels, the tempo will increase or decrease suddenly. Grab a pair of headphones and keep your ears open!

The goal in each level is to collect as many notes as you can, either by picking up free-standing notes along the path or by whacking enemies and plants at the precise moment. Collect enough notes to earn a silver or gold victory blossom and you'll be awarded a Royal Note, which must be collected in each level in order to pass through barricades on the world map.

But the truth is that you don't need to stress about your performance too much. Missed a few notes? Didn't time your attacks properly? You'll probably still earn at least a silver. In fact, the only time I didn't rank in a stage was when I actively attempted a low-score run. Not even gold blossoms, the highest rank possible, are out of reach for the average player. There's plenty of breathing room for mistakes, and taking damage won't affect your score, so go easy and do your best. And if somehow you don't rank, proceed to the next level and return later for the Royal Note once you're good and ready.

If you wish to enjoy the musical journey without care for high scores, you are free to do so. But if you wish to challenge yourself and dig deep beneath the surface, you'll discover a wealth of scoring opportunities. The biggest game changer of all is the charge attack, performed by holding the attack button after swinging your staff once then released once a target is in range. If your attack connects properly, you'll earn two notes instead of one. Once you've mastered this skill, you'll want to return to past levels in search of optimal spots to charge your staff and maximize your score.

For an even greater challenge, earning a gold blossom also unlocks an increased tempo version of that level. You'll be surprised at how much more imposing even the earliest stages can be at such speeds, when half-note beats demand lightning reflexes and the time between an enemy's sound effect "tell" and its attack shrinks to mere fractions of a second.

Boss levels take on a whole different routine, playing out like Space Channel 5 -- the enemy will launch a volley tagged with button prompts and you have to repeat the commands in time with the beat. And while normal stages only require you to jump and attack, boss battles also incorporate dodging via the direction pad. A couple of "battles" actually take the form of a dance-off, in which the commands appear along a rhythm line similar to the one found in PaRappa the Rapper.

Unlike in other levels, earning the gold during boss encounters does in fact demand a perfect run. It seems strange that the rest of the game would leave plenty of room for error but then hold you to a much stricter standard for these segments. Furthermore, there are no secret techniques to earn extra notes in boss battles, meaning there is no incentive to replay once you earn the gold.

After completing the main campaign, there's still plenty more to do. In addition to the fast tempo level variants, there are five Pokémon-themed bonus stages dotted with giant Pokéball and Pikachu hot air balloons. And beyond the standard seven worlds is a special eighth world populated by levels that replace the leisurely pace and forgiving nature of the rest of the game with hardcore ruthlessness.

The linchpin of entire package is the remarkable presentation. One look at the cutscenes and character designs, you can't help but catch a whiff of Gitaroo Man. The main villain especially could have been pulled straight from the PS2 classic! Then there are the environments that pop with rich colors and soft edges, so vibrant they are that no matter how many times you replay stage, it'll look just as lovely as it did on the first visit.

One thing I haven't touched upon is the soundtrack itself -- ironically, it isn't as strong as you'd believe. Some themes are more enjoyable than others, but none will stick in your mind like rhythm game music ought to. It's also unfortunate that the same one or two themes are repeated in every stage in a world, a rather irksome trait in a game based around musical performance.

But as a whole, HarmoKnight is a wonderful bundle of charm and joy that doesn't really punish failure but rather encourages perseverance and dedication. There isn't even a "Game Over" when you die! Instead, the screen reads, "Oh Dear..." Reminds me of a mother who picks up a child who fell off the jungle gym, dusts him off, and gently urges him to try again. It's such a minor touch, but it's nonetheless uplifting. Maybe I'm sentimental like that.

It's been seven years since Game Freak last made a non-Pokémon title. HarmoKnight feels like the promising start of many wonderful new experiences to come, so I can only hope we don't have to wait another seven years for a follow-up.



HarmoKnight - Reviewed by Tony Ponce
Entrancing - It's like magic, guys. Time disappears when this game and I are together, and I never want it to end. I'm not sure if this is a love that will last forever, but if it is, you'll get no complaints from me.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Tony Ponce, Former Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure megaStryke Tips
(Decommissioned) Super Fighting Robot more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!

Thankful it's Over: Bioshock Infinite

Is Toei using Kamen Rider Ghost to address suicide in Japan?

Let's talk about Xenoblade Chronicles

Cblogs of 11/27/15 - Life is Strange, and Sad

Top 5 Reasons Star Wars Battlefront KICKS ASS!

Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Little Slice of Childhood

Top 5 Reasons Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 IS AWESOME!

Cblogs of 11/26/15 + Combat Heropon-isms

Video games go mainstream

I’m Not a SJW, I’m an Anthropologist: Making the Case for Diversity in Games

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

Still in work clothes.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Welp, wrote up a blog for that there bloggers wanted. Its me bitching about Bioshock Infinite! Again! Yay!!!!!!
Sr Churros avatarSr Churros
Just finished watching The Phantom Menace. Yeah, Jar Jar is as bad as people say. Baby Vader is so cute and also kicks some serious ass. One of the best lightsaber battles of the series, if not the best one. It was pretty neat!
Roxas1359 avatarRoxas1359
Can't decide where I should upload my latest project. Either on my YouTube Channel or on Game Anyone. On the one hand YouTube gets more exposure, but Game Anyone is where some of my more popular walkthroughs are. The game is 3D Land if anyone is wondering
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
Thanksgiving dinner for days!
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Anyone know if the Bethesda games on sale on Amazon for a certain amount of time, or through Monday?
TysonOfTime avatarTysonOfTime
In light of the fact that Xenoblade Chronicles X is fast approaching, I suggest we start planning out a Destructoid Squad! NNID is TysonOfTime. From what I've heard, it doesn't appear Squads are region locked (except for Japan), so everyone's welcome!
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Typing of the Dead > all other typing games.
Lawman avatarLawman
Listening to this on a Tall Oaks level of RE: Revelations 2's Raid Mode is entrancing, for some reason.
EdgyDude avatarEdgyDude
Need a reason to support Indivisible? Shantae is in it!. Back it or spread the word, every bit of help counts.
KeithTheGeek avatarKeithTheGeek
Sometimes I miss how hilariously janky Brawl was, and I still have a lot of fun playing it. Not sure if I could ever take it seriously as a competitive game, but I want to enter at least one Brawl tournament in the future. You know, if I can find one.
KnickKnackMyWack avatarKnickKnackMyWack
I love how on a slow news day I can always turn to Qposts for something else to read and think about. Keep up the mojo fellas!
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
I finally caved in to those sweet deals, got Shantae and The Pirate's Curse, Downwell and Super House of Dead Ninjas :)
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I hope that Prototype runs better on my dad's old laptop than it does on my AMD gaming rig. Some badly coded games run like ass on AMD cards.
LinkSlayer64 avatarLinkSlayer64
Please spare me from issues in the process of publishing my blog! Especially since I modified CSS to unnecessarily pseudo-crop an image, and make it so some images float next to text, and make it look decent on mobile. I'm a frickin' nerd, love it.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
The night brims with defiled scum, and is permeated by their rotten stench. Just think, now you're all set to hunt and kill to your heart's content! #FashionBorne [img][/img]
MeanderBot avatarMeanderBot
Two more days to get in on the unofficial Christmas Card! [Url][/URL]
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django has got a mystery sale on T Shirts and Tank Tops atm, $5 for each. Only catch is they're random. But I've had some good luck, got a Captain Falcon one before, Zombies ate my Neighbors and a Persona 4 X Earthbound crossover.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
I would really, really love if "publish now" could work without me having to post a blog multiple because the site is such a mess right now.
fitzen avatarfitzen
I got it all the way back in spring, but I still haven't finished Majoras Mask. Think I've done the first temple.. It's hard not knowing where to go. All those linear corridors and objective markers in games has made me dumb and impatient.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -