It’s not often we see Game Freak release a title that isn’t about Pokémon, so when they do, it’s normally a game to be somewhat excited about. The last time this Nintendo-exclusive developer actually created a game that wasn’t related to Pokémon was way back in 2005 with Drill Dozer on the GBA. Unbelievable – yeah? These guys seem to be stuck in a never-ending cycle. Continually churning out the latest Pokémon game down in the depths of hell, I mean Nintendo. So now after a number of years Game Freak has once again managed to break free from its shackles and develop a game that has absolutely nothing to do with Pokémon… well almost.
Presenting HarmoKnight – a game that blurs the line between the rhythm and platform genre. I won’t say this idea hasn’t been done before because really it has (Bit. Trip Runner I’m looking at you). By combining elements of both the rhythm and platform genre, along with a cute yet crazy storyline, HarmoKnight is the kind of game that very few people would have encountered on their travels before.
The story of HarmoKnight starts off as all great stories do – a young boy and his pet rabbit realising their destiny. Unfortunately this develops into nothing but a considerably lame storyline. For the sake of this review though I’ll push on and humour you all. Tempo – the young lad, and Tappy – the upbeat rabbit live on a musical planet called Melodia. Funnily enough, this tale mirrors the last game this reviewer played – Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Both games have meteor-like objects crash land on their respective planets and shortly after, all hell breaks loose. The meteor crash in HarmoKnight introduces the evil Gargan and his army of Noizoids. It’s hard to describe who exactly these characters are, but let me tell you they’re mostly weird, musically orientated, and forgettable. Once Tempo and his rabbit companion have come to terms with their harsh new reality, they use a mysterious note staff, along with some subtle guidance from an old guy known as Master Woolwin, to go on an adventure and defeat all evil – because that’s what you do when you’re a videogame hero.
If the storyline wasn’t already a dead giveaway, HarmoKnight isn’t exactly the smartest cookie on the block. Even as a rhythm game it’s rather lacking in depth. The main objective of it is to run and jump through a level, collecting musical notes and defeating enemies with the staff in time to the beat. It’s a very straightforward process. Besides this, there’s not much else to worry about except the health meter and roughly memorising the patterns in each level. Like any other game, running out of hearts means game over.
Adding some much needed variety to HarmoKnight are the characters Lyra and Tyko who show up in the latter half of the game to aid Tempo on his adventure. Lyra uses her bow to shoot foes in the distance and Tyko uses his drums with the assistance of his monkey sidekick Cymbi to knock enemies out simultaneously. Both of these characters appear in certain segments of levels from time to time, offering a change of pace and a brief break from Tempo’s play style. Another slant on the action is the occasional boss battle. These mix things up a bit by offering a different camera perspective and also a few different button presses (mainly use of the control pad). While this might not sound like much, it’s well implemented enough to notice. The bosses themselves are quite a challenge as well. If all this still isn’t enough though, Game Freak has included a hard mode. This ups the speed of each level meaning more skill and faster reflexes will be required.
As you’d probably expect, the sound and visuals in HarmoKnight are a few of the defining aspects of the game. Both are flawless. The title sets unprecedented sound and visual quality. It’s not like these aspects really even jump out either, it’s just the amount of polish that has gone into them. Similar to how refined the Pokémon games have become over the years. It’s a reminder of just how freakishly good Game Freak is as a developer nowadays. The visuals, stereoscopic 3D, music and sound effects in HarmoKnight are nothing but perfect. Crystal clear music and sound effects doubled with sparkling visuals and 3D. It’s got to be one of the best looking games out there in terms of its art style and visual direction. The cartoon art favours the overall theme of the game, and the chirpy little tunes and crisp sound effects make the whole experience so much sweeter.
All up, HarmoKnight is an enjoyable romp from start to finish. While its gameplay is not solid as various other rhythm-based offerings on the market, it’s still clear that a lot of effort has gone into it. It includes plenty of levels and worlds that will keep players going for some time, and an unlimited amount of replay value. $19.50 might seem like a big ask for an eShop title, but really, the graphics and sound alone in HarmoKnight are enough to justify a purchase. Oh, and just one more thing – Pokémon content does actually feature within this game. You didn’t honestly think Game Freak would give you a break from their beloved franchise that easily did you?