If you had to ask me (you\’re probably not but let’s just roll with it) then I\’d say the 3DS has had a bit of a drought as of late. Nintendo has seem to be rectifying this though with the release of Fire Emblem Awakening and the upcoming Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon on the 24th. Fire Emblem turned out fantastic, and while we sit impatiently for Luigi’s Mansion, Nintendo has been kind enough to drop the demo for Harmo Knight, easily one of my most anticipated games in the next few months. I\’m a big fan of runner styled games, as long as they\’re not endless, and the fact that Game Freak (Pokemon) created it had my interest level set to high.
The demo consists of 6 stages: 3 tutorials and 3 from World 1. The tutorial stages are easy (rightfully so) and do an adequate job of teaching the player the basics. Stage 1 is about jumping, and without a doubt the easiest Stage 1 in all of gaming. There are no pits, spikes, enemies; just one stretch in which your character runs automatically from left to right. There are notes in the air and while they are easy to catch, it’s not mandatory. While it may seem silly for a game to dedicate one entire level to something as basic as jumping, it is nice to familiarize yourself with just how high he jumps, does he have a glide afterwards, etc.
The next stage, by contrast, is all about attacking. The instructions says to keep in rhythm and attack at the right time, but surprisingly that is easier said then done. Hitting the enemy itself isn\’t too hard, but if an attack is landed in sync with the music then a music note will be obtained. The accuracy needed to get one is pretty precise and took awhile to get accustomed too, and even after playing the demo three times I\’m still a bit shaky at it.
The last stage in the demo was a mini-boss where you had to give chase to a water beast. He dropped eggs and the player must hit them in the same timing as he drops them. Again, not hard to hit the eggs, but it\’ll take some getting use to to get the music notes.
Once the tutorial is done the player will be introduced to a character named Woodwin, who is about to tell you something, but then indicates that this is a “to be continued” moment; it’s a nice meta-joke referring to the demo and actually made me laugh.
Afterwards, it is on to a few levels from World 1. Stage 1-1 does a great job of letting the gamer know what to expect from the game. The better the player does in grabbing notes and hitting enemies with successful timing, the better the music in the game is. On my first run through I found hitting the enemies to be awkward, but after my third time I learned the pattern and managed to snag a “Great” rating at the end of the level. Before enemies come in attack range, they will be doing an action, such as jumping up and down, or making a giant leap for you. The trick is to match that pattern and attack on the next time they do it, so if they jump up two times, you must attack precisely on the third jump. It is easy too learn, but hard to master.
The next level is a secret level obtain if get a Royal Note (obtained from getting a high enough rating) and takes music from a Pokemon game. I won\’t say the name of the track, but it is delightful to play and the game makes another meta-joke, which again, made me chuckle to myself. The level itself is quite difficult mind you, as there are some enemies in which I found incredibly hard to get the right rhythm for.
Finally, there is a boss battle, and this almost made me rage quit the demo. Bosses take to the form of “listen and execute”, in this case the boss will shoot bees at you in a specific pattern and the player must hit them with the exact same rhythm. In between knocking back bees, the game will tell you to dodge a wall by pressing right or left, and this is what I could not get the hang of. I found the timing to be irritatingly picky to the point of game breaking…at first. Maybe it is obvious to everyone else who played the demo, but I was attacking and dodging when I thought the obstructions were in range, then I learn I have to base it on the music, not the visuals. Maybe the game does a poor job of explaining it, maybe I\’m just an idiot, but either way, once that little nudget of information sunk into my skull I beat the boss and felt like I actually did an accomplishment, which is nice to feel in a new game these days. The trick is that before the boss attacks, a “ding” noise will happen and then the game will tell you to “hit”, “left” or “right”. Then, another “ding” will happen in which you must repeat the sequence. Sounds self-explanatory now, but I can be thick at times.
Judging from the demo, I am confident to say that Harmo Knight is not for everyone. Impatient gamers may not be interested in taking the time necessary to get accustomed to the timing, but those who do are in for a great experience if the quality of the demo remains consistent throughout the final product. I initially thought this was going to be similar to Bit Trip Presents: Runner 2, but I now see it’s an entirely different beast that puts the focus on rhythm rather then reflexes. After playing the demo three times I am still incredibly excited for the full game, which is what a good demo does. The game launches on March 28 and we\’ll have our final impressions up as soon as possible.