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3DS  header logo


For: 3DS

Sound, I guess?

Product: HarmoKnight | Developer: Game Freak | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: 3DS | Genre: Action, Music/ Rhythm, Platform | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
HarmoKnight 3DS, thumbnail 1
Having a legacy in the games industry must be a terrible thing. If you're an individual creator then you'll always be remembered for one game above all others.

And if you're a company that wants to branch out from what you usually produce, people will always compare what you make with the series you're known for.

On which note, here come the people that made the mind-bendingly successful Pokemon franchise with a rhythm-action game called HarmoKnight. Lacking in ideas, and missing any sense of identity, this is one for traditional rhythm-action fans only.

Cubones, Dugtrios and HarmoKnights

Game Freak has made plenty of other games that aren't Pokemon-related before, of course, but HarmoKnight lacks the conviction you typically see from seasoned developers. There's just no innovation in any of its ideas.

You are Tempo, a guy with a magic wand that you use to bat bad guys out of his your as you automatically run from left to right towards an exit point. With a tap of the A button you swing your golf club-like device and batter the creature that stood in your path, and this action is accompanied by a note that adds to a larger musical score blasting out of the 3DS's speakers.

Other actions contribute to this tune, too, such as jumping across ledges, striking the flora that pass by, and bouncing on trampolines. When you meet new characters in the story you'll occasionally tag out to let them tackle a section, and their movements also add to the symphony.

Once in a while you'll take part in a special encounter, usually a boss fight, at which points the game morphs into an exercise in memorising a sequence of inputs and then repeating them in time with the rhythm, a la PaRappa the Rapper.

Only in these boss fights will you struggle to succeed on a level first time, and only because there are beats that - even if you haven't missed a single one previously - spell instant failure if missed.


Game Freaks never expands on its central idea beyond making the tempo faster or more complicated, or obscuring your view momentarily. Where Elite Beat Agents, Groove Coaster, and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy have moved the genre forward, HarmoKnight languishes in game design from the mid-'90s.

The game's technical elements are all over the shop. Tracking of your actions is precise, so when you do occasionally fail it never feels like you can blame the system, and the in-game engine has some very pretty action sequences to show you. The music is cheerful and dynamic, making it perfect for a music game.

But the overworld map, character design, and cinematics are embarrassingly poor. It looks like a particularly talented seven-year-old has drawn them, rather than the team that brought you something as iconic as Pikachu.

And here we are, back to Pokemon. Indicative of how little faith Game Freak has in this game being a success on its own merits is the fact that the bonus unlockable stages are Pokemon-themed, even though the game has no narrative ties with that series.

Game Freak had clearly attempted to branch out, and it's made a decent enough fist of the rhythm-action genre, but HarmoKnight's gameplay and presentation sadly belong to another time.
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 2 April 2013
If you're after a by-the-numbers rhythm-action experience, then HarmoKnight has you covered, but its lack of style and unwillingness to push any of its few ideas forward are a massive letdown
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