It’s the product of a restructuring at the Pokémon developer, which sees employees now allowed to pitch concept proposals for smaller projects that, through gaining enough support from colleagues, can soon become a reality.
And we can certainly be grateful that HarmoKnight fell into such category, embodying Game Freak’s relentless creativity through a downloadable title that truly proves to be a visual showcase for the Nintendo 3DS.
You play as Tempo, originally tasked by Master Woodwin to carry a legendary staff to Symphony City. Yet upon arrival, having briskly made your way through the game’s opening stages, you’re alarmed to discover the world has fallen under siege to the discordant Noizoids.
Their inharmonious arrival sends Melodia’s inhabitants into a frenzy, with Princess Ariana soon being kidnapped by the Noizoids’ monstrous leader Gargan. Wielding the legendary staff, and accompanied by rhythmic-foot tapping rabbit Tappy, you find yourself thrust on a quest across the world’s several regions to rescue her.
HarmoKnight’s greatest success is how effective its design jumbles the formula when necessary, to maintain your interest throughout the game’s abundant worlds.
Regular stages see you dashing along layered side-scrolling environments, dodging and bashing enemies that bounce along your path as dynamic camera angles alter your view of the proceedings. You follow a trail of rhythmically-placed notes – collecting which provides the melody to the backing audio of that particular stage, whilst missing any leaving a gaping void in the chirpy tunes.
This becomes an ever-increasing challenge as you progress. Blizzards, smoke and cliffs soon obscuring your view, with players hopping over dangerous gaps and attacking enemies that fall in their musical road of destruction. Percussiplants in the background grant extra opportunity to gather more notes, whilst cracking eggs open will allow you to replenish lost health.
The introduction of the melodic warrior and dynamic duo Tyko and Cymbi down the line also grants welcome variety, interjecting specific stages to alternate your attack pattern. Lyra is able to shoot enemies at the top of the screen with her bow, whereas Tyko and Cymbi may attack at both heights with drumsticks and cymbals.
Boss stages take an entirely different approach with the player tasked with accurately responding to a series of command prompts, necessary to dodge incoming attacks and send projectiles spiralling back toward their origin.
These prove a highlight, seeing Tempo flying along atop a bird, swimming on the back of a dolphin, or snowboarding down a snowy mountain climb. The game also serves up stages that see you ride a monkey-shaped mine cart, as well as the hypnotic dancer Octorina who challenges Tempo to mimic her dance moves.
Completion of any stage will see you awarded a rank for your prowess, and these can be largely forgiving. You’ll need to achieve a Golden or Silver Blossom to gain a Royal Note for your efforts, needed to progress beyond certain sections of the game.
Those looking for longevity from HarmoKnight will want to aim for gold, which sees you unlock a ‘Fast’ version of that particular stage for a marginally elevated challenge.
Alongside this, there are also Bonus Stages to uncover, each featuring tracks and scenery inspired by the Pokémon series – “The Gym,” “Route 26,” and “Champion Battle!” to name but a few.
HarmoKnight proves a blistering ride and an exceptional addition to the Nintendo eShop. We certainly can’t wait to see what other fruits emerge from Game Freak’s new direction.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Nintendo