(3DS eShop)

HarmoKnight (3DS eShop)

Game Review

HarmoKnight Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

Big beat

When you think Game Freak, you instinctively think Pokémon. It’s hardly surprising; the Japanese studio has been behind the million-selling franchise since day one, and the evergreen popularity of “catching 'em all” has ensured that the firm has little reason — or time — to explore other avenues. Apart from side-projects like 2005’s Drill Dozer, Game Freak has stuck with what it knows best — until now, that is. HarmoKnight is the first game to emerge from the studio since an internal restructuring took place which allows employees to work on projects in tandem with the usual Pokémon output, and is the brainchild of English staffer James Turner.

As the title suggests, HarmoKnight is all about music. Everything from the setting to the core gameplay revolves around melodies and beats, with lead character Tempo striking enemies and collecting notes in time to the backing track. Tempo’s movement is automatic; he runs without any input from the player. Interaction is limited to jumping and hitting (and occasionally dodging), all of which need to be done in time with the music. Pressing a button too early usually results in you either missing a note or taking damage, and once you've lost all of your hearts you have to restart the level.

The aim is to earn enough magical notes to pass the level; collect enough notes and you’ll earn a Royal note, and amassing enough of these is a requirement to get past certain roadblocks on the game's overworld map. Successfully striking enemies will earn you notes, as will hitting plants in the background which are predictably shaped like percussive instruments. Making contact with the latter is purely optional, and beginners are advised to ignore them entirely as they are often placed in locations which throw you off the beat and make it harder to get back into the natural groove of the level. Even so, if you want to bag that all-important Gold Blossom at the conclusion of the stage, you’ll need to focus on them eventually. You can also charge up Tempo's attack and receive two notes instead of one, but again, this is the preserve of HarmoKnight experts only.

In addition to the standard stages, you’ve also got boss battles to contend with. These adopt a slightly different format, with your enemy’s moves being choreographed before you’re called upon to respond. For example, a boss might hurl a set of projectiles at you which requires a sequence of button presses to successfully repel. During some of these encounters, you also have to move Tempo using the D-pad — in time with the music, of course. Other boss encounters feature dance contests, where you’re shown a combination of moves and must replicate them perfectly.

The degree of variety on offer doesn’t end there, however. Additional characters are introduced which call for slightly different gameplay tactics, and there are levels where you’re racing in a mine-cart or flying on the back of a helpful steed. The music-based gameplay underpins all of these arrangements, holding together the experience like some kind of aural glue. There's the constant temptation to deviate from the music and become a little more creative with your attacks and jumps, but the audio quickly snaps you back into shape and before long you'll feel your entire body swaying and moving with the soundtrack.

Ironically, the actual music in HarmoKnight is something of a mixed bag; certain tunes possess an infectious beat which greatly aids your progress, but others barely register and can often make it difficult to spot cues for when you should be swinging your weapon or leaping over an incoming hazard. These moments can result in mild frustration, but HarmoKnight doesn’t pose a stern challenge; an infinite stock of lives means that dying simply results in you having to start the level again, and it’s possible to mess up quite badly and still gain enough notes to progress.

Indeed, completing HarmoKnight’s seven worlds (and bonus eighth) won’t take all that long, but the game is far from over by this point. By scoring a Gold Blossom on any level you unlock the ability to replay it at a faster speed — a challenge which is aimed solely at expert players with a keen ear for music. Speaking of which, HarmoKnight is one of those titles where possessing a natural sense of rhythm is a massive bonus; musical timing is key to success, so if you’re completely tone deaf and struggle to map out a beat, you might find that it takes a little longer to slip into HarmoKnight’s groove.

Visually, HarmoKnight is a thoroughly attractive game and makes excellent use of the 3DS console’s auto-stereoscopic display. Certain levels showcase sections where Tempo moves in and out of the screen, but this aspect really comes into its own during boss battles, which are intentionally arranged to make maximum use of the 3D depth. The overworld map is 2D and calls to mind the maps in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, but there’s less room for exploration and you’re funnelled down a fairly linear pathway.


HarmoKnight manages to combine attractive cartoon-like visuals with engaging, rhythm-based gameplay to create an experience which can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with genre classics like Vib Ribbon, Gitaroo Man and PaRappa the Rappa. There’s enough content and gameplay here to justify a full-price retail release, so the fact that Nintendo has delivered this at a lower price point for download speaks volumes about the company’s attitude to the gradual shift from physical to digital distribution. It’s not entirely perfect — some of the music is a little on the weak side and unless you’re a dedicated score-chaser, the longevity could be questionable — but while it lasts, HarmoKnight is a pleasure to play and experience. Hopefully Game Freak’s developers will be encouraged to step from out of the shadow of Pikachu and produce similarly unique and entertaining titles in the near future.

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User Comments (122)



Red_Acteur_2 said:

(Well seeing as the bonus for completing the game is a nod towards a sequel, I'm sure we will have it )

Though the final level was infuriating, with all the worst kinds of traps you could ever imagine, it really is a fun experience ^^



Zyph said:

Can't wait to get this. I recommend reading the Iwata Asks interview.



Gavin_Rozee said:

Can't wait to download it!

I just find it incredibly stupid that after hardly any games for months, they're releasing Lego City Undercover, Luigi's Mansion 2, Harmoknight and the Fire Emblem Awakening demo all in one day.

Just seems a terrible idea to me.



Lalivero said:

^ Along with Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. It gets to you when you have months of no releases and then they all pile up on you at once and fight over your wallet. :l



ultraraichu said:

Even if it got a 6/10, I would still be eager to get it. I normally enjoy rhythm genre and this will be my third for the 3ds.



BakaKnight said:

"HarmoKnight is one of those titles where possessing a natural sense of rhythm is a massive bonus"

I disagree, it's not a "bonus", it's a "minimun requirement" for play DX

In the demo I found the levels playable, but the boss... let's just say that if I wasn't able to control myself right now I would have a broken 3DS here... (and for be clear that bee is still alive... I had to give up @_@)

An awesome game, from the demo I was ready to bet it and this review not surprise me, but always thanks to the demo I will avoid the tremendous mistake to buy it, not my game at all XD



Rococoman said:

@Retro_on_theGo I felt similarly. The closest games I can think of are the Bit.Trip Runner games, which aren't terribly good "games" but get away with it since they have some of the best game music in years. This one just feels like any other iPhone running game with some musical beats in it. I found the music and the overall visual presentation to be painfully bland as well. I would probably recommend this to a younger gamer, but I'm definitely gonna pass on this.



RPGShaymin said:

The demo played like a fusion of BIT.TRIP Runner, and Space Channel 5 part 2, which is enough of a reason to put it on the "buy later" list.
Also, I didn't see a mention of the plot anywhere, but I just assumed that it takes a backseat once the game gets into gear.



zipmon said:

Awesome! I can't remember the last time I was this excited for an eShop update, c'mon Thursday!



theblackdragon said:

hey guys, if y'all had trouble with that boss, I'd suggest borrowing a friend's copy of Rhythm Thief if possible, or maybe running through the RT eShop demo (if it's still up, or if you downloaded it previously) a few times. That bee fight really reminded me of some of the minigames in RT, it could help for you to practice that style a bit before trying the HarmoKnight demo again! :3



Giygas_95 said:

I thought the demo was okay (a little short). Not really interested in the full version. Runner 2 will always be the best rhythm game to me!



Ambassador_Kong said:

I really can't wait to download this, but why does everything have to come out in March? Luigi's Mansion, Mystery Dungeon, Need for Speed, Monster Hunter, Etrianne Odyssey 4, and Runner 2 have already doubled my backlog.



ueI said:

"This one just feels like any other iPhone running game with some musical beats in it" (Rococoman). This sums up my impression of the demo. But... that Pokemon song! I'm still not sure if I'm getting this.



Flowerlark said:

The demo seemed okay, but I have no rhythm whatsoever, so I couldn't even finish the demo (pathetic, I know). Guess I'm passing on this, as much as I would have liked to play it.



seronja said:

ok from my experiance by the demo, this is not even close shoulder-to-shoulder with PaRappa the Rappa, PtP was charming in a way that only a few other musical games could have achived ( um jammer lammy, rhythm thief, elite beat & space channel 5 )... but this didn't feel so epic at all... if this will get a discount i will pick it up for sure, otherwise a pass for me.



SkywardLink98 said:

"There’s enough content and gameplay here to justify a full-price retail release... the longevity could be questionable" A little contradictory



Haxonberik said:

I'll most likely wait for a discount, as I'm yet to start Mutant Mudds, which I just bought, and Fluidity Spin Cycle, which I've been dying to play.



CanisWolfred said:

This is kinda the awesomeness I'd expect from the developer of Drill Dozer. I'd pick it up right away, but I just don't have the money.



allav866 said:

I have only one use left on my demo. I love the boss battle. It's like Space Channel 5, or the minigame "Dance" from Feel the Magic: XY/XX



Azaris said:

from playing the demo i thought this game was too hard for my tastes.



chewytapeworm said:

Loving the mention of VIB Ribbon in the conclusion. Had the demo of this for ages but still not yet tried it. Might just go and do that now...

leaves room



ArkOne77 said:

@Five-seveN I agree. For an auto runner rhythm based experience, Runner 2 is way better IMHO. The music is kind of flat and sounds off key or like it is missing something in this game.....Maybe I'm not explaining this the best way but musically it doesn't appeal to me at all. Otherwise the game itself looks great and the demo was fun. I'll probably pick it up at a later time.



LittleIrves said:

Been waiting for this for a long time. I wouldn't say it exceeds my expectations... but it matches them. Very happy with it. Any fans of BIT.TRIP or Rhythm Thief should be all over this!



Damo said:

@SkywardLink98 You missed out the first bit of that second sentence - you've got to be of the score-chasing mindset to really get full value out of this.



Giygas_95 said:

@ArkOne77 Me neither. The music is much more exhilarating and catchy in Runner and Runner 2 (from what I could tell with the demo of HarmoKnight), and the pace is way faster.



NintyMan said:

I'll still give the game a chance. The demo was fun except for the part in the boss battle with the D-pad. Otherwise, it seems like a solid game.



DerpSandwich said:

I'm not a score-chaser, so to me this game does NOT have enough content to justify a full retail release. Actually I don't even think it's worth its current price. It's such a simple, casual experience, and for the same price I can get some really epic and complex stuff on XBLA. This seems like it should have been seven bucks, like Pushmo. Ten at the absolute most.

But that's just me.



19Robb92 said:

The demo was extremely fun, especially the boss and Pokemon level. I'm getting this ASAP.



Lunapplebloom said:

Solid review @Damo.

I really liked the demo. It gave me a real sense of what could possibly come, so this is going to be a soon buy for me. I just can't afford it straight away from all these games coming out. And then there are the games I'm working on too... I can't keep up. D:



Arianabtd said:

Meh. I was really excited for this game, but the demo didn't impress me that much.
I think I'm gonna pass on this one :3.



moo99 said:

Rhythm is not a "natural sense." It's a skill and it's taught. If a rhythm game doesn't attempt to teach you how best to play, it's a poor rhythm game.

There's no instinctive rhythm. That's silliness.
And tone-deafness is something else altogether



WiiLovePeace said:

Damn it I was sure I was going to get this game eventually but after playing the demo I was mind blown at how beautiful, difficult & amazing this game is. I am heaps pumped to buy it now



Adhrast said:

I was somewhat hyped or at least curious about this, but sure the demo put me off :/
Generic, bland graphics and completely unappealing music. That's a shame, I SO wanted to like this.



CanisWolfred said:

@19Robb92 He's talking about what the reviewer said - He specifically stated that the game had retail-levels of content, and even DerpSandwich mentioned that he didn't think it was worth its price as a download game when comparing its content to other downloadable games.



Mollutje said:

@moo99 I have met plenty of people in my life who couldn't keep a steady beat going, just like I met plenty of people who were completely tone deaf. I'm not saying you can't be trained to become better at it, but yes, I would say some people are naturally better at keeping rhythm.



GuSolarFlare said:

I liked the demo. the bike song was the one I played the most(good old times when pokemon music was stuck in my head. the new pokemon games DO have good music but the old ones were mostly memorable). back to the harmoknight subject I just won't get this game yet because I'm saving money to get an arduino.



Dyl_73 said:

I didn't like the demo so won't get this. I imagine that lots will like it though.



BossBattles said:

The timing is definitely difficult and not really "natural" feeling, at least at first. After practicing it starts to make more sense,



CanisWolfred said:

@19Robb92 He doesn't NEED to. Why else would he be talking about it in the comment section of this review if he didn't mean what this particular reviewer said? Come on, man, put 2 and 2 together.



Bulbousaur said:

The demo for this game was fantastic, except from the boss. The difficulty of it turned me off this game... I thought the game was amazing up until that point, then it just turned cheap and not fun at all.



Void said:

I beat the demo on my second try, maybe I have better rhythm than I thought, but I don't usually go for high scores, so I'll probably pass on this for now.



Captain_Balko said:

I was really looking forward to this game, but I had a LOT of trouble on the demo. I mean, I'm usually pretty good at rhythm games (Elite Beat Agents, Rythym Heaven, et cetera) but I was pretty pathetic when it came HarmoKnight. I had no trouble timing the jumps, but I found that hitting things was incredibly difficult. I mean, I tried and tried and tried, but I just couldn't perfectly hit things. I also sucked at using the D-Pad during the boss battle...

Did anybody else have issues with hitting objects specifically? Because I'm seriously losing faith in my rhythmic capabilities...



Philip_J_Reed said:

HarmoKnight doesn’t pose a stern challenge

Man, I was terrible at the demo. It looked like a great game but was way too hard for me...I'm jealous, because if you didn't find the full game that difficult that just scares me more! Like the commenter above me, that says more about my rhythm than it does about the game though.



Barbiegurl777 said:

Looking forward to downloading this title this thursday!

I love the graphic's & gameplay from the demo.

Instant download!

Even though the game is hard on some levels. I love the idea of a challenge.

Happy Gaming! (^_^)



TsunamiSensei said:

The demo felt more like a melody game than a rhythm game, but I think I'll get this after I beat Runner 2.



CanisWolfred said:

I played the demo. Honestly, I thought the stages were harder than the boss. The boss was simple pattern memorization.



DRL said:

I'm a musician and I still found the demo to pose a challenge. There must be something in the visual presentation that throws me off because I looked away from the screen during the boss level and performed flawlessly.

Anyway, this review has convinced me that this is a game I need to own and master. Good job, @Damo



19Robb92 said:

So I should assume that everything everyone is saying in this section is based around the review? That's just silly man. There's always missconceptions and thoghts being posted in these sections. Don't be so naive.



CanisWolfred said:

@19Robb92 No. It's called context. Don't be so black and white, nor so simple minded. At first I thought you simply didn't read the review, or even all of what he wrote. Now I'm not sure what to think.



klautrec said:

I was not expecting to buy this game when it was announced, but that demo sold me from the very beggining. GameFreak is very tallented for sure. great review by the way.



19Robb92 said:

Exactly. What I'm saying is he didn't make any context. I can't just assume he's disagreeing with the review the way the sentece is built up. He might as well think it's a reatail game release for all I know. There's always a lot more than just main subject discussions going on in theses sections, as I've said.



accc said:

If the full game manages to live up to the demo, it'll easily be a 10 in my book. The demo blew the Bit Trip Runner games out of the water!



accc said:

PS if you think it isn't challenging enough, did you know you can charge up your melee attack to get twice as many notes per hit? This adds a ton of depth and replayability to the game, and you need to be a real rhythm master to know when to use the charge attack and pull it off successfully to maximize your score. I see it was mentioned in the review, but it's a really brilliant mechanic that's implemented perfectly and really increases the depth of the game.



theblackdragon said:

@accc: to be fair, all it has to do is not suffer from crazy framerate slowdown and/or desyncing to beat Bit.Trip Runner (the Saga version), lol :3

that said, i had no idea — i think i'm going to have to replay the demo again and try that out



Giygas_95 said:

@accc This is better than Runner and Runner 2? Noooooooooo way! At least that's not the feeling I got from the demo.



MagicEmperor said:

I'm getting this for sure! I've been wanting it for a while. Though the demo convinced me I might suck at the boss fights. Oh, well!



FriedSquid said:

Meh, I was not that interested in this at first. The demo just made me less interested, I found it rather boring. But I hope everyone else likes it.



NiBar said:

Yeah, It's a fun and challenging game , with great visuals. A must buy for all us rhythm games lovers and yes much better than those Runner games.



Weedy said:

Wow, Vib Ribbon, I remember that game. I loved it, there were only a few tunes but they were crazy and great.
For me the HarmoNight demo didn't excite, I just found the music bland which is a problem in a rhythm game.



Henmii said:

Nice review and nice score! I loved the demo (though it was pretty short), so I download the game when it arrives!



SheldonRandoms said:

@theblackdragon Rhythm Thief really did help me on that boss fight, I beat that boss on my first try, hopefully it'll help me on the later bosses as well.

I liked this demo, and i'll download when it's released, luckily Ketzal's Corridors was on sale which left me exactly enough to get this.



ultraraichu said:

@Five-seveN @MultiMariosonic I know that. I was referring to that even if Nintendolife rate this game 6/10 for some reason, I will still buy it since I like this type of game. It's like Rhythm Thief in a way which I also like.



Phantom_R said:

Harmoknight's a cakewalk for a professional rhythm thief like me. (And even I was honestly a bit tone-deaf when I first paid the Louvre a visit!)



Slapshot said:

Really glad to see Game Freak try something new once again; Drill Dozer is still one of my favourite Nintendo games... ever.



SheldonRandoms said:

@Phantom_R............LOL, when did you get here, I was just talking about how your game helped me out in the demo, you must be a really good thief for me not to notice you.



Emaan said:

Getting this on Thursday when it comes out, I love rhythm games :3




Man, this game is brutal!!!!, I only did good in the special stage with pokemon's bycicle theme; playing this game truly is an art because it has such difficult times, the bee boss is hard at times, but like sin and punishment, you need to play it enough so it can be masterized.




@DestinyMan Yeah, I hate that part too, everything in the boss battle was totally perfect except for those parts, game freak truly screwed that up because the parts with the d-pad have no rhythm whatsoever and because of that you aren't quite sure of when to turn.



MeWario said:

Loved the demo (I didn't find it hard) love the combination of platforming and rhythm game might have to download it.



LordessMeep said:

I expected an 8/10 for this game. My first time with the demo was horrendous - I couldn't get through the bicycle stage and the bee boss was terrible, especially the turning bits. You can actually use the Circle Pad and the shoulder buttons on those bits.. I preferred the D-Pad.. though I kept hitting the sides anyway. The second time around was a lot more forgiving because I stocked up on hearts.

Really, HarmoKnight is all about practice and knowing what comes when. I was originally planning to download this Day one, but I've been far too occupied with Luigi's Mansion right now. I'll get this much later down the line now, maybe when there is a price drop.




@LordessMeep My thoughts exactly, I'm still with fire emblem and now that luigi's mansion is here, I have no time for anything else. I'm glad to see that others had a lot of trouble with the part of the bee boss where you have to turn, I thought I was the only one.



Damo said:

@Slapshot We really need to review Drill Dozer at some point! The lack of a review on Nintendo Life irks me



RetrogamerFan said:

I quite enjoyed the demo, more than i thought i would, up to the Bee boss battle. I couldn't beat it - i jtook hits every time the really rapid attacks come at you, i couldn't hit the buttons fast enough; certainly not in a controlled rhythym. Had no problem with the turning/d-pad functions they throw in. I'll probably try to beat the demo again but will not even consider picking up the game till i do.



LordessMeep said:

@FOURSIDE_BOY - I'm actually working through FE:A's Hard/Classic at the moment myself, but that's only on my commute. The rest of my time is given to Luigi's Mansion's Scarescraper.

@RetrogamerFan - It's the exact opposite for me since I had problems on the turning parts and did fine with the rapid attacks. The Bee boss battle should be a little easier if you stock up on hearts from an earlier level. The only must hit is the very last bee that is thrown at you.. if don't hit that, it's game over for you. Your second time around should be a lot more forgiving.



Luffymcduck said:

I was stuck in that same boss too. I hit the walls so many times I just gave up and thought this wasn´t my thing. Dunno if I´ll ever buy it, now I´m more interested in borrowing my friends copy of Rhytmn Thief.



CanisWolfred said:

@People who had too much trouble with the boss - again, it's pattern memorization. Time it in coordination with what they showed you, and you won't have a problem. It may take some practice of course, but it's far from impossible. If it helps, try to see it as musical notes - ever "bee" is a note, and the gap(s) between them are rests. The music in the backround sets the tempo. IMO, it's much easier if you think in beats than trying to judge it by eye like what you guys are probably doing (it's what you have to do in every other game, right?). This is far more of a rhythm game than Guitar Hero is, all because it's timings are so strict that following the beat is more or less the only way to win.



Xjarnold said:

I dont know, even when following the beats I would hit walls. I might get the game, if it drops to 10 dollars or less



CanisWolfred said:

^Wierd. I know the 3rd one I had to time a little later than I thought I did, but I never hit the others.



Cevan said:

Tried the demo and loved it, so I plan picking this up at a later date. For now, I plan on saving the cash I have in the eShop for Animal Crossing: New Leaf when it is released.



Wii_Win said:

Decisions, decisions. The part of the boss with the D-Pad was infuriating, but the actual stages were very fun. Probably will end up getting.



hopesfall said:

I can't wait to pick this game up because I absolutely love rhythm games. I played the demo and loved it, and now I'm just waiting to get the money to download it. Game Freak never disapoints in my eyes, and I think they did a great job with this game!!!!!



iPruch said:

HarmoKnight's demo and Game Freak have impressed me! This game feels very fresh, and I can't avoid comparing it with Bit.Trip Runner (which is good for HarmoKnight, I suppose). I'm glad Game Freak decided to launch it via eShop as a 3DSWare title instead of a retail full-price game. Other companies would have done it without doubting. And even at this price, I've seen several people complaining about it being expensive... I'm worried about the damage the AppStore and Google Play have done to the software's value :S



Phantom_R said:

I'm loving HarmoKnight, but I really wish people would stop comparing it to Runner 2. That's not a rhythm game (though try it does).



catlinpurrwin said:

I bought this yesterday and I'm around 80% through it.. with only gold blossoms on all levels. I guess my rhythm isn't too bad then. I've really enjoyed what I've played so far.



Shiromikio said:

I got it anyway even though initially I was expecting to remain stuck in the first world after playing the demo (like others I couldn't get past the bee boss). The Bumpy March melody is really nice for quick play sessions, there's a certain satisfaction when you hit the notes in time and they ring clearly like a glass chime. The 10-use demo limit isn't enough, lol.

Oddly, I had the same experience as @DRL with boss battles so far, if I just listen then play back the note sequences without watching the action, I did better or at least good enough to pass the stage. Going to play this a bit this weekend and see if any inroads can be made.



Marioman64 said:

@iPruch people are complaining about the price? bunch of losers. I was expecting this to be $40 (forgot it was digital only), and before having played it I would have payed that much, but the game is so short I'm glad it was only $15. makes it still worth it



Giygas_95 said:

@Phantom_R If Runner 2 isn't a rhythm game then neither is this. They work almost the exact same way. Run, jump, and hit (or kick in the case of Runner 2). And Runner 2 does challenge your rhythm skills.



TonLoco said:

This is a true rhythm game. It takes practice but the payoff for beating a tough stage is very rewarding.



rushiosan said:

It's far from being a fun game, even if it's hugely polished and charming. It's the same deal as Rhythm Heaven for Wii, but without any memorable song. The gameplay is sloppy enough to make it a frustrating experience. I don't regret getting it, but seriously, I've played until world 4 and I'm already sick of it.

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