Video Game: Castlevania: Harmony of Despair aka: Harmony Of Despair
An entry in the Castlevania series, released in August 4, 2010 for the Xbox 360's Live Arcade, and in September 27, 2011 for the Play Station Network. It's the first original 2D Castlevania for a home console since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, with a heavy focus on online gameplay. The "plot" involves a cursed book known as the Grimoire, where the story of Castlevania has come to life within. However, the written personas of the various heroes and villains of the series have also come to life and must fight to put an end to the curse (or take over the book.) There is up to six-player online coop on both versions, and up to four-player local co-op on the PS3 version, and while players do not have to stick together, it is somewhat encouraged due to the Dual Crushes and the difficulty.Initial reactions were mixed, between So Cool It's Awesome and So Okay, It's Average. However, it has gained a larger amount of appeal due to the DLC characters, stages, and even music. Info about the characters and stages is below.
Alucard: From Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Wields several different kinds of weapons, but mainly swords and is the only character who can use shields (although their use is questionable in the long run). Can use Dark Magic by finding spell scrolls, although he no longer has subweapons or familiars. The only remnants of his alternative forms are a temporary Mist form and his Wolf Charge, which has been reduced to a mere slide. His Dark Magic gets stronger the more you collect. His theme music is Pitiful Scion, better known as The Tragic Prince from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and is available as DLC in the first Music Pack.
Soma Cruz: From Aria Of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow. Like Alucard, he wields several kinds of weapons but mainly swords. Unlike Alucard, his weapon catalog is more diverse, ranging from axes to cudgels and even guns. Can use the Power of Dominanceto absorb enemy souls and gain more attacks. Souls become enhanced the more they are collected. His theme music is Pitch-Black Intrusion from Dawn of Sorrow, and is available as DLC in the first Music Pack.
Jonathan Morris: From Portrait of Ruin. Wields the Vampire Killer only, losing his extensive library of weapons from Portrait of Ruin. Also has access to various Martial Arts and Subweapons. Most of these subweapons are shared between him and the DLC whip users (see below), but he does have some exclusive ones that make him more versatile in his own right. His Vampire Killer becomes stronger when his subweapons increase in level, and increasing all of them to 9 unlocks the full powered Vampire Killer, which deals Holy damage. In addition, the subweapons themselves have noticeable changes as they level up, such as different graphics, higher damage, and larger hitboxes. His theme music is Invitation of a Crazed Moon from Portrait of Ruin, and is available as DLC in the first Music Pack.
Charlotte Aulin: From Portrait of Ruin. Wields the Book of Binding. She can use the book to bind monsters attacks and use them as spells. Her main attack will produce more weapons out of the tome the more spells are collected. Her theme music is The Hidden Curse from Portrait of Ruin, and is available as DLC in the first Music Pack.
Shanoa: From Order of Ecclesia. Wields weapons and magic from Glyphs. She can find more weapon Glyphs through boss chests, and more magic Glyphs by absorbing attacks from enemy monsters. She also has Magnes, a key Glyph for exploring. Spells can be leveled up, but otherwise there are no aesthetic or notable changes. Her theme music is An Empty Tome from Order of Ecclesia, and is available as DLC in the first Music Pack.
Julius Belmont (DLC for 360 version only; available at the start in the PS3 version): From Aria Of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow. Wields the Vampire Killer whip much like Simon Belmont did in Super Castlevania IV, with eight-directional whipping and the ability to grab on Magnes points. Unlike Jonathan, he only has access to the traditional Belmont subweapons and only has 2 Martial Arts: Omnia Vanitas, his teleport dash from Aria of Sorrow, and the Uppercut. In addition, his Vampire Killer has the longest range of all the whip users. His theme music is Can't Wait Until Night ~Heart of Fire~ from Aria Of Sorrow, and is available as DLC in the second Music Pack.
Yoko Belnades (DLC for 360 version only; available at the start in the PS3 version): From Aria Of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow. Wields the Belnades Staff, which no longer gives a life bonus when hitting enemies. Uses her three spells from Dawn of Sorrow: Blue Splash, Holy Flames, and Holy Lightning. She has the strongest spells and the fastest MP regeneration rate of all the magic users, but is one of only two characters who cannot perform jump kicks (the other being Charlotte), the least spells out of any character and the worst physical attacks. Her theme music is Aquarius from Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse and Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, and is available as DLC in the second Music Pack.
Maria Renard: From Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, playing more like the former. Fights with the mortal incarnations of The Four Gods of the Chinese Zodiac. She can also use the music book, here known as the Hymn. Instead of singing a dissonant tune, however, she sings Bloody Tears. One of the smallest characters, her small hitbox allows her to fit inside areas which cannot normally be entered, and sometimes she can avoid attacks entirely. She is considered the most versatile of the magic users, though her damage and defenses are slightly below average. Her theme music is Slash from Rondo Of Blood with elements from the Castlevania Judgment version, and is available as DLC in the second Music Pack.
Simon Belmont: From Castlevania, fighting much like his original form in 8-bit glory with the addition of a double jump, jump kick and slide. Wields the Vampire Killer. He also has access to the traditional Belmont subweapons. Upgrading his subweapons turns the Vampire Killer into a metal bladed whip instead of his normal one, and upgrading all of them makes it flash and deal the highest damage of all the whip users. Can throw a fireball out of the whip using a Hadoken motion. His whip has the fastest recovery time of the whip users. His theme music is, obviously, Simon's Theme from Super Castlevania IV and Portrait of Ruin, and is available as DLC in the second Music Pack.
Getsu Fuma: From Getsu Fuma Den. Wields the Pulse Blade, which is a katana that shoots waves of energy that increase in number when he levels up his subweapons, which are War Drums, Throwing Stars, and Hexplosives (curse bombs). His double jump can also damage enemies he comes in contact with, as can the pose each character makes when you hold Up.
Chapter One: Caught in the Cradle of Decay: Based on the Dark Chapel, Condemned Tower, and Cursed Clock Tower, as well as the underground section of The Lost Village from Dawn of Sorrow. Music is Ruined Castle Corridor from Aria Of Sorrow, and the hidden item is the Bell. The boss is Gergoth from Dawn of Sorrow, and his theme music is Into the Dark Night from the same game. Notable items you can obtain here include Combo Boots, Blue Knuckles, and Spiked Boots.
Chapter Two: Lord of Unseen Strings: Based on the Lost Village, Demon Guest House, and Garden of Madness from Dawn of Sorrow. Music is After Confession from Dawn of Sorrow, and the hidden item is the Crown. The boss is Puppet Master from Dawn of Sorrow, and he shares Into the Dark Night with Gergoth as his theme music. Notable items you can obtain here include the Muramasa and Thief Rings.
Chapter Three: The End Of Chaos: Based on the Abyss from Dawn of Sorrow and the Skeleton Cave from Order of Ecclesia. Music is PHANTOM OF FEAR, which is an original track, and the hidden item is the Moai. The boss is Menace from Dawn of Sorrow, and his theme music is Piercing Battle Fury from Dawn of Sorrow. Notable items you can obtain here include Chaos Rings, Heaven Swords, and Nebula.
Chapter Four: Esquisse of Violence: Based on the City of Haze, the Land of Fools, and the Master's Keep from Portrait of Ruin. Music is Gaze Up At The Darkness from Portrait of Ruin, and the hidden item is Goemon. The boss is Brauner from Portrait of Ruin, and his theme music is Esquisse of Violence from the same game. Notable items you can obtain here include the Alucard Sword, Feather Gear, and Gungner.
Chapter Six: Come, Sweet Hour of Death: Based on Ecclesia, Castle Entrance, Library, and Final Approach from Order of Ecclesia. Music is The Colossus from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, and the hidden item is Konami Man. The boss is Dracula, using all three of his forms from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and he has two themes for his first two phases and his last one: Order of the Demon from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, and a reprise of Dance of Illusions taken from Dracula X Chronicles. Notable items you can obtain here include Dracula's Tunic, Simon's Plate, Winged Boots, the Claimh Solais, and the Valmanway (formerly known as the Crissaegrim).
Chapter Seven: Beauty, Desire, Situation Dire (DLC for 360 version only; available at the start in the PS3 version): Based on the Sandy Grave from Portrait of Ruin. Music is Hail From The Past from Portrait of Ruin, and the hidden item is Vick 13. The boss is Astarte from Portrait of Ruin, and her theme music is Piercing Silence from the same game. Was released on September 29, 2010. Notable items you can obtain here include the Robe Decollete, Winged Boots, and Miser Rings.
Chapter Ten: Origins: Based on all the levels from the original Castlevania. Music is Vampire Killer from Castlevania, and the hidden item is an 8-bit Crown. All enemies and bosses are in their original 8-bit sprites, and you can even unlock the original eight-bit music after beating the level. The bosses are R. Phantom Bat, R. Queen Medusa, R. Mummy Man, R. The Creature, R. Grim Reaper, and R. The Count. The first five do not have themes, but upon reaching the staircase to Retro Dracula's room the music changes to Nothing to Lose from the first game. Was released January 26, 2011. Notable items you can obtain here include Retro Gear (Helm, Armor, Boots, and Cloak), Valmanway +1, Dextro Custos, Sinestro Custos, and Claimh Solais +1.
Chapter Eleven: The Legend of Fuma: Based on Getsu Fuma Den. Music is Go! Getsu Fuma, and the hidden item is the Facade Card. The boss is Ryukotsuki (literally "Dragon Bone Demon") from Getsu Fuma Den, and his theme music bears his namesake and is also from the same game. Was released February 2, 2011. Notable items you can obtain here include Luminatio, Muramasa +1, Yasutsuna +1, and the Fuma Gear (Helmet, Armor, and Greaves), along with most of the gear listed under Chapter 2 if you play on Normal and Chapter 3 if you play on Hard.
Besides characters and stages, there have also been 2 music packs of five songs each. If you want more information on the music in this game, check out this link.
Ascended Meme: Every character has 2 quotes they say if they're the ones to land the last hit on the boss. Guess what Richter's are? Yup, you got it: "Die, monster!" and "You don't belong in this world!".
A lot of the other Narm Charm dialogue is also referenced. If you have not bought the full game, a skit with either Jonathan and Charlotte or Soma and Alucard will play. Alucard says "I'm interested in this.", his original line when asking for something from the Master Librarian. The fans finally got what they wanted, essentially. New voices, same old hilariously bad dialogue.
Chest Monster: Mimics are back, and they sometimes show up in place of the brown chests.
Combination Attack: The Dual Crushes from Portrait of Ruin make an encore appearance, with most of them being new to the series. Of special note: pairing up Jonathan and Charlotte is the only way to recreate the Thousand Blades attack, while having Alucard and Soma initiate a Dual Crush results in none other than Dracula's Demonic Megiddo (albeit on a smaller scale). While previously they were Awesome, but Impractical due to their large MP cost but far lower damage than their appearance would suggest, they've been greatly improved in the update, both in damage and lowered MP cost, making them a viable option to use against bosses.
Competitive Balance: On December 20, the game received a large overhaul in both netcode and gameplay. Here's some examples of what was changed:
Several weapons had their damage outputs and properties strengthened and weakened, respectively. Of note is the Blender nerf. Not only was the Yasutsuna's damage output decreased, but its multiple hit ratio has been drastically reduced, making the Valmanways a much more preferred method. The Valmanways, however, also deliver hits slower, but the rate remains the same. The Alucard Sword and the Muramasa, two largely overlooked weapons in favor of the Blenders, have now been massively buffed in damage output so that people would use them instead of Valmanways and Yasutsunas.
A lot of subweapons and spells are now stronger and require a smaller amount of MP to use, making them much more effective in lieu of attacking.
Charlotte's Infinite Healing is now impossible to do thanks to an altered hitbox and a higher MP requirement, forcing her to go on the offensive.
Not entirely impossible. After enough spell grinding and with the right gear, it is still possible, but anyone who manages to pull it off will usually only match the cost, if they don't just barely exceed it, meaning a Charlotte with enough INT can still use Infinite Healing in multiplayer, but at best will only be able to heal herself for 1 or 2 HP at a time outside of potions. Still makes SSJ Charlotte insanely impractical.
Yoko's Holy Lightning and Holy Flames now also do holy damage, with Blue Splash getting a nerf and a higher MP cost.
Netcode has been updated so that the connection strenght display actually works now (before the update, it was always stuck at 3 full bars), and it is now possible to reopen the game in the lobby so that new players can join if someone quits or if more players are wanted, instead of having to start over and recreate the same lobby. The menus have also been updated in accordance.
Death Is Cheap: In multiplayer, you can still go around as a skeleton after you're killed (and continue doing so), meaning the game won't end until the last player actually dies. However, there are a few problems with being a skeleton: not only are you weak, limited in mobility, can't interact with switches or treasure chests or get the latter's contents and can only attack through throwing your bones, but each time you get killed as a skeleton, three minutes are removed from the timer and you respawn wherever you were killed, which might be halfway across the level if you tried following another player who was making their way to a Water Of Life and got hit by a stray attack in the progress. But still...
Being reduced to a skeleton is not as much of a handicap anymore thanks to the update, which gave them the ability to crouch and slide, meaning the only general action they don't have access to is jump kicks... but then again, Charlotte and Yoko don't have them either. Any skeletonized players are also now automatically revived when someone opens the boss chest, meaning they won't be screwed out of a possibly rare item if nobody has any leftover Waters of Life after the bossfight.
Gergoth has been reduced from a strong candidate for That One Boss to an easy first boss. He can still crush newbies pretty easily, though. So don't expect to not be killed the first several times you go through Chapter 1.
Distracted by the Sexy: Dracula's final form has a special heart attack which can brainwash female characters if it hits them: against males, it just does large amounts of damage. Charmed females can hit other players and be hit by other players, and killing a charmed player counts as an achievement, but it isn't particularly smart to do it otherwise, since revive items are scarce and it wears off on its own.
Funnily enough, when Charlotte snaps out of the charm, she says "What a jerk!"
Astarte can do the same thing, except for males. And since the majority of the characters are male, this would pose a problem if only it were less easily telegraphed and the fact that you can dodge it with relative ease if you're either outside the boss door or if you time your jump right and you're right on top of her while doing so.
It should be noted that killing a charmed player just accelerates their death, as a charmed player isn't likely to survive the rest of the battle. So if you have a Water of Life, it'll simply be quicker to kill them yourself and then bring them back.
In single-player, being charmed just renders you unable to do anything for a fairly long time. Seeing as Dracula and Astarte can both dish out a lot of damage... yeah, the previous statement isn't far off the mark.
If a player holds Up as Shanoa to absorb a glyph too long, she lets out a sarcastic huff as if the player is just trying to Male Gaze at her epic Sexy Backless Outfit.
Charlotte on the other hand will twirl and pose for the camera, saying "you like that?"
Dungeon Bypass: Soma can use a combination of moving platforms, a tall vertical wall, Puppet Master soul, and a well-timed double jump to use the game's collision detection against itself and glitch his way through a solid ceiling to reach the other side of a normally one-way door and bypass a very large part of the otherwise marathon-length chapter 10. He can then, of course, flip the switch next to the door and let the rest of the team join in on the fun.
Soma + Yorick + Puppet Master + lots of jumping = zipping straight up to R. The Count's room from the beginning of the stage.
Soma's Yorick soul can lead to Chapter 4 lasting about only 2 minutes when used at the right times.
Julius' Omnia Vanitas and (prior to the patch) Charlotte's Heal spell allows him/her to move through flame jets and Final Guards with no problem.
Dynamic Difficulty: As can largely be expected, the more players there are, the more HP enemies have and the more damage they do.
Equipment-Based Progression: As stated below, characters don't gain levels in the traditional way and most of their stats come from better gear, although characters with fixed main weapons still gain more attack for them via mastery of their subweapons, which can and will take a good while.
Excuse Plot: Basically, Castlevania's manifesting itself within the pages of a book, and you have to stop it. Yep. That's all the plot amounts to.
Word of God states that it actually isn't supposed to have a plot.
Idiot Ball: There are a couple of weapons available for Alucard and Soma, the Yasutsuna and the Valmanway, that allow you to attack while moving, because they don't have an attack animation — they just make some slashing effects happen in front of the character. Granted, the Yasutsuna only works that way when used by Alucard, but the Valmanway works the same for both. While seasoned players will no doubt look at this and think they can get many attacks in while still remaining agile, the far more common response is that people just forget to dodge entirely, because they can deal damage as fast as they can mash the attack button(s). If it weren't for this, they'd be straight up in Game Breaker territory.
Smarter players also tend to pair the said weapons with Berserker Mail, which doubles both the damage you deal and take, since this is a significant boost to otherwise low damage one of the said weapons does per hit: since not getting hit at all is vastly preferable both in regards of getting higher scores and better items from bosses, the doubled damage isn't as much of a handicap as it'd seem.
Infinity+1 Sword: Well, you can't get much more literal than having better versions of best weapons of several weapon classes with better stats that are just named <original name>+1, can you?
Instant Gravestone: In the multiplayer, dying creates a tombstone which spawns a skeleton.
Kaizo Trap: In chapter 9, if some of Beelzebub's flies are still around after its defeat, they can still kill you.
As can R. The Count's projectile spirals if you kill him while he's in middle of using one, but it's a lot less likely to happen since you're generally too busy evading it to attack him then.
Brauner's painting monsters stick around even after defeating him. Woe betide any gamer who has to deal with his poison-demon-things after the fact.
Large Ham: The Puppet Master ("YOU, TOO, SHALL BE MY PUPPET!") and Brauner ("THIS...IS ART!!!").
The former can become very irritating due to its boss status, played every time you start that scenario. Noticeable in that he's the only boss with an intro like that.
Leeroy Jenkins: Any player that charges into a boss room without waiting for everyone else, which can be devastating if said boss is the Puppet Master.
Lethal Joke Character: The 8-bit characters may initially seem like this, but both of them possess strength comparable to other characters:
Simon's whip ends up being just as strong as Richter's with length comparable to all other whip users, and he attacks the fastest out of all whip users in the game as well as having an always-available ranged attack, and he can use all the same subweapons as well.
Meanwhile, Fuma's sword swing has the shortest range in the game, but the flames that shoot out with every swing give him the largest normal attack coverage in the entire game, and at pointblank range, all 3 of them hit the enemy along with the blade, giving him respectable damage output. His unique subweapons also have plenty of uses and include a powerful piercing attack, a powerful bomb that spreads in 5 directions when it explodes, and a rapidly-moving wall of shurikens for large enemies or getting rid of hard to hit small ones in his way. His taunt can also cause minor damage to enemies right above him and his Double Jump also damages anything he comes in contact with, which may end up saving the day, especially when fighting the boss from his own game. And finally, both of them are smaller targets than the other characters, meaning they'll have an easier time avoiding some attacks.
Level Grinding: Subverted; unlike the Metroidvania-style games, no traditional form of leveling is involved. That being said, all subweapons get stronger with either repeated use or collecting more copies of them, which in turn increases that character's base stats, and in Charlotte's case, upgrades the range and coverage of her normal attack.
Luck Stat: Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this game compared to other 'Vanias. Finally, Konami has officially revealed that Luck DOES actually affect the rare drops you get...if you have half of a team using luck builds. Also, the person with the highest luck needs to kill the boss and open the chest.
Menu Time Lockout: Oh so painfully averted. Once that 30-minute timer starts, there is absolutely no way to stop it. Whether it's pausing, fiddling with your inventory at the Grimoire, everything keeps going in real time. Yes, that means the gameplay keeps going, so if you're pausing, you'd best make sure no enemies are nearby.
Metroidvania: Subverted; even though the rooms are laid out like previous 2D Castlevania titles, they now play out as a single joined stage, where enemies can travel and attack between rooms. Think of it as a perfect mixture of Classicvania and Metroidvania.
Nintendo Hard: Limited healing items? Alucard's Soul Steal not as effective as it was before? No save points that give full HP/MP mid stage? A 30-minute time limit for your exploration of each stage with no ability to pause?!? Yeah, this is going to suck for some people.
Not to mention, Dracula... Oh good Lord, Dracula and his triangles of death...
Normal mode, on the other hand, is not. Go figure.
Chapter 10, based on the entire original Castlevania, is this regardless of difficulty. The map is huge, requiring a lot of time to get through (unless a Soma glitches their way through the ceiling in the room with moving platforms and opens the door for the rest of the team, allowing them to bypass around 60% of the level), treasure chests are in difficult to reach places (including the blue ones that have the Water of Life in multiplayer), and both of Retro Dracula's forms can have new insane attack patterns and tricks up their sleeves.
Hard Chapter 11 has topped Chapter 10 in terms of difficulty. First, you have to beat all 3 minibosses before fighting the actual boss, which takes quite a while and will cost you a lot of health (and Super Potions) and each one you defeat powers up the other 2 and makes their attacks harder to avoid. Then, when you get to the boss and kill his first and second forms, he turns into a giant dragon skeleton...vthing that suddenly starts filling the screen with fireballs that can either curse, poison, or petrify you. Oh, and you can't hit him multiple times, either. You have to wait until his heart is exposed, and even then you only have a limited window of time to attack. Ridiculous.
No Fair Cheating: On Hard Chapters 6 and 10, both Draculas have measures to prevent idling at the boss door. Normal Dracula will summon pillars of fire outside the door if he detects someone standing near the entrance after transforming into his second form. Retro Dracula, however, is less forgiving. If he detects someone outside the door and the one person fighting him is dead, he summons a HUGE fire spiral that goes across the whole stage and cannot be dodged or avoided. And it goes on forever and will kill you in 3 hits.
Death does this as well, but to a lesser extent. He just summons random scythes around the boss area.
No Plot? No Problem!: Some of the playable characters' lives are centuries apart, and one is the reincarnation of two of the bosses (who he can absorb the souls of). Nobody cares.
Nostalgia Level: The stages are fashioned after previous entries in the Castlevania franchise. Especially Chapters 10 & 11, which use 8-bit sprites.
Ryukotsuki has three forms as well, with the last one being one tough cookie.
To a lesser extent, Legion, who'll actually attack you once it looses it's outer shell.
Panty Shot: Just like in Portrait of Ruin, Vacuum + Charlotte (or Yoko, Shanoa & Maria) = Fun. However, due to the effects (you're frozen for a few seconds), this can make playing as a female character in the second level a bit more difficult if your initial spawn is in the upper left corner.
Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Upon death in multiplayer, guys get tombstones with moss, girls get wooden crosses with floral wreaths.
Both get ornate Japanese gravestones with Ghost Lights flying around them if they die enough times, Getsu gets them by default.
Poison Mushroom: You can pick up a poisonous mushroom and a rotten can of food; both will do damage and poison you. They're also dropped from enemies and one is even hidden in a wall.
One of the more annoying points in Chapter 2 has a room full of enemies that can drop said poisonous mushroom. On multiplayer, there's an iron maiden and a box in said room. If you want to put the box in front of the iron maiden, hope the enemies didn't drop a poisonous mushroom, or you'll have to pick it up.
Prop Recycling: Nearly all of the sprite art and quite a few of the sound effects/voices are recycled from previous Castlevania games (especially the 3 Nintendo DS iterations).
Randomly Drops: In full force here. What's more, there are different theories about how luck works, leading to a severe case of Guide Dang It among the community.
Shanoa's weapon glyphs are only found in Boss treasure chests, and it's random if you get one or not. Be ready for a lot of frustration if you're not happy with the default rapier...
Johnathan's subweapon drops are random. Note that he doesn't improve unless he gets more subweapons.
Charlotte's spells are both acquired and upgraded through a random-drop based system, with the random element shifted from whether you get the spell you're looking for or something else entirely to whether the enemy you get the spell from feels like using the attack in question, and whether you need to absorb 1 or 1000 of their projectiles in question to ultimately learn or upgrade the spell. Like Johnathan, she doesn't improve unless she gets more spells, but it tends to just rely on persistence with her.
Sequence Break / Speed Run: Soma can skip large parts of stages or get into places by himself via careful application of the Puppet Master and Yorick souls, plus drop kicking. Shanoa can also sequence break, but only if there are Magnes orbs she can hold onto.
The whole idea of multi-player, besides teaming up to kill things and grind for better gear/souls/spells, is to split up and open doors for each other (or be living platforms for additional drop kicks), shortcutting a large amount of side- and back-tracking.
They also remembered the Sword Brothers glitch where you can get out of the castle and go beyond the boundaries, letting you get over 400% map completion. Now you can do what you always dreamed: jump on the entrance walls and take a shortcut to the boss!
A lot of things many people will do on Normal to give themselves an upper hand might not work on Hard. Most notably, a blind spot in Legion's boss arena is removed on Hard, and Dracula and R. The Count will attack characters outside of the boss room if they're camping.
R. The Count can drop Dracula's soul as well, since they're the same person.
The Swarm: How Beelzebub, the Lord of Flies attacks.
The Voiceless: Simon and Fuma do not speak at all, as they had no voices in their original incarnations.
Timed Mission: Each level has a time limit of 30 minutes. For the longer and/or linear levels (Chapters 6, 10 & 11 come to mind), this is actually very unforgiving.
Time Travel: Shanoa's game takes place sometime in the 1800s, Richter and Maria come from 1792, Jonathan and Charlotte are from 1944, and Soma, Julius and Yoko are from 2035, so it kinda goes without saying. Alucard's year of origin isn't stated, but it doesn't really matter much, since he's effectively immortal.
The justification is that these are living incarnations of a book chronicle of Castlevania. Someone wrote down what all of these heroes and villains did in a magic book; and then the characters inside the book came to life and teamed up to take the other side down.
Took a Level in Badass: "Psshh. Retro Dracula? Like this is going to be any kind of challen-Did he just fire underarching fireballs? Did he just Back Dash into me? DID HE JUST UNLEASH BULLET HELL AGAINST ME?! DID HE JUST CHARGE AT ME WHILE FLYING?!"