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As online multiplayer becomes increasingly prominent in gaming and works its way into seemingly every genre, a painful quandary has emerged: Too often, online multiplayer modes have become a lonely solitary activity.
I had just purchased a game and blazed through an online co-op mode that I knew would have a limited shelf life.
I admit I was very late to the Castlevania: Harmony of Despair party, purchasing it nearly a year after release when it became discounted as a weekly special on Xbox Live. I fell in love with everything the game had to offer. It reminded of my youth and the many Castlevania games that were close to my heart. There was instant joy in leveling up multiple characters, navigating large maps, discovering treasure chests, and purchasing better items and equipment. Then I hit a brick wall: the higher level map bosses. I was heartbroken when I consulted an online FAQ only to discover the best way to deal with those bosses was via online multiplayer, where players on different parts of the map could assume different roles and perform specific tasks necessary for success. Attempting to do so single-handedly was a monstrous effort full of frustrating deaths and mission restarts.
I decided to jump online, hoping to find a multiplayer queue and tackle these problems with a team of experienced vampire slayers. Problem was, there wasn't a single other player online for Castlevania HD. I tried every night for an entire week and found absolutely nobody. Players had their fun with the game when it launched, explored every nook and cranny the game had to offer and then moved on to a new experience after a few months. To this day, the game still remains unfinished on my Xbox 360 hard drive.
A little bit luck came my way when Castlevania HD was recently released on PlayStation Network, giving me an opportunity to finally clear the game and soak in the fun that all the multiplayer modes have to offer. Sure, I had to purchase it all over again, but I was more concerned with getting in as many online co-op sessions as I could before the community moved on, just like they did on Xbox Live.
I eventually stood back and considered the slight absurdity of what I was doing. I had just purchased a game (one that I had already owned on another platform) and blazed through an online co-op mode that I knew would have a limited shelf life. I had willingly purchased a game that would be unplayable in a few months' time.
The problem with Castlevania HD is that it integrated multiplayer gameplay into the core of the game, making co-op a necessity for completion. But Castlevania HD is not the only offender in this case; an increasing number of primarily single-player games have tacked-on multiplayer and online co-op modes that becomes obsolete months after release.