Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance Review


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           Castlevania: Circle of the Moon was a well done first attempt at trying to bring the Symphony of the Night experience onto the Gameboy Advanced. After Circle of the Moon, Gameboy Advanced and the Nintendo DS became the main platforms for the Castlevania series. Harmony of Dissonance is the second title in the GBA’s line up of Castlevania games. Does this game compared to Castlevania: Circle of the Moon? Or should you stay away from this dated Gameboy Advanced title?
           Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance takes place in the 1700s. You play as Juste Belmont, Grand son of Simon Belmont. Juste’s friend Maxim returns to town, but he has lost all of his memory of what had happened after he left town. All he can remember of his voyage was that Lydie had been kidnapped. They set off to search for Lydie and eventually come across a Dracula’s Castle. They decide to split up in the castle and search for her, starting you at the castle gate like many Castlevanias before. Overall the story folds out nicely. There isn’t much back story to most of the characters but there’s enough plot development to keep the game going and the characters interesting. It won’t win any awards but Castlevania never was a series that had deep plots.

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          Game play in harmony of Dissonance is pretty standard and sticks close to the traditional Castlevania format. There’s a big castle and you need to go in to explore it to eventually face the final boss. The castle in Harmony of Dissonance is double the size of most Castlevania games. The second portion of the castle is really just re-skinned versions of older areas with different monsters. Having such a huge castle would have been great if there was a way to easily warp around, but for a good chunk of the game you have to do it all on foot…this means you spend a lot of time walking through the same rooms over and over again while you try to figure out what to do. Later on there is a way to teleport around the castle, but you don’t get access to it till late in the game. 
          Combat in Harmony of Dissonance is for the most part identical to other Castlevania games. A is jump; B is attack and D-pad to move. Harmony of dissonance allows you to dash in either direction using L and R which add some more strategy into ground combat. Jumping and attacking at the same time in this installment feels really awkward for some reason and more then often when you attempt to attack while jumping you end up jumping right into an enemies face and taking damage. There’s a magic and item combination system that allows for many different spells to be cast. It’s very similar to the DSS card system in Circle of the Moon. This creates a large list of spells you can cast but most of the time it’s not needed, mainly because the games difficulty is a bit on the easy side. You may day a few times while playing but most veteran Castlevania players will be able to get by most of the game without a problem.

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          Graphics in Harmony of Dissonance is a mixed bag. It looks as if they tried to match the visual quality of Symphony of the Night for the PS1 but it never reaches that level. A lot of the sprites are quite blurry but the frame rate doesn’t drop so it’s forgivable. The sprites are a lot more varied then in Circle of the Moon, which had problems with using the same sprites just different colors. There are still some cases of it here but not nearly as noticeable as it was in circle of the moon. The animations received a bump from circle of the moon as well…although Juste’s jump animation just looks strange.
           You would usually expect a Castlevania game to have amazing music; even the bad Castlevania games usually have great music.  Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance…sounds like a Gameboy color game. It’s a huge downgrade from circle of the moon. The music isn’t memorable and just sounds really bad. Don’t worry about brining the headphones along for this one. Sound effects are decent, what you would expect from Castlevania, grunts and whip lashes sound good overall, but they don’t make up for the bad music. 
           Despite the castle being twice as large the game is about as long as every other Castlevania. Harmony of Dissonance clocks in at about 8 hours just like other Castlevanias. It also offers a second playable character, a hard mode and a boss rush mode (which also has a second playable character). It offers a decent amount of replay value, but these types of modes are in every other Castlevania as well. 
          Overall Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance is a decent action adventure game. There is a lot of small problems with it that add up and just seem strange since these were never a problem in previous Castlevania adventures. Harmony of dissonance isn’t a bad game, but it doesn’t live up to the Castlevania name. If you really need a Castlevania fix and have played all the games after Symphony of the Night but this one, then this game will definitely help you fill in that gap. Otherwise there are better 2-D Castlevania’s available.

Score: 7.8

 

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