CASTLEVANIA: Harmony Of Dissonance
(Konami, September, 2002)

When the first CastleVania was released for the then new Gameboy Advance it was one of the most critically acclaimed games for the GBA and it was a great selling piece for hardcore fans of classic 2d game play. Here is the new CastleVania Harmony of Dissonance for the Gameboy Advance, a all new game from the original creator of Symphony of the Night for the Playstation, Koji Igarashi! Harmony of Dissonance is a return to the addictive Action/RPG game play that made Circle of the Moon so popular. Unfortunately even a great game like Circle of the Moon has its problems. So did this new CastleVania fix some of those complaints like the dark screen, is the music worth turning up now, and did the controls become more user friendly? We'll see.

Harmony of Dissonance takes place in 1748, that's nearly 50 years after Dracula was slayed by the famous Simon Belmont (CastleVaniaNES, Super CastleVania IV) but that's nearly a century before the events of Nathan Graves adventures in Circle of the Moon, so this means that this game is strangely a prequel to the last game. You play the role of Juste Belmont (who looks a lot like Alucard), a direct descendent of Simon and the forces of darkness want their revenge on the family bloodline. Dracula's minions kidnap your girlfriend Lydie and your friend Maxim tells you everything after he was injured during the fight. The both of you head to CastleVania to find Lydie but is there more here then means the eye. While the storyline is a little predictable at times, it still helps move the game along and it still drives the player to continue on.

Fortunately the game play reminds mostly intact as Juste starts off the game with the traditional whip weapon found in most other CastleVania's and he can also gain some experience if he kills enough demons to increase his Strength, Defense, Luck, and Intelligent. Juste can also different equip whips, armours, boots, and on his long adventure through the unlinear castle (unlinear in a Super Metroid way). There are well over 100 different items to find in this game so you should be very busy. Gone is the intricate Card system and it's now replaced with a new Magic system. If you want to do a special ability just simply turn it on in the menu to get the desired effect but watch out for your magic meter. You can even use the old school secondary weapons like Knifes, Axes, Crosses, Holy Water, Books, and more making you one tough vampire killer. Juste may be a little too tough because some of the enemies and bosses can be too easy at times but this new castle is so big it's still going to take a good while to finish. You can even do a new quick save if needed instead of fighting to find a save point if you have to do something else right away.

The controls are slightly different but I'm not too crazy about some of the new changes here. Although I didn't like the running system in Circle of the Moon too much because you had to press forward twice really quickly on the fly, but I hate the new run system in this game even more. The shoulder buttons are now used to either dash forward or dash backwards which can be very confusing especially when each time you turn around the button controls are reversed so it can really get on your nerves. Learning the rest of the controls is a piece a cake though! You have the usual action, jump, and menu buttons found in most action games so people should feel right at home with CastleVania HOD.

The game looks even more like Symphony of the Night then ever before. There are even a lot of the enemies that return like those giant skulls with the flaming blue aura around them and those flying multi-swords. Some may like this while others may feel this is unoriginal. The game also has some excellent animation too and the bosses look very menacing. because of the familiar sub menus, gauges and the Super Metroid-like map. Although the game looks even better than Circle of the Moon and it thankfully much easier too SEE this time, it's still hard to get that perfect view all the time and that no flaw of Konami. The game looks very dark still which is very important in a horror game, don't get me wrong, but the colours are very bright and clear compared to the duller look of Circle of the Moon. Nintendo seriously needs to get the Gameboy Advance or the games on a REAL TV, Now!

The music is of poor quality but hey, this is the Gameboy Advance after all, this system borderlines on the old NES's sound chips from 1985, eh? The music is good enough to listen to but don't expect anything nearly as crisp like in Super CastleVania IV on the Super Nintendo. The sound effects to work well though for the Gameboy Advance for some reason and there's no problems with the various enemy screams and the different strikes.

The new CastleVania game is still a great game with the same addictive game play that we all know and love but it's not perfect and some may actually prefer the older Circle of the Moon to the newer Harmony of Dissonance. I miss all the cool secret stuff like randomly hitting a wall and finding some hiding goodies, that's not really in this game for some reason. I also miss the mystery of the Card system from before and there are very little surprises in this magic system which is kind of disappointing as well. Despite some minor problems it's still a very good game for the Gameboy Advance and it's definitely one of the better GBA games to arrive in awhile. There are even some secret codes and different quests if you manage to conquer the first part and that really increases the game's replay value. Very cool! I love almost all of the CastleVania games out there and that includes the 3Dgames by the way, this CastleVania is no exception but it still plays like a second rate Symphony of the Night unfortunately. The game is still a must have though.

*GameBoy Advance only
*Battery back up game

CastleVania HOD overall rating: 85/100

For 1 player only
Rated (T) for Teen
graphics: 8
sound: 7
gameplay: 8

(Ryan Genno) 2005