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Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance Package Art
 GENRE
  Konami
 DEVELOPER
  Konami
 PUBLISHER
  1
 NUMBER OF PLAYERS
  no
 CONNECTIVITY
  no
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Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Urged by the success of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon on the Game Boy Advance, Konami has emerged almost a year and a half later with a game that in many ways, surpasses it.

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is the product of what was a semi-successful attempt in bringing the classic Symphony of the Night to the wondrous little handheld, in an all-new game of course. Action and adventure akin to Metroid, magical spells, sub weapons, relics, and RPG elements are all there, along with a large castle (two, actually) to explore in a semi-linear fashion. With nothing ground breaking by any means, the series returns as one would expect it...and I for one wouldn't want it any other way. Once again, the Castlevania series delivers pure gameplay power that keeps you yearning for more.

visuals

I could go on an incoherent ramble about the sprites and particles the Game Boy Advance is capable of--along with other technical jargon--but to be honest, this title doesn't display anything that hasn't already been accomplished on the Game Boy Advance. Yet, by that same token, this speaks volumes about the graphical prowess of the title. From a visual standpoint, Harmony of Dissonance is essentially Symphony of the Night in high resolution; its clearer and more vibrant graphics far surpass both Circle of the Moon and its touted spiritual predecessor.

For example, when one accesses and uses a warp point, he soon discovers that Konami has done away with the flash of light that encapsulates the whole screen. In its place, Konami has implemented a more technologically advanced and system-straining particle effect that blurs the screen into squares of colors, providing a true sense of distortion and warped reality. The visual aspect of saving remains much the same; a cross between COTM and SOTN. The object from Symphony of the Night that appears to be a octagonal prism makes its return, but grows into a flash of light reminiscent of Circle of the Moon.

There are many more instances of eye candy, particularly in the areas of boss battles (of which there are aplenty) and magical spells. Most of the bosses are wholly original—some of which are dull and others that are quite inspired. There are, in fact, instances of entirely reproduced bosses from Symphony of the Night, as are the majority of the traditional enemies and the physical likeness of Juste Belmont himself. If Konami could call him Alucard and get away with it, they would. Nevertheless, the spells he is able to cast are not contrived by the likenesses of card combos or D-Pad bashing, but by combining an elemental spell book with a sub weapon. In regards to the game as a whole, the spells look nice. But when compared to previous installments, they come up awfully short and lackluster in nature. To HOD's credit, the implosions and deaths of Juste's foes are highly improved from the last Castelvania offering. Overall, a graphically impressive and pleasing Game Boy Advance game. You can expect traditional Castlevania visuals that utilize the hardware well.

audio

The sound in Harmony of Dissonance is good. Again, however, the audio doesn't really make any discernible progression from the previous installments...which is still far better than most games that run on the Game Boy Advance hardware. Juste's grunts, slides, and whiplash effects are all more soothing to the ears than the usual beeps, blips, and tinny audio that have become well known amongst the vast array of uninspired Game Boy Advance licenses. The screams of the perished are perhaps the most impressive sound effect implemented into the game, as the music seems rushed and the tiny handheld not capable of the kind of voice-overs we heard in Symphony of the Night. All of the audio is left completely intact from before; there is nothing you will hear that truly warrants merit. Bearable and sometimes mood-setting, the music and sound is simply there for the requirement of being there, as it is definitely the low point of this release.

gameplay

The most crucial requirement of any game is that it plays well and is fun while doing so. This is where Harmony of Dissonance truly shines. The entire two-dimensional series (debatable, but at least beginning with SOTN)—like Nintendo's Metroid—is set in a closed environment that one roams to acquire new items and skills. Unlike Metroid, however, Castlevania has always had a strong RPG foundation with hit points, leveling, and interchangeable vestments that raise or decrease an aspect of the game's protagonist. These include strength, defense, intelligence/intellect, and luck. Also returning are the traditional sub weapons measured by heart capacity. There are also relics that endow constant powers/abilities, elemental spell books that summon magical attacks when combined with a sub weapon, and copious amounts of money that can be used to purchase items and equipment from the stranded shopkeeper (sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it?). With far less options than Symphony of the Night, however, Harmony of Dissonance doesn't go real far beyond this point.

In Symphony of the Night (yes, another comparison), a useful tactic of defending yourself was to evade enemies by a quick dash backwards. Harmony of Dissonance takes this concept even further, allowing you to dash forward with the "R" button. With the right usage of both the backwards ("L" Button) and forwards ("R" button) dash, you should be able to conquer most enemies. The forward dash is particularly useful to speed through to a new area or rush an enemy before they have a chance to attack you. The slide—which is needed to pass through small spaces and can be used to attack—is now an ability acquired through a relic. Similarly, the double jump is to be had much later in this game than in Circle of the Moon. Sadly, there isn't too much more that can be used during the majority of the game. The great gameplay of SOTN was derived from its conglomeration of different equipped weapons, animal transformations, secret spells, etc. Most of this has been scrapped from HOD, with what’s left only accessible deep into the quest. Consequently, Harmony of Dissonance is also much easier—although more agitating as warp points have to be used to get to another part of the castle until much later in the game. What makes up for this is the frequent boss battles, neat enemies, and stronger emphasis on exploration. The game does pick up more as one progresses, and a welcome addition is the ability to save anywhere (although you'll have to continue from the last actual save point). Needless to say, you'll probably enjoy yourself until you've collected every item there is and scoured the entire map.

multiplayer

N/A

overall

Harmony of Dissonance is just one of those games; a great way to tide oneself over until even better offerings (such as the recently-released Metroid Fusion) finally hit retail. Including a story that blatantly rips off the PSX incarnation in the series, tis' only serving as a pretext for a new installment of action and thrills, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is still one of the best Game Boy Advance games out there. The graphics and sound remain as quality, unscathed pieces of programming inherited from a legacy of games. The control is great, but can be modified should you not be satisfied with the logical default setup. The boss battles are short but sweet. The exploration is certainly satisfying. The "story" is...there. As stated once before, don't expect anything terribly new or revolutionary to the series. Do expect, however, a Castlevania game in its purest form. If nothing else, Harmony of Dissonance is more than anything, valid proof that "coming up short" can still translate into "a hell of a lot of fun."

final score Action/Adventure/10


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"Oh oblivious, naïve Humanity... How ignorant we really are - safe only in our blind "superior" view of the world."


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