|By Zach Patterson||Monday, 12 Jul 2004|
Harmony of Dissonance is the second Game Boy Advance Castlevania, and quite different from the previous one, Circle of the Moon.
First of all, HoD is quite different visually from its predecessor. It resembles much more closely the style from Symphony of the Night than CotM. The main character himself, Juste, is a dead ringer for Alucard in the face. Even though he runs like a complete mweeb, he looks damn cool while standing still, having many frames of animation. The enemy detail is also beefed up this time around, everything looking much more vivid and real than in the previous.
Then there are the excellent backgrounds. There are two versions of the castle and each one has a distinct feel the only excellent artists and animators could give. There are also some cool pseudo-3d effects similar to some SotN, such as doors opening outward, the save room, and other interesting parts such as interactive backgrounds where you creatively kill an enemy and open up a path to a new area.
Another great aspect to the game is the more refined magic system that isn’t as cumbersome as the previous game with the cards. Simply find a spell book, equip it, and you can use it as your magic whenever you try to use a subweapon. The castle is also more concise than the previous one, so its not near as hard to get to certain places when you backtrack. The pacing of the game is well done and the story is really good, much better than CotM. It tells that Juste Belmont is Simon’s grandchild and returns to the castle seeking to help his friend Maxim find a girl named Lydie and rid the world of Dracula’s body parts, ala Castlevania II. So a nice little bit of history there.
One questionable element is how easy the game is. Aside from getting lost and not knowing what to do, which happens once or twice, the game is ridiculously easy. I fought one boss more than once, and it was the end boss, and that was because I got the bad ending. Enemies outside of bosses are more of a pain than bosses themselves, and the bosses are usually slow moving and predictable. I liked the fact that it wasn’t as frustrating as CotM was at times, but I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a bit more of a challenge involved. I could take hit after hit in the game, and all I had to do was find a save if I was getting low on health. And the merchant in the game assures you that you don’t even have to do that. I would buy a couple dozen potions and not worry about a thing. But overall, it was good fun, and felt a lot more fulfilling than CotM.
One other problem is the music. The deal was apparently that because the graphics were so good, they had to cut back on sound quality, and it shows. Most everything sounds like MIDI quality, and grows old extremely quickly. And when you are dealing with a game that is a bit repetitive, you need to have interesting music. Put on SotN’s score instead.
Overall, though, I had a great time with this game. It had a few shortcomings, but it plays really well, looks great, and any fan of Symphony will feel right at home. The bonuses definitely warrant more playing too, such as CV1 Simon Belmont(!!) and Maxim as playable characters. Maxim is by far one of the coolest to play with because of his vastly different moves. The programmed a ton of new stuff for a bonus character, and that is commendable. Also, including Simon is by far the coolest idea, even capturing the sprite and making it work in the game. Keep in mind though, that he only has the same moves he had in the first Castlevania, so he isn’t the great, but some cool retro-ness nonetheless. So go ahead, go grab this game if you like Castlevania, it’s a blast and really shows off the GBA.