Review by Zylo the wolf
"In the shadow of Aria of Sorrow, Harmony of Dissoance is freaking sweet."
Konami is a company that usually only make real quality titles, it have happened a few times that their games didn't turn out as good as expected, but a Konami game is usually a game worth your money. While they are now most known for their Metal Gear series, their oldest series that has always been popular is the Castlevania series. The series might not be the best selling series ever but it still got a lot of hardcore fans who have been playing these games since the Nes days and it gets new fans with every new title.
While the series didn't turn out to be that good in 3D, Konami decided to make more 2D Castlevania games instead. Ever since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the Playstation got released, every game in the series now gives you an opportunity to explore Dracula's castle instead of going from one stage to another. Some calls this new setup in the games as Metroidvania, since the gameplay is really similar to Nintendo's popular Metroid series. but almost everyone also agree that this made the games even more enjoyable than what they were during the Nes and SNES days.
The game takes place about 50 years after the game Simon's Quest, which was one the second game in the series on the Nes and fans have mixed feelings about this game. Anyway the most famous Belmont, Simon Belmont is dead and now it's up to his grandson Juste Belmont to take over as Vampire Hunter. Juste is a very calm young man who has accepted the fact that he comes from a family of proud Vampire Hunters, and thinks that it's his destiny to become one of them. That's just about everything we got to know about the main character in this game.
One of Juste's friends Maxim went on a errand that you don't get to know what it was until later in the game so I won't spoil it here, and when he came back he told Juste that their friend Lydie have gone missing in a big castle. Juste grabs his family weapon, the Vampire Killer whip, and enter the big castle with his friend. However since video game characters usually aren't smart enough to stick together, Juste and Maxim split up to search for their friend. A short while later Juste meets Death for the first time, who tells him that Maxim got some connection with "his master". Maxim will later in the game show up once in a while, and sometimes he seems like a different person to Juste.
As I said before the recent Castlevania games are more about exploring Dracula's castle than going from one stage to another. If you've played any of the other more recent Castlevania games than it shouldn't be any trouble to get started, but once the opening is over then you are on your own. Sometimes different characters will give you hints on where you should head next but most of the time you have to see which areas you still haven't explored and sometimes you have to have learned certain new abilities to be able to reach new areas.
In some Castlevania games it's possible to pick up many different weapons, however since Juste is a Belmont he can only use his whip. But it's possible in this game to find different add ons to the whip, which can be anything from give it fire powers to adding a steel ball at the end of the whip, you can even found an add on that allows you to destroy some wooden walls. You can do a regular attack with the whip or you can spin it around, which gives it a bigger range but it doesn't do as much damage. You can't use the whip to swing in this game.
You can also pick up different items that you can throw at the enemies, just like in every good Castlevania game. All the classic objects are here: The knife, the axe, the cross, the book and my personal favourite the Holy Water. In just about everywhere in Dracula's castle there are candles that you can attack to either found these objects or will find small hearts that you need if you want to be able to throw these objects.
Something that's new to the series is that you can find different spell books that you can use to cast different spells, however you have to find any book before you can cast any spell, and since as I said before it's up to you to explore the castle it's very possible to miss the books early in the game and don't get them to much later. That's what happened to me so to be honest I don't know if these spells are useful or not, because I never ever used any of them. I can't say that I ever felt like I had any need for them either.
Another thing that are also included in this game is the fact that you gain experience. Every time Juste kills an enemy he gets experience points, and when he got enough he will gain a level, just in RPGs. When he have gained a level, he will be stronger in pretty much everything. The strange thing is that there are some enemies in a few places that actually are pretty easy to kill but they still give you a lot of experience. Something that I thought was funny was that I went to a place that was a bit to tough, but managed to survive, then I realised that I wasn't supposed to go there yet so suddenly the enemies were really easy.
One of the most entertaining things about the Castlevania games is the boss fights. You won't be able to beat them if you smash the attack button and hope that you kill them before they have killed you, instead you have to make sure to dodge most of their attacks. When you beat them you get back all the health you have lost before the fight.
In some rooms, there are save spots where you can save your game. It's important that you save often, because when you die you have to start from the last place you saved, no matter if it was 1 second since you saved the last time or 1 hour. Every time you save your game you also refill your health.
There aren't many problems I can find with this game. Even if some of the boss fights are a challenge, most of them are pretty easy once you figure out what to do. While the castle isn't that big, if you are on side of the castle and needs to get to a place on the other side, then you have to go through the whole castle to get there. It shouldn't take to much time, but Symphony of the Night didn't have that problem.
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance borrowed perhaps to many things for it's own good from Symphony of the Night, but there's no doubt that if you enjoyed that game then you will also enjoy this one. I bought the Casltevania Double Pack which included both this and Aria of Sorrow only because I wanted to play Aria of Sorrow, but this game really was a pleasant surprise. I hope time won't forget this game because it sure is one of the best that you can find on the Gba.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/17/08
Game Release: Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (EU, 10/11/02)
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