Review by TheMadcapLaughs

"The weakest of the 3 GBA CVanias due to it being easy, with much backtracking, terrible music and mediocre controls - still a good game though"

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance falls in to a nice little genre called Metroidvanias. This is because many of the portable Castlevanias serve as the basis for what a Metroidvania is. The genre is based around you having a large explorable 2D world which you traverse across. As you traverse you'll gain abilities that allow you to access new areas of the 2D world. Whilst you traverse you defeat various enemies and bosses that block your path.

50 years after Simon Belmont destroyed Dracula you play as Juste Belmont. His friend Maxim informs him that their childhood friend Lydie has been kidnapped and taken captive inside the castle. So the decide to go enter the castle and rescue her.

GAMEPLAY = 6.5/10
The gameplay is certainly not as impressive as in other Castlevania games. Let's start with the controls. The backdash in this game has been greatly improved as it actually sends you back far enough to actually be helpful. Unfortunately this makes many of the enemies far too easy as you can now retreat VERY quickly with it without getting hit. Running has been replaced with a forward dash making enemies even easier and requiring you to rapidly tap the R or L button to run at a decent speed (compared to the far easier double tap direction running mechanism in other Castlevanias). This forward dash has resulted in both the R and L buttons being used on basic movement mechanisms, meaning that many special moves require stupid combinations to work.

The battles against normal enemies are, as I have already said, considerably easier due to dashing. Unfortunately bosses are easier as well. They die far too quickly and have far too few attacks – plus there aren't really any hugely original ones.

A major problem with this game is the exploration aspect. Metroidvanias are well known for involving a lot of exploration and quite a bit of backtracking…unfortunately the amount of backtracking in this game is ridiculous due to the almost complete removal of teleports and the fact that necessary items are hidden in the most mundane of rooms forcing you to search absolutely everywhere to continue through the game.

The spell system is certainly unimpressive. Basically you combine a spellbook with a subitem to get a spell. Unfortunately this system means you don't really experiment much (as you can only carry one subweapon at a time).

The gameplay is still good, don't get me wrong. I've very much listed all the bad things about it and be assured that the exploration is still pretty good and the variety in this castle is far greater than Castle of the Moon and Aria of Sorrow (the other two GBA Castlevanias)

GRAPHICS = 9.5/10
The graphics are generally very nice. They look detailed, are nice on the eyes and the animations are all brilliant. However one of the best bits about them is the design put into backgrounds with moving clouds, broken statues and old bookcases all making an appearance. There are two minor gripes I have with the graphics. The first is the blue outline that surrounds the main character – this looks ridiculous and out of place. The second is the equally ridiculous trail of blue shadows you leave behind you as you walk.

MUSIC = 3/10
The music is very disappointing. The game abandons well composed music that creates atmosphere, excitement and memorability. Instead the music is wholly forgettable and unimaginative. This is disappointing enough on its own, but you've got a real problem when you add to this the fact that the music feels very “tinny” and poor quality.

LENGTH = 6 hours
The game will last you about six hours, but I certainly don't think you'll return to replay this game again any time soon.

Gameplay = 6.5/10
Graphics = 9/10
Music = 3/10

Final Score = 7/10

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/31/08

Game Release: Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (EU, 10/11/02)

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