Review by Dogg

Reviewed: 06/17/02 | Updated: 09/03/02

Overall, this is a good game but its faults sometime get the best of it.

(Note: This is a review of the Japanese version of this game—there will be some minor spoilers so… BEWARE!!!)

Job well done Mr. Belmont!

Time and time again there has been only one series throughout the life of video games that has been more conveyed, more conceived, and efficiently more expertly crafted then what we know now as the Castlevania series. The fans have also undeniably loved these games. As for me I too have always loved these games and have had many experiences of one-on-one with the Count. I even have a small, but adequate collection of these games that many have sought out to love. I have the brash but overall good Dracula X, Bloodlines, Super Castlevania 4, the hardcore and hardboiled Symphony of the Night, and the underdog of them all, Circle of the Moon. The last title that I mention, as you see, was Circle of the Moon, one of the best hand-held titles ever. Circle of the Moon was released on the recent hand-held system that is the Game Boy Advance. The fans loved it. However, they did have complaints. So in a turn of fixing up their mistakes Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, the developers, announced the sequel to Circle of the Moon, White Night Concerto.

Ever since that announcement, White Night Concerto has rapidly changed and progressed. It turns out that Konami wanted this game to mimic the likes of their past efforts, more importantly the PlayStation hit that is Symphony of the Night. And for the most part, White Night Concerto is an almost a complete emulation version of that game (or several parts of it to say the least). Also ever since that announcement, White Night Concerto has gotten the praise of having well over three names for fans of the series to adjust this game with. The Japanese supposedly call it White Night Concerto or Concerto of the Midnight Sun; while the rest of the earth’s damned population call it Harmony of Dissonance (right?).

Nevertheless, this new Castlevania title has received much fanfare and its release in Japan shows it. As a Castlevania title, this game is excellent, but as a game, which pushes the system on every aspect—whether it be audibly and/or graphically this game might disappoint a few. However, I was still impressed. I never thought that a title with such great graphical prowess and such great easy-to-learn but hard-to-master gameplay would have appealed to me (especially since this is a hand-held title). Well enough of my bragging, on to the basics.

In this game you assume the role of Juste Belmont, supposed relative to the now much more popular Simon Belmont (who was in the first Castlevania title on the NES and as you probably do or do not know, the Belmont family are all one-of-a-kind vampire hunters). With Juste is his friend, Maxim Quincen. The duo then visit a castle to find their supposedly kidnapped friend, Lidie Erlanger. In a weird turn of events, the two visit a walkway arrangement and from here on out the duo separates once Maxim has a problem that just acted up. Now Juste Belmont looks through the castle in any means to find help and to rescue Lidie (and, in the end, it turns out that Dracula himself had done the honors of abducting her). The apparent reason that this game is in Japanese, though, pretty much kills the rest of the story. So I’m not really going to brag about this point from here on out. But as a kid who knows American I feel that I’m losing a lot (more so because the U.S. version was delayed for further ado) of the plot lines that happen in this game. The short, but commencing conversations between Juste and Maxim, or Juste and a mysterious spirit called Death will, for now, remain a mystery to me.

Anyway, with Juste you are equipped with a whip, much like in past Castlevania titles. This whip will take out the deceased-but-now-roaming gargantuan-like monsters in classic old-school style. Also this whip can be used in different positions, sort of like in the superior title that is Super Castlevania IV (the whip in this game can turn sideways and flip around, and it can do other combinations that will result in subtle, but still adequate damage). However, you won’t even have to use a whip at certain times because you can always use Juste’s sub-weapon. A sub-weapon is a back-up source of attack that can be used on enemies when you don’t feel like using the whip, or most importantly if your whip can’t reach that specific enemy (mostly due to the position that the enemy appears to be in). There are a bunch of different sub-weapons in this game. They include an axe, a boomerang [cross], a dagger, dark water [mist], Super Fists, and last but not least, the gloating Bible.

Like the DSS card system feature in Circle of the Moon, White Night Concerto uses a spell book magic system called ‘Spell Fusion.’ In this magic system you have to have one of the aforementioned sub-weapons and then you must link them with a specific spell book, which is acquired in many certain ways in this game. By linking them you would have formed a powerful magic spell. Spell books consist of specific elements like fire and water. So lets say you want to use your boomerang sub-weapon linked with a fire element spell book. Once you press the specific controls to use the sub-weapon your boomerang will have instead formed into a fiery orb thing that will now fire several fireballs and embers at the enemy (or enemies). Another example will be like if you have the dagger sub-weapon and you link it with the water-themed spell book. Now when you go to use the dagger you will instead fire iced daggers that will result in much more damage. While there are some neat attacks to be done and to be seen (hell, it is eye candy), this ‘Spell Fusion’ system lacks the depth that the DSS card system had in Circle of the Moon. But it is still good and is still a treat for the eyes.

Other then touting his limp-whip around and smack-dabbing enemies with sub-weapons, good old Juste Belmont is still filled with more moves. While not as many as Circle of the Moon (for a reason I missed that jump to the wall that pushed you back to the floor), this game still shows with high promise. Back is the slide move (which is obtained early in the game), which allows you to slide over small wall openings and such. Also returning is the double-jump maneuver, which primarily just allows you to do a jump by then following up with a stronger, more levitated leap. New to these hand-held games, but not Castlevania games in general is Juste’s ability to dash or run faster left or right when you press the L or R buttons on the Game Boy Advance. This ‘running’ feature is useful as hell because it helps you go around places much faster and also makes that backtracking annoyance not much of an issue. The final move you will endearingly earn in this game is the ability to break down walls, done by upgrading your whip with a stone in the main menu much later on in the game.

For now I don’t know about you, but for me most of my time was spent on the menu screen, which goes up when you press the ‘Start’ button on the Game Boy Advance hand-held. This menu screen allows you to adjust your health, weapons that are equipped, et cetera. What’s even better is that most of the menu is in English so navigating it is no problem. You can even choose the appropriate spell book that you want to use, or even turn around the controls to your very own preference. You even got a map to help you out in this game as well (the map is turned on by pressing the ‘Select’ button). The map, however, is kind of small so finding particular places can be kind of hard at times.

The areas that are in this game, at best, mimic those of Symphony of the Night. Whether it is misbalanced castle structures with zombies galore, or maybe it will be a time delusion-themed stage that is filled with the infamous Medusa Heads and headless walking zombies roaming it—each area is different and that is definitely a good thing, chum. Also, for the most part each area is very tied in with the theme of this game and also helps give White Night Concerto a defused white-night sort of look to it. It really all has to be looked and to be played in order for you to further enjoy it. A bag of mixed opinions on the levels, really, but what can you do? Also, hidden throughout these stumbling areas are dirt merchants who allow you to buy/sell items from them. They are useful and they can give you some really useful equipment and items. However, these merchants are very hard to find and there are barely any of them in this game.

As for the enemies, well can I say ‘cacophonic’? These enemies are mainly plain old rehashes of baddies seen before and this bares a question in mind, ‘does Konami have anything new to add to this series’? Well for now… I guess not. The same goes for the bosses. While pretty looking these bosses are nothing new and some even consist on you going up against bats or worse… BRAINS. Well I guess they can be bearable but still something new would have been amazingly nice to help this old and rather dry series.

Another complaint that I have about this game, that doesn’t have to do anything with the enemies nor the areas, is the game’s difficulty and length. While the game has a challenge that can be considered hard to some, others may get a kick out of this game, though, due to the fact that it is nothing new, and that it is simply a train ride to the world of same-old, same-old. And the length is another thing many will get a kick at. While I am no huge Castlevania player, this game was rather short. The deeming adventure of Juste and his relations with the Count and with his friends will only last well over ten hours, or five hours to those glued to the damn hand-held. While ten hours is long for a game, I had a longer time-span with Circle of the Moon, which comes as a shocker since I really didn’t seem to enjoy that game that much. You will probably get stuck in some parts, while in other sequences you won’t know what to do but the fact still remains that this game doesn’t bring anything new or really anything innovative that will truly put people to continuously play this game.

But to delectably add more quality to this game, Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo’s own Ayami Kojima did some amazing artwork for it. By now many ‘Americans’ are probably pondering on the amazing wallpapers that were just released all over the world, but to those who buy this game they will receive an exclusive postcard that features some of the best this artist has to offer. This postcard is of course a collector’s item so don’t go around using it. Ok, ok? Anyway, this postcard displays the male lead, Juste, with whip in hand staring down at Lydie, the only female in this game (if you take out the hideous Medusa Heads that is =P).

Well… now it is time to talk about the graphics, the amazing tour de’ force of this game. The graphics in this game in almost every way undertake that in which was seen in Circle of the Moon; which offered poor, lamentably dark graphics. In this game, though, the graphics are bright and this game also brings some more Mode 7 effects into play. However, the main graphical highlight of this game is the ‘run’ move, which is done by Juste. When you press the L or R buttons you will experience pure graphical artistry from Konami’s part as you see over 4 Juste silhouettes embezzled in a swift, neon blue-like color. Amazing, and it all has to be seen to be fully perceived. Some more graphical highlights come in the form of your spell attacks. For example, once you pair the Ice and the Boomerang Cross together then a big spike will come out and hit the enemies with iced crosses, and the damage done to the enemies will cause them to collapse and explode in a non-orthodox-like manner. This is what true art on a hand-held is like; developers listen up and follow Castlevania: White Night Concerto’s ways.

Audibly, this game might come as a small, abrupt disappointment. While much of the audio is passable, the fact still remains that music had always been the best part about this aging series. And that fact just doesn’t do any justice as far as this game goes. In this game some of the audio is very melancholy and glum and helps put a setting to this game, but the rest is more of a ‘cheery’ situation that as you can see wasn’t very well planned out for a game of this type. The sound effects, however, are for the most part a little better. The explosions are arbitrarily detailed, but still good nonetheless and the grunts and such that come from your character are also pretty good. Impudently average is all you can say as far as this game’s audio is concerned (one of the few weak points in this game). This game also features some subtle voice-work from the peeps from Japan; that’s not to say it is good, though.

Despite all the setbacks, Castlevania: White Night Concerto is still a great game; though it does have a few faults. Konami, however, really didn’t want to change this series to anything new—and this is indeed the greatest flaw encompassed in this game. I really wanted to see some new elements added to this dilapidated, aging (but nevertheless still alive) series. A few of the new elements added in this game—Spell Fusion, et cetera—are great but the DSS card system was a little better and it also gave Circle of the Moon some replay value. Nonetheless, this game really needs no more say since nearly every other aspect is great. It’s just that maybe something new would have really helped this game out, in fact it would have probably have helped the whole series out in general.

Gameplay: 7
Presentation: 10
Graphics: 9
Audio: 7
Replay: 8
Lasting Appeal: 8
Final Score: 8

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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