Review by xwicked1

"A worthy sequel to Symphony of the Night"

This review is for the Japanese version of Harmony of Dissonance, titled Castlevania: Concerto of the Midnight Sun. I think that ''White Night Concerto'' must be a mis-translation. This game is more or less the third game in the Dracula X series, which started with, Rondo of Blood, and was followed by Symphony of the Night (Nocturne in the Moonlight).

The first thing I noticed was that the graphics are a lot ''brighter''. As any preview of the game will tell you, Konami did this because of all the complaints that Circle of the Moon was often difficult to see because it was so dark. I played the game on a GBA that has an Afterburner Kit installed, so this wasn't an issue for me, but I'm sure it's a plus for those of you without one.

GRAPHICS (9/10):
The backgrounds are very detailed and colorful, and in the tradition of its predecessor, there are various different environments--the castle gate, clock tower, flooded dungeon, catacombs, etc. The sprites animate very smoothly and beautifully, and some of the death-rattle animations (exploding in fire, fading in a flash of light etc.) were equally beautiful. Just like SOTN, the character has an after shadow to add a dramatic fluid quality to his movements. The one gripe I have is that the main character is just so brightly colored. I don't understand why they couldn't have given you the option to change his appearance, like switching capes in SOTN. He just doesn't seem to fit in properly that way. Again, I think this was done to make up for the GBA's dark screen.

SOUND (8/10):
The sound as a whole suffers from that ''tinny'' quality which I'm beginning to fear is just a GBA thing (though I can't remember it being this prevalent in Circle of the Moon.) The BGM is, of course, classical ''concerto'' type music, with just a hint of modern taste thrown in. While the music is good, it's also very forgettable. When I played SOTN, I found myself humming along to the tunes for months after I had finished with the game. Not so here, it's just ho-hum. I have played through about 75% of the game so far and I have not yet encountered a remix of any of the classic Castlevania tunes I know and love. The sound effects are very good however, and many of them seem to have been taken directly from SOTN, such as the way Juste grunts when he attacks, and the exploding, screaming, etc, when the enemies die. No voice for the dialog bits though:-(

GAMEPLAY (10/10)
Here is where this game excels. It is an action RPG, just like SOTN and COTM. The gameplay is compelling and addictive. I find it hard to put the GBA down sometimes, because I'm constantly looking to uncover more secrets, and figure out mysteries. Juste is quick and responsive, which allows for some great moves. The gameplay system is very similar to SOTN. Juste uses whips exclusively, bringing the Dracula X series back to its roots a little. You whip by pressing the B button, and if you hold it, the whip will dangle, and you can snap it around with the directional pad ala Castlevania IV. Juste collects items which fall into roughly six categories.

1)Weapons and Armor (that you equip)-The armor is fairly self-explanatory, and by weapons, I mean different stones that you can fix to the end of your whip to change its attack power and elemental power.

2)Secondary Weapons-Also the usual: Boomerang, Throwing Knife, Fist, Holy Water (my personal favorite), and the Axe.

3)Healing Elements-Potions, Meat, Antidote, you know, the usual stuff.

4)Precious Stones-These are pretty much only good for selling to the shop keeper you'll meet in one of the towers.

5)Relics-These grant you certain powers and abilities, just like in SOTN, and also just like SOTN, they can be turned on and off.

6)Spellbooks-These items have to be selected from the sub-menu, and turned off or on. When they're turned on, you use them just like you use your Secondary Weapons. (It gets a little annoying when you mean to toss a bottle of holywater and instead you waste half of your magic tossing a fireball.

7)Key Items-These are items like chairs, tables, statues, candleholders etc... I'm not sure what they're for yet, but I'm betting it's something like the two rings in SOTN--that is if you get them all, you get access to something special. There is a room where all of these items are supposed to be placed after you collect them from various parts of the castle.

There are two versions of the castle, but this time, the two are not inverted. They're the same as far as map layout, but quite a bit different as far as enemy type/placement. It can be quite confusing after you reach the second castle, because you end up with three different map choices. There's the one castle, an overlap of the two, and then the second castle.

Boss fights are relatively simple, and left me wanting a bit more challenge. I haven't encountered them all yet, and maybe the difficulty will pick up at the end. We'll see.

The game does require a modicum of understanding of Japanese writing, because you need certain items to accomplish certain things, and the pictures don't always reveal a clue. For example, the ''Crush Stone'' whip augmentation. There are certain areas inaccessible without this little gem, and you need to be able to read to tell what you're equipping. However, if you're up for a little trial and error, there aren't that many whip attachments (Here's a hint, if you equip the Crush Stone, when you hold down the B button, instead of the whip dangling, you'll notice a Mega Man X style power charge).

It's not fair for me to comment on the story as my Japanese is not very good. The best I can tell you is that Juste Belmont looks a little too much like Alucard for the resemblance to be a coincidence (maybe Alucard and Maria...) As my wife pointed out, the subtitle Concerto of the Midnight Sun, could very easily have an ambiguous meaning:''Midnight Son''. And similar to COTM, there's another guy running around the castle who looks a lot like Richter, and doesn't seem to be very good at whatever it is he's trying to do.

OVERALL (9/10)
The game is great. It's a must have for Castlevania fans, and should appeal to a wide audience when it hits the states as Harmony of Dissonance. I have small complaints about the character being so bright and out of place and the BGM being so tinny and uninspired, and they are fair ones because I've seen what can be done on the GBA (COTM). But the addicting gameplay and beautiful graphics more than make up for it. This game is worth buying a GBA for.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/22/02, Updated 06/22/02

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