Review by King9999

"The game borrows heavily from SotN, but did it have to borrow even the WORST elements?"

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is the third game in the CV series that plays more Metroid-ish than the classic side-scroller games of the 8-bit/16-bit era. Symphony of the Night is loved by many, and it’s likely that HoD will be equally loved by said gamers. Why? Because HoD (more so than Circle of the Moon) plays more like SotN: excellent graphics and animation, two huge castles, big bosses, and...bad music? If you’ve read any previews/reviews of HoD, you’d know that the game took a hit in sound so the game would look more like SotN. Worse still, the graphics are the highlight of the game, not the gameplay.

Gameplay - 7/10
The gameplay revolves around you collecting Spellbooks which, when used with a subweapon, will create a magical attack. The spells are graphically impressive, and are quite powerful. Everything else is pure SotN—you explore huge castles, collect items, and fight lots of boss battles. The boss battles would be especially cool if they weren’t so blasted easy. Yes, folks...for some strange reason, Konami decided to take a step back from Circle of the Moon, and make the game incredibly easy. Borrowing from SotN is nice, but you should never, EVER, take the bad elements in a game and use it in a sequel. That really was bad game design on Konami’s part, and they should be ashamed. They wisely did away with the 3D Castlevania games (because the fans hate them), so why not eliminate the ease of the recent CV games? Gamers did like CotM’s challenge, you know.

Story - 6/10
The story doesn’t really matter in a CV game. It’s really just an excuse to travel through Drac’s castle yet again. Not much to say, except you’re Juste Belmont, and you and your friend Maxim must rescue your childhood friend, Lydie. That’s really all you need to know in order to get into the game.

Graphics - 9/10
The graphics are the only thing that really stands out in HoD, and frankly, this is a bad thing. In comparison, CotM looks downright ugly. Juste animates much better than Nathan (from CotM). The enemies and bosses are beautifully animated, and the game makes use of transparency effects. The castle’s rooms look just as good. Best of all, the graphics are actually bright enough so you can see what’s going on (unlike CotM, where you literally need the sun to see anything). As good as the game looks, however, Konami spent way too much time with the graphics, making everything else suffer in the process.

Sound - 6/10
Konami spent most of the GBA’s resources on graphics, and gave whatever was left to the sound. CotM had excellent music, and it was a great example of what the GBA could do with audio (Golden Sun would later outdo CotM). I know that sound gets the least attention in game development, but was it really necessary for Konami to spend most of their time making HoD look pretty, and make the music sound like something out of the GBC, when the GBA is very well capable of much more? The compositions themselves really aren’t that great, either—in fact, a lot of the music from even the NES CV games are better, and are more memorable. The sound effects are decent, and the voices that some of the characters have are pretty good. You kind of have to wonder if the team behind HoD really knew what they were doing with the GBA hardware, because Golden Sun looks AND sounds great.

Replay Value - 6/10
There’s a little replay value in HoD, though there’s nothing really spectacular. When you beat the game, a boss battle mode is unlocked, and you can play a harder version of the main game (though it isn’t that much harder). There are some other secrets too, but overall, the extras feel tacked on, and seem more like an afterthought (especially Hard Mode).

Overall - 7/10
Sorry, but HoD could’ve been so much more. It’s definitely a good game, despite what I said in my review, but if you’re like me, you WILL be disappointed in the end, because it’s too much like SotN (even the worst parts of that game made it in HoD). Circle of the Moon was a step in the right direction, but somewhere down the line, Konami decided to backtrack and make quite possibly the dumbest move since the N64 Castlevanias. The balance issues in HoD are horrendous; it was totally unnecessary for Konami to make the game a cakewalk, just to please a bunch of whiny gamers (which can only be the case). Sure, CotM was hard, but it wasn’t impossible—I beat it, and so did thousands of other gamers. Castlevania was a series built on challenge; the challenge was lost in SotN, then restored in CotM, and now gone again in HoD. Let’s hope that a future CV game will go the route of CotM (leaving out the BAD parts!), and future games afterward will retain the challenge aspect of Castlevania.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 09/26/02, Updated 09/26/02

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