"Harmony Of Dissapointment"

Castlevania games have made it a long way throughout gaming history. We've seen Castlevania in it's 8-bit glory on NES, and we've seen it move up to the PSX and N64. In 2001, Castlevania set it's feet on Gameboy Advance, producing one of the greatest Castlevania games in existence - Circle Of The Moon. It featured challenging gameplay, the Metroid-esque exploration feel to it which SOTN had adopted before, and the DSS card system that allowed you to attack, defend, or assist yourself in over 100 different ways.

COTM proved to be worth any Castlevania fan's time. Over a year later, Konami released something horribly degrading to the Castlevania Series. That monster, ladies and gentlmen, is Harmony Of Dissonance.

Gameplay -

Pros - Let me start with the somewhat good stuff first. HoD adopts it's gameplay HEAVILY from SOTN. It was unbelievably pleasing to see at first, because they brought back the Relic system, where you could turn the relics on and off, just like SOTN. It wasn't a big deal, but it was an eye opener. Juste Belmont, bears a shadowy trail behind him (Alucard anyone? ^_^ ), and bears a great resemblence to him as well. They also brought back currency and THE MERCHANT!!

The spell fusion really caught my attention, because it was a unique system not used in any other Castlevania, but definitely does resemble the Item Crash technique used by Richter in previous games. The deal is, you can collect up to 5 different spell books throughout the game - Fire, Ice, Wind, Bolt and Summon. Then you can combine each book with your subweapon and unleash a powerful attack. The attack uses magic points, rather than hearts. And quite frankly, as cool as it is, it's very very cheap considering the magic points regenerate.

Cons - This is where the game gets ugly. The play control is absolutely horrible. It feels like Juste is made out of 3000 pounds of Iron and the floor's magnetic. It's so sluggish, even with the dash feature that it's somewhat unbearable at times when you just want to get a quick hit on an enemy. You jump a little bit and hit the attack button - Juste doesn't even get 2 feet worth of height and hits the ground like a rock. If you expect great play control like in COTM, you're dead wrong. Nothing but sluggish gameplay here.

The challenge factor in this game is where the game takes it's huge descent through the atmosphere, crashes, and burns. The enemies are just too easy, and the game goes by way too quickly. They're way too sluggish in their attacks and this just ruins the game. It feels like Juste is going on a murdering spree rather than fighting enemies. I went through about 3 or 4 bosses without getting hit once, and I was already about 50% done with the game in less than 3 hours. C'mon Konami, what were you thinking? Challenge is a GOOD thing. Gamers need to sweat, it's good for their health.

Story -

Pros - The story is a unique one, I give that to Konami. Rather than having the set path to vanquish Dracula like in every single Castlevania, you enter the game with the sole mission to save your friend Lydie with the assistance of your best friend Maxim. Maxim leads Juste through some thick fog of where he vaguely remembers Lydie was taken (Maxim was wounded and became Amnesic while training away for 2 years) , and what appears before them is Dracula's castle. The story progresses from there.

Cons - The dialogue is pretty cheesy, sometimes confusing, and doesn't make sense at all at other times. That's about all I can complain about as far as the story goes though. ^_^

Sound -

Pros - The in-game sound effects are mediocre and acceptable for the game, but look below and read the real horror.

Cons - How could Konami be so cruel!? The music in this game is complete garbage. It sounds like some drunkard at Konami wanted to play a sick joke and decided to make the music as primitive as possible, literally borderline NES tunes being played here. The music is unbearable most of the time. Do yourself a favor and play the game on mute. It boggles my mind on why Konami would degrade the music quality in the newest installment of the Castlevania series. COTM's score was at least bearable, and actually wasn't that bad. Think about quenching razors to get an idea of how horrible the score really is. I think Popeye for NES had better music than this.

Graphics -

Pros - Wow, I really have to hand it to Konami on this one. Graphically, this game is beautiful. They pushed the game to it's limits and maybe that's why everything else was complete garbage. The enemies are beautifully drawn and the video effects are awesome too. Think about SOTN's graphics at about 75%. That's pretty damn good for GBA if you ask me. The scenery pops out at you, and you really do have a comfortable, Castlevania feel here. Way to go Konami, I have to applaud you on this much.

Cons - The only beef I have with the graphics is Juste. The animation is smooth, but the way runs just doesn't look right. It looks goofy, and there's not flexibility at all. In fact, it just doesn't even look human sometimes. He looks like a robot.

Replayability -

This is where the game starts to look up. Beating the game will let you play the game as Maxim (like Richter as SOTN's reward) and you get to play this Mini-Boss dungeon game, where you can fight all of the game's bosses. Pretty fun stuff.

What it comes down to -

Gameplay - 3/10
Story - 6/10
Sound - 1/10
Graphics - 9/10
Replayability - 6/10

Buy or Rent? -

Do yourself a favor and rent it, or forget the game all together and take your girlfriend out to dinner at TGI Friday's. It's really not worth the 30 bucks. If it comes down to 20 eventually, MAYBE buy it.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 10/15/02, Updated 10/15/02

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