Review by KasketDarkfyre

"Castle Belmont."

The allure of Castlevania games on so many levels really makes the trip back to fight Dracula worth repeating time and time again. Whether it’s playing as the whiny son of Dracula or playing as one of the numerous Belmont clan or a various offshoot, rampaging through a castle and taking on several different types of monsters is just plain fun. With several different versions of this game available on multiple platforms, Harmony of Dissonance comes through with a style that plays just like Symphony of the Night up to and including collecting various weapons and armor. For the Game Boy Advance, you really can’t get much better in terms of visuals and audio, though the game play and difficult is a little on the weak side.

Castlevania Part 34…

Half a century has gone by since Simon Belmont rid himself of the curse that nearly took his life. Now a descendant of the Belmont Clan, Juste Belmont must undertake the quest of finding the remains of Dracula and ridding the world of the pure evil. One day, a close friend of Juste by the name of Maxim returns, wounded and scarred by some battle. Informing Juste that a mutual friend Lydie has been kidnapped, it is up to the two of them to storm a mysterious castle and hunt down both Lydie and those responsible for her kidnapping. Brandishing his family heirloom in one hand, Juste prepares to breach the mysterious and legendary Castle of Dracula.

Whip Me…

Castlevania is one part exploration and one part action in terms of what it is that you have to accomplish throughout the usually expansive locations. With only a whip in hand and some weapons that you can pick up on the fly, it’s up to you to earn not only more levels but also find different armor that will help keep you alive throughout the castle. Enemies come in all shapes and sizes with different strategies that can be exploited with enough thought and attention to detail. As you progress through the game, there are various save points along the way that will allow you to save your progress at any given time assuming that you can find the save room.

The actual quest itself is long and tedious but surprisingly easy to accomplish if you’re looking to beat the game in one sitting. Once you’ve found your way through the castle, you’ll have to bash on enemies in order to collect different armor and hearts to use your sub-weapons. To complicate things a little bit more, there are items that you have to find in order to unlock different aspects of the game such as enemy names and even spells to use with your sub-weapons. This new aspect of Spell Fusion really isn’t anything new, but more of an upgrade of Symphony in which you can perform different spells depending on what type of weapon you happen to be using at the time.

Boss characters and enemies aren’t that hard to take on and if you learn how to gauge their patterns and move with them, you should be able to make it fairly far without ever getting yourself killed. Most of the game is spent moving back and forth throughout the castle in an attempt to find other rooms and go places that you previously were unable to go. Once you’ve explored the castle and done a certain amount of things, then you can go for the gusto and knock off your nemesis Dracula. However, to see all of the different endings, you must fulfill a certain amount of required tasks and therefore really unlock and see what there is to see.

Control isn’t too hard to get an upper hand on as this game falls in with the hundreds of other action games that require you to jump while attacking on the go. You’ll also find that maneuvering through the different menus really isn’t all that difficult and going through the locations requires just a little patience and a little timing. The Advance directional pad can be a little stiff, but working with it for about ten minutes should bring anyone up to speed with the pace of the game, allowing for a good time without all the headaches. For a Castlevania game on a portable system, it has all the handling and precision of a home based title, which is a plus for those of the series who need a little more control with their whip-fest.

So There I Was…In This Huge Castle…

The first thing you’re going to notice about Harmony of Dissonance is that it is extremely large and expansive as well as heavily detailed. With echoes of Symphony at every turn, you’ll see that there is action in both the foreground as well as the background. Zombies lunge at you and Skeletons whip bones constantly and fluidly. Even with the small screen space, you’ll still find that there is plenty to look at, though tilting the screen towards the light will really help you in some of the darker areas under the Castle. Boss characters are large and even the different locations that you rampage through come to life and bring the theme of both catacombs and caverns to brilliant life.

Soft Singing In My Ears…

Castlevania games in the last couple of years have always had a good musical track to them and you’ll find that this game has plenty going for it in terms of what types of music that you hear. There are portions of the game that will give you goose bumps from the beginning theme to the ending credits score. Portions of the castle come equipped with rock tunes as well as some symphonic sounds that will keep your ears tuned to the action. No voice acting here though, and there are some places that you might expect or want it to show up but to no avail. If you are a fan of the recent Castlevania soundtracks, then this one will not disappoint and does sound excellent on a pair of good headphones.

Harmony of Difficulty…

The one glaring problem that I’ve found with this title is that it has little or no difficulty attached to it and that causes the game to be over well before it should be. For a game that is played during a road trip, you’ll find that Dissonance is the perfect accompaniment for times that you don’t have anything better to do. However, if you’re looking for a very deep and engrossing game, then Dissonance has just enough to whet your appetite before it falls apart on you in the end with only two to five hours of actual play time. Excellent visuals, awesome audio and exploration game play is what makes a Castlevania game good, but constant challenge and high difficulty is what makes a Castlevania game perfect.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/03/03, Updated 03/03/03

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