Review by Raumien

"Flawed, But Underrated Beauty"

Like many gamers, I had high expectations after Circle Of The Moon. Harmony Of Dissonance improved over CoTM is many ways, but was plagued by a few specific downfalls that kept it from being another masterpiece. This is one of the most enjoyable Castlevania games out there, taking many ideas from the games in the CV past and incorporating them all into one balanced package

The Good

-Incredible graphics. Huge enemies, multi-layered backgrounds, tons of great explosions and rotation effects. Everything is bright and easy to see compared to CoTM
-Very catchy music
-Huge castle with two laers, resulting in a very long quest
-Magic system is simpler, easier to operate and figure out, though lacking the variety of the DSS system from CoTM
-Shoulder buttons being used to dash is a well implemented feature that's enjoyable and convenient.
-Maxim Mode and Hard Mode are two incredibly enjoyable extra gameplay modes

The Bad.

-Despite the compositions being catchy, the samples used in the music aren't up to the standards of CoTM in technical aspects
-The bosses are way too easy. Some are fun, but others are so bad I honestly just laughed at times. Playing Boss Rush mode makes this strikingly apparent
-As nice as the long quest is and all, the castle can feel a little overwhelming. If it was just one castle, it'd be pretty large, with many areas. But you also have the second layer of this huge castle, making 200% a daunting task
-The Magic System is a double-edged sword, but in the end the sacrificed variety is a disappointing

Harmony Of Dissonance, like Cotm, is a flawed but excellent game. Too many vital points in this game are sloppy feeling to make it a true masterpiece though. Bosses are simply too easy. The challenge and classic difficulty expected is almost completely lacking. The sound quality took a hit and as nice as the shoulder button dashing is, it makes many enemies cake. If you can look past these limitations though, theres and incredible amount of depth to HoD.

The castle itself it very, very large. This is a good combination with the incredible graphics, because the variety of scenery you'll come across is staggering. Getting to see big rotating wheels in the clock tower, then scrolling cloud backgrounds in the sky tower while crossing through a dark cave in between makes touring Dracula's home quite a treat. Theres plenty of attention paid to detail in the castle....graphical elements packed in every room, a variety of hidden rooms and some puzzles to solve as well. The second layer is very well done, but I don't want to spoil it. The sheer size of the levels is a little daunting at first. CoTM I had fairly memorized playing through my second time. HoD I played through 3 times before I really started to know the castle.

The graphics are really something to speak of. This is just one of those games that you can get and be treated to many moments where you just sit and watch to beauty unfold on screen. The GBA capabilities really shine on HoD with how much damn detail they packed into everything. Fluid animations and detailed environments combine with a long list of special effects, making this a very memorable game graphically.

The sound has taken much criticism from other reviewers. The digitized samples aren't up to par compared to CoTM or SoTN, but I've always enjoyed the tunes regardless. I felt the composition was just fine despite the technical drawbacks, and found myself with a lot of the tracks stuck in my head after playing. Regardless of which side of the issue you're on with the music, I can't see anyone complaining about sound effects. They're very well done. There are bones falling to the ground, flames, dangling whips and more, all with very detailed sound effects accompanying them.

The magic system overall is simpler than the DSS system of CoTM and therefore more accessible. You find elemental books and combine them with sub-weapons to use spells. You can use homing daggers, or create an Ice familiar that shoots projectiles at enemies on screen, among other options. It's effective, easy to learn and enjoyable, but it lacks to amount of variety the magic system in CoTM had. You can add elemental properties to your whip however, which CoTM didn't feature. Another nice addition is using R and L to dash right or left with Juste. Many enemy patterns are based on the dash buttons so they become essential. The game plays like a mixture of old-school Castlevania games and SoTN.

That's also a good general description of the game, old-school Castlevania meets SoTN, with some CoTM thrown in. It's just an evolution of all these, thrown into one flawed but highly impressive cartridge. Replay value is high if you enjoy this game, but if all the flaws take away too much then you probably won't be wanting to play it again. Maxim mode is real fun to play because of the altered gameplay mechanics and Hard Mode is a no-brainer considering the overall lack of difficulty with bosses. Hard Mode is definitely the way to play HoD once you get a hang of how the game is played.

Overall worth buying if based on reviews you think you'd enjoy this type of game and can looks past the negatives. Because aside from a few ugly marks, this game is surprisingly deep in the amount it offers the player. It impresses the whole ride through, right down to the final fight which is satisfyingly difficult compared to the rest of the game. If the bosses were re-designed and the music quality upped some, this pretty much would be the perfect Castlevania game, period. Easily outdoing SoTN. Pick it up, learn the game, pick Hard Mode and enjoy one hell of a game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/28/05

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