Review by boushti

"A good game, with a few minor flaws"

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Intro- As the second installment of the well-renowned Castlevania series for the GBA, CHD isn't a bad game. Sure, its got some quirks, but its really an overall good game. As soon as you pick it up and start playing, you'll be blown away by the amazing graphics (that is for the GBA). The storyline is a little rough, but hey, when has a Castlevania game ever been overly infused with story anyway? The gameplay is topnotch, as you'd excpect from a Castlevania game, so I guess that's all that really matters.

Graphics-8The graphics are, simply put fairly impressive. The beginning of the game most portrays this with a giant robot chasing you outside the castle. Juste Belmont, the main character, is highlighted in blue; this is a vast improvement over Casltevania: Circle of the Moon, where you had to squint to see your character's dark body. It also helps that Juste is dressed in red. Juste's animation is also very good; the frame rate doesn't seem choppy and there's enough variety in his movements to simply enjoy watching him move. However, beyond the beginning of the game, the graphics are unimpressive. Sure, the backgrounds look nice, but you start to wonder what's happening when you walk through and entire room that has twenty of the exact same stained glass windows in it. Also, the other main characters, Maxim and Lydie, look really pathetic. Its hard to tell that Maxim is actually a person, he's so pixilated. But, overall, the graphics really aren't bad, and anyone who buys this game will get a kick out of the 3D cloud movement in some the higher levels of the castle.

Story-5This is probably where CHD is weakest. The story goes like this: Juste Belmont, who is from an ancient clan of vampire hunters, is sitting in front of his fire at home one day when his old friend, Maxim, returns from a long journey, wounded. He tells Juste that their childhood friend, Lydie, has been captured and brought to a mysterious castle. Maxim takes Juste there, and they split up trying to find Lydie. There's really not much more than that. The scenamic scenes are scarce and unevenly spaced, and Juste's motivation is unclear. Though it does get a little more interesting with Death following you around and giving you clues to the castle's origin, you only meet up with him three times before you kill him. But hey, chances are that if you bought this game, you didn't buy it for the story, you bought it for the gameplay, so I wouldn't be too worried if I were you.

Gameplay-9This is where CHD really shines, as does any Castlevania game. As with all Castlevania games, this is a sidescrolling adventure through a monster-ridden castle. Juste moves very fluidly and gracefully, and his control is tight. You never run into battle with the fear of the controls going all glitchy and sluggish. Juste's weapon is a whip; it is controlled by pressing the B button, and if you hold that down, you can use the control pad to move the whip in any direction. It's really pretty cool, and a lot better than the automatic spin of the first Castlevania for the GBA. The game is the same difficulty the whole way through, getting harder as you level up. Unfortunetly, the difficulty is only moderate, and the bosses are as easy as pie. The leveling up system is fairly well balanced. The more enemies you defeat, the more experience you get, the higher your level, the better your stats. Standard RPG fare. The downside to this is that you get less experience every time you level up. By the time you get to level 50, almost every enemy gives you only one or two experience points. The puzzles in this game are basically non-existent in the main game, but some of the side quests have relatively difficult block puzzles. Other than your whip, there are a number of secondary weapons that you can collect, the knife, the fist, and the holy water to name a few. You can only carry one at a time, and using one will deplete your heart count. There are also 5 spellbooks that you can find to fuse with the secondary weapons for magic attacks. Thankfully, each of these attacks is refreshingly unique. None are quite like each other. The only major sidequest in this game is the furniture collecting subquest. Throughout the castles (yes, there are actually two castles), there will be random pieces of furniture that you can find, and then use to decorate a specific room of the castle. Its rather fun to see all of the strange pieces of furniture, but unfortunetly, you can't personally arrange the furniture.As a last note, there is a wide variety of armor, trinkets, and whip attachments that you can collect. However, most of them don't make that much of a difference, so its not worth striving for the best.

Sound-6Another area where CHD doesn't exactly shine is in the sound. There is a wide variety of different soundtracks, each perfectly designed for the area of the castle that you are in. But, for some reason, the designers at Konami must have thought it would be funny to make all the music sound like it was still on the NES. Yes, the music, while well composed, doesn't take full advantage of the GBA's technology. On the other hand, the sound affects are particularly good. The whip cracking down on an enemy sounds relatively realistic, and its pretty cool to listen to the explosions of a dying enemy. If only Konami had gone this far with the soundtrack. Ah well, we can't have perfect on everything.

Replay Value-9The great thing about Castlevania games is that, even after you've beaten it, you can still strive for the best items, the secret castle areas, and a full beastery. There's tons of things that you can do after you've beaten CHD, including trying to get to level 99, which is insanely difficult. But, unless you're a real fanatic, you'll be satisfied as soon as you beat the game. Nothing makes you want to keep on going, so that's why I gave it a 9.

Bottome Line-7This game is really pretty fun, and although the music and story are lacking, you can still really enjoy it. The game is pretty hard to come by nowadays, but if you like Castlevania, or sidescrollers, in general, I would give this game a shot.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 12/12/05

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