"Adding to the intrigue, a couple of meetings with Dracula's top subordinate, Death, seem to show that the grim reaper seems more than a bit confused as to what's going on and why his master's castle even returned. Fortunately for Juste, the instant Death figures everything out, he tells the Belmont everything in a fit of excessive gloating, which eventually leads to the endgame and (if you meet certain stipulations) happy ending. And Dracula keeps this guy on staff for what reason?"
It seems that after Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was released seemingly to give me something to be happy about in life after graduating college, Konami got the great idea to re-release that game a few times on other systems. Sure, the Game Boy Advance's Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow weren't EXACTLY the same game, but it was pretty obvious they were released by designers who'd been spending a good deal of time chanting "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" like a mantra.
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance can best be described as Symphony of the Night, but not as good nor as memorable. Don't get me wrong, it's still a fun game to romp through -- I just don't see myself picking it up for "one more go-around" like I still do with Symphony of the Night from time to time.
You get to control Juste Belmont, the latest vampire-whipping member of that clan, as he and his amnesia-inflicted buddy Maxim go searching in Dracula's mysterious castle for their missing gal-pal Lydie. While exploring the vast place, Juste becomes quite confused by his friend's behavior, as Maxim alternates between being cool, if a bit addled in the head, and a total jerk who's completely contemptuous of Juste's abilities. Adding to the intrigue, a couple of meetings with Dracula's top subordinate, Death, seem to show that the grim reaper seems more than a bit confused as to what's going on and why his master's castle even returned. Fortunately for Juste, the instant Death figures everything out, he tells the Belmont everything in a fit of excessive gloating, which eventually leads to the endgame and (if you meet certain stipulations) happy ending. And Dracula keeps this guy on staff for what reason?
While all of this is going down, as in Symphony of the Night, you'll be wandering through a pretty immense castle divided into all sorts of regions ranging from an aquatic waterway to a chapel to the tried-and-true clock tower. There will be a lot of backtracking involved, as Juste will find a number of key items that grant him the ability to get to rooms and ledges he couldn't reach the first time through an area. And to add to all the exploration, there are two castles which are connected via a handful of special gates. It's a simple formula that's served Konami pretty well with their more recent Castlevania games and it works here, as well. You'll find items that increase your maximum life or heart capacity in out-of-the-way places and rooms you couldn't access for most of the game will wind up being great treasure troves containing awesome pieces of armor. You'll want to explore 100 percent of both castles just to collect all the items and power-ups.
That exploration will be supplemented by a whole lot of monster-whipping, as most of the game's corridors and rooms are populated by various unfriendly critters, including a couple dozen bosses. Much like Symphony of the Night, the majority of this game is pretty easy to get through, as there really aren't that many foes capable of offering that much resistance. I thought things were going to pick up towards the end of the game, as my collection of healing potions rapidly started dwindling under the abuse inflicted on Juste by the high-powered foes scattered through the last few castle regions I explored, but then I grabbed some really good armor and found those tough foes were maybe causing half the damage they had been. To make things worse, the final tussle with Dracula rivaled the one in Simon's Quest as the easiest clash I've had with ol' fangy (not counting that one time in Symphony of the Night when I had the Crissaegrim).
However, the only real problem I have with Harmony of Dissonance is simply that there's barely a shred of originality to it. By dropping the name of Symphony of the Night in this sentence, it marks the seventh time I've mentioned that game in six paragraphs. That's not me being repetitive for the sake of being repetitive; that's me not-so-subtlely saying this game is so similar to its PlayStation forefather that it seems to be more of a portable system port than an original game. While it's a fun game, I was reminded of the latter NES Mega Man games in that it seemed released more to continue cashing in on a successful name than to add anything new to the series.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 04, 2008)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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