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Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Konami
Publisher:  Konami
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Platform
ESRB:  Teen
Date Posted:  11-6-02

When Konami released Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (henceforth referred to as CotM) at the GBA launch last year, it was universally praised as one of the best 2D platformers ever. It was also universally bashed for being almost too dark to play and somewhat lacking graphically. Over a year later a new GBA Castlevania adventure has been released, and it sticks to the same formula as its predecessor while being much easier on the eyes. The result is perhaps the GBA's best platform game to date.

Like CotM, this adventure takes place in Dracula's abnormally large castle. I think the guy's compensating for something personally, but then again he does live with thousands of other monsters.  All that matters to the player is that it'll take 10 or 12 solid hours of gameplay to beat (not to mention getting 100% completed…). Set 50 years after the original Castlevania on NES, gamers now take on the role of Juste Belmont (Simon's grandson). His pal Maxim informs him that their gal pal Lydie has been kidnapped and taken to Dracula's pad, and thus the two set out to rescue her and slay the nefarious Dracula yet again.

This is a Castlevania title through and through, and as such it adheres to the gameplay elements featured throughout the series. Juste wields a whip, can use sub weapons, and whips candles to gain hearts and other power ups. The gameplay in HoD is improved over CotM though, as several important additions have been made this time around. For starters, the ability to flick the whip found in Super Castlevania IV has made a very welcome return, and once a certain power up is found it can also be spun round and round. Sub weapons are still used by pressing up and B (the weapon button) at the same time. If a spell book is bound to the sub weapon, then instead of using the weapon itself one of several very useful spells will be utilized depending on which sub weapon is currently equipped. The shoulder buttons are now used for dashing and retreating forward and backward, and once mastered their usage make fighting certain enemies a much more enjoyable (and easy) experience. The end result of all of this is that the game controls much better, and puts more abilities in the player's hands, then CotM did.

Once again the series takes on several RPGish traits, including displaying Hit Points and featuring a magic meter. Elements new to this game (as opposed to CotM, not necessarily the series in general) include a shopkeeper that shows up at various points in the castle and a variety of objects to collect. Gems can be sold back to the shopkeeper, while furniture can be used to furnish a hidden room. The latter is really a silly and useless addition, but I wouldn't mind seeing even more RPG elements added in the next handheld Castlevania adventure. My favorite Castlevania ever is Castlevania II: Simon's Quest for a reason.

The primary complaint about CotM centered on the graphics, and obviously Konami has listened to those complaints with HoD. Most importantly, things have been brightened considerably to make viewing the game much easier. While it still retains the dark and moody atmosphere a Castlevania title should, now it's easier to tell enemies from the background and to just see everything in general. Additionally you'll find vastly improved sprite animation, larger enemies, transparency effects, pseudo-3D effects, and just a general sense of polish not found in CotM. I can't say that it's the best looking 2D Castlevania ever (unfortunately I've never played Symphony of the Night), but it's certainly a strong candidate.

For a game to look this good on the GBA though there has to be a trade off, and that comes in the form of inferior music. While it certainly sounds good, the music quality is nowhere near the level of CotM's haunting music score. It still gets the job done though, and sounds pretty good through headphones. Sound effects are about the same, with all the thwacks, boss sounds, and character grunts one would expect.


  • Gorgeous graphics with super-sized bosses, tons of animation, and neat special effects.
  • Aimed at a slightly older audience then most GBA titles.
  • Classic Castlevania platforming goodness.
  • New Quick Save option makes it easier to drop the game at a moment's notice - always important in handheld titles.


  • The music score is below Castlevania standards, but still above most other GBA titles.
  • The "innovative" aspects have mostly been done in other Castlevania titles already. Innovative for the platform, but not the series in general.

Final Verdict:

Given the quality SNES ports that have appeared on the system it's hard to say that this is the best handheld platform game ever, but it's certainly the best original one. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is a fine addition to the series, and further cements the GBA as perhaps the best choice for platform gamers.

Overall Score: 9.3

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