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   Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance - Reader Re-Retroview  

White Night Concerto
by Jeremy Michael Gallen

PLATFORM
GBA
BATTLE SYSTEM
4
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
2
STORY
1
MUSIC & SOUND
2
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
5-10 Hours
OVERALL
3.0/5
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Fifty years after Simon Belmont vanquishes Dracula, one of his descendants, Juste Belmont, is hunting the Count's lost relics, when Maxim, a family friend, informs him that Lydie, a childhood friend, has been kidnapped. As Maxim leads Juste in search of her, a castle materializes out of the fog, which the two begin to explore. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is the second Gameboy Advance installment of the series, continuing Symphony of the Night's formula of RPG elements and a giant castle to explore. While perhaps one of the weaker installment of the series, it nonetheless has its strong points.

   While exploring the castle, Juste naturally has to fight many adversaries, and utilizes a whip for attacks, which the player can outfit with an attachment for added effects such as a magical element and/or additional damage. Juste can also equip armor, with some being necessary to advance through certain areas of the castle. Like in previous games, moreover, he can use various Heart abilities, and can combine them with various elemental spell books to use MP-consuming magical abilities. The only real flaw with the battle system is that the player can only keep one Heart weapon at a time and change it only at certain points, and to a lesser extent the fact that Harmony is a little easier than most of its predecessors (though there are some minor tough points), but combat doesn't detract very heavily from the game overall.

   Interaction is clean for the most part, with efficient menus, low character maintenance, a handy quicksave feature, and entertaining castle exploration sometimes requiring special items and abilities to advance, although at one point, a poor description for an accessory necessary to advance the game can easily make players spend an eternity finding out how exactly to proceed without a guide. Other than that gaffe, the interface leaves little room for improvement.

Here comes Juste It's time for androgyny

   Aside from the combination of Heart weapons and magic, Harmony doesn't really do anything vastly different to differentiate itself from its predecessors, and the story isn't terribly inventive at that, and is, without a doubt, is the game's low point. Many other games have done the idea of rescuing a kidnapped maiden to death, and the events surrounding Juste's friend Maxim are somewhat clichéd, as well, with little development or excitement throughout the game. Overall, plot is hardly a reason for playing Harmony.

   The music falters as well, with its quality vastly paling in comparison to that in Circle of the Moon, though ironically, it features vocals, chiefly consisting of grunts, for a few characters such as Juste, that are actually okay. Still, there's no excuse for the abysmal quality of the music.

   The game looks better than it sounds, however. The visuals are much brighter than those for Circle of the Moon, but still look slightly inferior to those in that game, with the human character sprites, for one, looking a little sloppy, while the monster sprites, on the other hand, mostly look decent. All in all, Harmony doesn't have the best visuals on the Gameboy Advance nor does it have the worst.

   Finally, playing time ranges somewhere from five to ten hours, with some additional gameplay modes such as a Boss Rush Mode and even a mode where the player can play as Maxim. Overall, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, while certainly not the best installment of the series, does have things going for it like enjoyable gameplay. While it may not be as challenging as other Castlevanias, moreover, it nonetheless could be a decent entry point into the series.

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