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Review – Castlevania

Review – Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (GBA)

Konami – GBA- 1 Player

Itching for more Game Boy Castlevania action after completing Circle of the Moon, I set out to find a copy of the Castlevania Double Pack.  This is a repackaging of Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow onto one Game Boy Advance cart.  Both games are complete and there isn’t any extras so I’lm just going to review them as separate games.

Since Harmony comes first in release order, I’ll start with it.  It is however the third game I played through.  I started it second but after about five minutes of play I couldn’t stand it and decided to give Aria of Sorrow a go.  I can’t really place why, but I just don’t care much for this game.  One major gripe is the controls.  Most Symphony style Castlevania games have a “Back dash” button.  This one has a “Dash Left” and “Dash Right” via the L and R buttons.  While this almost seems intuitive since it means always dashing in one direction, when you’re used to always dashing backwards with one button no matter which direction your sprite is facing, it becomes a problem.

That seems a bit confusing.  Ok, traditionally, if you’re facing “left” and press “back dash”, you slide backwards, to the right.  This is regardless of which button is assigned to back dash.  With the new system, if you’re facing left, and press the L button, you dash forward, press the R button and dash backwards, if you’re facing right, L makes you dash backwards, and R makes you dash forwards.  Anyway, it really screws with your head when you’re just trying to dash somewhere and you keep changing direction.

The next issue is the graphics.  They are just plain huge and ugly.  They tried to make them colorful and flashy but it just ends up being kind of a mess.  Also, many of the enemies have different looks than one might expect them to.  First rule of sequels, if you’re recycling enemies, make them resemble the same type of enemy from previous games.  You can update the look somewhat but a previously fat heavily armored “Armor” enemy shouldn’t suddenly be tall and lanky.

Also what’s up with Juste’s constant glow.  He’s also too huge for the screen.  Actually it’s possible he’s not any larger than our other protagonists but I just found he seems slightly too large, especially for the small GBA screen.

Anyway, this game uses a new magic system as well.  You gain magic books based on elemental properties as you progress.  These books combine with your traditional sub weapons (knife, axe etc) to create a more powerful “Item Crush” style attack.  The problem with this system is that you’re limited to one type of sub item at a time.  Finding the better items isn’t always easy and occasionally you can accidentally pick up another item and loose your useful one.  The result is that you’ll pretty much just end up using one or two of these abilities ever (generally the most useful are the rotating shield ones).

Also, your only weapon is the whip.  While this was also true in CotM, it would have been nice to see the return of Symphony’s multi weapon system.  Instead of new weapons, you equip your whip with various stones to give it additional powers.  Essentially it makes the whip a little stronger.

The primary saving grace for this game is the plot, which is actually pretty decent, even if it does come off as a rehash of Castlevania 2.  There is a bit of a twist fairly early in the game involving the castle itself that is pretty well done.  Also the plot points surrounding Maxim are rather intrigue, though really obvious once you realize what’s going on.

As far as new school Castlevania goes, I’m going to have to rank this one at the bottom of the barrel.  It’s fun for many of the reasons Symphony and Circle were fun, but at the same time it all around feels like a huge rip off from lots of previous Castlevania games.  While I wouldn’t go out of my way to find a copy of this game, if you can get the Double Pack with Aria then it’s well worth it.