Reviewed: October 16, 2002
Reviewed by: Loki



Released: September 16, 2002
Genre: RPG/Action
Players: 1
ESRB: Teen


Supported Features:

  • New Quick Save Option

  • Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance for GameBoy Advance brings players back into the world of Dracula, a place where unspeakable monsters lurk and powerful magic rules. Nearly 50 years have passed since Simon Belmont liberated the land from the menacing curse of Dracula. Now Juste Belmont Ė the latest scion in the legendary family of Vampire hunters, must take up his whip and storm a mysterious castle in search of his childhood friend, Lydie.

    Harmony of Dissonance features:

    • Beautiful graphics and amazing new special effects bring the world of Castlevania to life
    • New ďSpell FusionĒ system allows for combining of sub-weapons and spells to create new attacks - 30 different spells total!
    • New Quick Save option les you save at any time for complete pick-up-and-play fun
    • RPG elements let players level-up and increase their power over time
    • Larger sized characters and gigantic monsters intensify the action
    Iíll admit, itís been a long time since Iíve played a Castlevania game. In fact, I would have to go back to 1997 when I played Symphony of the Night on the original PlayStation. When Circle of the Moon released last year I didnít have a GBA and really hadnít planned on getting one Ė my how plans change.

    Since I picked up my GBA earlier this year I have played many games, and Harmony of Dissonance is without a doubt one of the finest examples of GBA gaming I have laid my hands on. Not only does it set new standard in GBA game graphics, but the gameplay is pure unadulterated fun, and it actually made me seek out opportunities to use my GBA, or at least made me carry it around with me a lot more than I normally do.

    This latest installment of the Castlevania saga tells pretty much the same story as those that came before it. Even the main character resembles Alucard from Symphony of the Night. This time you play Juste Belmont, as you once again take your trusty whip and snap, crackle, and pop your way through Draculaís castle.

    Harmony of Dissonance offers two gaming modes. The Boss Rush Mode is a tournament style game where you challenge each of the bosses from the regular game in succession with limited weapons and resources. The Normal Mode is the meat and potatoes of this title and places you on the ultimate quest to acquire the relics of Dracula.

    Gameplay is pretty standard with your whip being your main weapon of choice throughout most of the game. You can even whip in certain direction by holding down the attack button and moving the D-pad, although this never seemed to work too well as you are unable to move and whip at the same time.

    Juste has some good movement and is quite responsive with the D-pad. You can even use the shoulder buttons to have him sprint forward or retreat. This is a great method for getting through longer sessions of empty areas.

    There is an impressive magic system that allows you to combine special magic cards for various effects. You can also locate magic books that let you power-up your sub-weapons with magical powers. This greatly enhances the gameplay with more than 30 original attacks.

    The extra weapons are standard tools of the vampire-hunting trade; things like holy water, and a cross that you can toss like a boomerang. Each of these items can be imbued with various magical powers but you are still limited to carrying only one of these items in addition to your whip.

    Combat is pretty simple and monsters seem to spawn infinitely allowing you to stay in one section and whip away. Since this increases the power of Juste, it is quite easy to level-up your character until he becomes powerful enough to walk through the rest of the game. Experienced players will have to use some self-restraint not to exploit this oversight, but those having difficulty with the game may welcome this potential ďcheatĒ.

    The monsters are cool, but the bosses are unbelievably cool and large. While you stare at these stunning creations you will easily spot and learn their various attack patterns and should be able to kill them with little effort. In fact, my main complaint with this game is that it is just plain too easy.

    In addition to beating the crap out of all kinds of unholy monsters and sinister bosses, you need to find various relics hidden throughout the castle. As you find these items your character gains RPG-like abilities that allow you to progress further into the game. Many areas of the castle are off-limits by design until you gain the ability to access them. While this design may keep you from getting in over your head too fast, it does create a very linear game model.

    Once you have the ability to go to new areas of the castle you may find yourself actually getting lost. There is a map screen you can switch to, but it really takes you out of the game and it really isnít all that helpful.

    Harmony of Dissonance has to be one of the better looking games Iíve played on the GBA to date. The levels are rich with vibrant colors and full of intricate visual details despite their simplistic architectural design. Each new section of the castle is different from the last which gives this game great staying power.

    Juste is well animated and has this holy glow about him that makes him stand out against the colorful backgrounds. No matter how colorful or complicated the levels got I never once lost sight of Juste.

    There are dozens of unique monsters you will fight including a few from previous games. The bosses are large, detailed, and nicely animated making good use of the sprite-rotation capabilities of the GBA as well as other special effects.

    One of my fondest memories from Symphony of the Night was the tremendous soundtrack. Unfortunately, for whatever reason whether it be lack of power on the GBA or lack of space on the cartridge, the music failed to impress. While they arenít horrible (or even bad) they tunes just donít do justice to the gameplay or visuals. The sound effects do redeem the sound category with nice little effects tossed in at just the right time and place.

    I whipped and jumped my way through this game in just under 12 hours. Iím pretty sure I missed a few secrets along the way and I know for a fact there are multiple endings, so there is some moderate incentive to replay this game, at least for me.

    Also, once you have completed the regular game the Boss Rush Mode is unlocked. The bosses arenít any harder than there were in the regular game but you must defeat them all in sequence with only limited resources. This is quite challenging and even after several hours I have yet to get through this battle mode.

    If you love the Castlevania series or just want to play a great action game with some RPG elements and a nice variety of spell and weapon attacks then Harmony of Dissonance is a must have title for every GBA owner. The unique ďSpell FusionĒ system is a refreshing nuance to an established gameplay model, and the overall game length and post-game bonuses make this title a great value and a perfect addition to your GBA library.