Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Reviewed: 10/31/2007

>Harmony of Dissonance, released in 2002, was Koji Igarashi’s first game for Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance. He incorporated many elements of his previous success, Symphony of the Night, into the development of Harmony, but despite this, it never received the accolades that SotN did. Even with the symphonic influence, however, Harmony brings new ideas into fold, making it its own beast.

>Harmony of Dissonance opens with Juste Belmont and his close friend Maxim Kischine stumbling upon a castle that’s never been seen before. They decide to explore the castle because they are searching for their missing friend Lydie Erlanger. Inside, they find horror, jealousy, and deception. The plot is typically simple, and the only pieces of dialog just serve to move the player from point A to point B. It’s nothing new and inventive either…the characters are shallow, and the overall story has been tread and retread in multiple games. It’s all just enough to inspire one to keep progressing through the game to the fight with the final boss.

Screen Shot
Juste realizes the advantage of pokemon, compared to his whip.

>The gameplay is more simplistic than recent Castlevania titles, as well, as it focuses on combat. To this end, the spell system has been toned down, resulting in the “Spell book” system, in which five spell books are collected, and then linked with one of seven subweapons to cast a new spell, with 35 spells in total possible. Physical combat has been tweaked, with focus on speed, as well. Juste will dash into battle, quickly lash with his whip, and dash back out of harm’s way, preparing to strike again. The environs have been adjusted to reflect this too, with less small rooms with platforming and secrets, and more long corridors filled with enemies.

>Harmony looks great…at times. Some of the sprites are incredibly detailed and animated, moving with a fluidity that’s not often found in games. Some, though, are very blurry and nondescript, and it’s hard to tell much about them at all. The same applies to the castle backdrops: quite a few areas are stunning, with some great effects, such as swirling clouds, or psychedelic lines. A few areas though, are very plain, and look as though they were pulled directly from an NES game. Also, the entire game has a bit of a bright pastel-like, yet washed out look, and while in some areas this helps create a spooky atmosphere, in general it only serves to give the game a lighter feel than it should have.

Screen Shot
Lunging at a sharpened blade is never a good idea.

>The sounds are great, but, due to the graphics needing to use the power of the soundchip, the quality is drastically reduced. All the characters contain bits and pieces of spoken dialog, like usual, and those sound fine. The music is where the contention starts. The melodies are fantastic in Harmony, each area filled with catchy tunes that also manage to perfectly convey the atmosphere, and each one fitting the horror theme quite well. However, all the music sounds like it was on the NES, with muffled bleeps and boops common with games of the 1980’s. It’s quite a shame, because this soundtrack is arguably one of Castlevania’s best, but it doesn’t often sound that way.

>Iga’s first effort on the GBA was a good game, but that’s it. Harmony of Dissonance did most everything right, but in smaller bits. Due to this, it actually feels like a step back compared to the previous title, Circle of the Moon. It’s definitely worth picking up as a great budget portable title though, especially in the Castlevania Double Pack.

-Joey Janowksi

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Good
Story Below Average
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Great
Replay Value Bad
The Verdict: 6