As one of three original Castlevania games available on the Gameboy Advance, “Harmony of Dissonance” has an impressive pedigree behind it. “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night”, released in 1997 for the Sony PlayStation was an unquestioned masterpiece of 2D Metroid-vania style gameplay. If you were to play through “Symphony of the Night” and jump right into “Harmony of Dissonance”, you would feel right at home. The game looks and plays very much like “SotN” but without the CD quality soundtrack to go along with it. Not to say the music in “Harmony of Dissonance” is unappealing or weak, but its about as good as a handheld game can be in the early 2000s. What you do have is the ability to level up through experience points earned by defeating enemies, opportunities to find relics, items and weapons, defeat monsters & mini-bosses and get lost (literally and figuratively) in the world of Castlevania.
Released in 2002 and the second Castlevania game released for the GBA, “Harmony of Dissonance” features Simon Belmont’s grandson, Juste in the starring role. If you squint, he could easily pass for Alucard from “SotN” thanks to his flowing locks of hair & cloak. Juste must rescue a kidnapped friend who was taken to a monster filled castle (two castles if you want to be accurate). The use of these two castles is what gives “HoD” a uniqueness that sets it apart from other Castlevania games from the era. The two castles are connected through warp rooms and performing an action in one castle can affect something different in the other. The two castle approach is in some ways reminiscent of the inverted castle trick in “SotN” but done slightly different in order to avoid blatantly recycling the idea. There are plenty of items & weapons to collect, as you would expect from a Metroid-vania style Castlevania game and lots of classic horror and monster-movie enemies to defeat. “Harmony of Dissonance” includes a variety of endings depending on how the game is played and what the player accomplishes throughout the game, a trope that is familiar to those that played through “Symphony of the Night”. While “Harmony of Dissonance” is a very, very solid Gameboy Advance title, it can’t quite compete with “Symphony of the Night”, but that’s ok. Very few games can.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is another stellar entry into the Castlevania franchise, this time released for the Nintendo DS in 2005. Gone is the pesky need to press start or select to bring up the map and instead you are treated to a perpetual map screen thanks to the two screen display of the DS. What a treat that is! As for the gameplay, it’s more Metroid-vania 2D awesomeness but with a DS-style twist to incorporate the stylus pen (drawing patterns, cracking ice, etc.). The visuals are a treat, the gameplay and controls are intuitive and responsive, the difficulty level is just right and there is nothing terribly negative I have to say about this excellent DS entry into the Castlevania series.
Nintendo chose to release a number of their original classic NES titles on the Gameboy Advance, including the original entry into the long running series, Castlevania. It all started here and its a treat to run, jump, whip and battle a gauntlet of movie monsters in this epic classic. I loved having Castlevania available at my fingertips for my GBA and it’s a great addition to any GBA collection.
Currently in my collection:
Castlevania (NES Classic) – game, manual, box
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance – game only
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow – game, manual, box