Of the 6 GBA and DS Castlevania games, Harmony of Dissonance is the only one that has completely escaped my grasp even after all these years. But, the instant I saw the shadow-drop for the Castlevania Advanced Collection in the most recent Nintendo Direct, I decided to pick it up as soon as I got home. To be honest, I was mostly just excited to get a Switch copy of Aria of Sorrow aka the game I gush about too much, but I also was finally able to play Harmony of Dissonance. Here are some of my thoughts.
As a fair warning, this ends mostly as a rant post as I am personally underwhelmed by the game. I did enjoy it enough to finish it, and I did like it more in the end than I thought I would. But, I still think it’s very weak for an Igavania game. I’ll start with the good though.
One thing that surprised me was the sub-weapon and spell book system. The game has the classic Castlevania sub-weapons, like the cross, the axe, holy water, etc. You can use them as you normally would in the other games with hearts that you pick up. But, you can also get spell books and combine them with the sub-weapons and use mana. And when I say combine, it’s not something completely intuitive like:
cross = throw a cross like a boomerang
cross + ice book = throw a cross like a boomerang, but have it do ice damage
cross + ice book = summons a floating cross turret that shoots icicles.
It really surprised me at first, but I think it was neat trying out the different combinations. Admittedly though, once I found a combo I really liked, I stuck with it for the rest of the game without experimenting much more.
I liked the graphics for what they were. I usually really don’t care about bad graphics in games, but the problem with Circle of the Moon was that it was just really really dark and so hard to see things on the GBA screen (though I hope the remaster would at least fix this). Harmony of Dissonance swung the entirely opposite way, I think for the better. Everything is really bright and outlined so everything is clear and easy to see. It’s maybe a bit over the top sometimes, but I think that just adds to its charm and atmosphere.
Compared to the other games in the series, this one feels like one of the least linear ones. It seemed like there were several routes to take and optional bosses scattered about, which I liked. I would have to play the game again or watch some playthroughs to see if this is actually true or not, but that’s the general feeling I got.
My first Castlevania hot take in this post is that Circle of the Moon has aged poorly to the point of being unplayable. I had a bit of a rant about this in a post from last year. I think the rest of the game is alright, but the awful controls and not being able to see anything really killed it for me.
Harmony of Dissonance definitely feels weird to play. I think it’s from the jumps feeling really floaty and the normal attack feels clunky, but it wasn’t to the point of being unplayable. I did like having two directional dashes though. That helped so much in dodging enemies and the backdash in particular felt pretty smooth to me.
It maybe got a bit better once I got the double jump? Or maybe I just got used to it, I’m not sure.
My second Castlevania hot take is that Symphony of the Night dips in enjoyment the instant you enter the inverted castle and it’s a lazy way to add more content into the game. This is basically that but even worse.
There’s essentially two layers or two sides to the castle, literally named Castle A and Castle B. They’re exactly the same but with different enemies in each room. To make matters worse, Castle B is all washed in this dull grey color, presumably to set the tone as the “other side of the castle” or something like that, but it just makes all the areas look nearly the same and indistinguishable. It’s also an absolute pain to traverse and backtrack through, especially since the movement is clunky as is, but warp points are really confusing and sparse for most of the early and mid-game. I got stuck at a couple points and just ended up looking it up to avoid wasting even more time walking back and forth and checking every inch of the map.
I think I would mostly describe the castle in this game as extremely mediocre and unmemorable. I think the only place that really stood out to me was the skeleton cave, but it only stood out aesthetically. In terms of general enjoyment to explore, it was the same as everything else.
In my opinion, the same can be said for the bosses as well. None of them really stood out to me at all or were particularly interesting. I wouldn’t say any of them were challenging either. They were just…there.
I am still legitimately flabbergasted at how not good the soundtrack is. Sorry, I really have nothing good or constructive to say here. I don’t know if it’s necessarily bad but it’s just not good and I usually adore Castlevania’s OSTs.
Why am I collecting furniture? Why is Juste decorating a room in Dracula’s castle for no apparent reason? I don’t understand.