Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is the second castlevania game for the Gameboy Advance. It features colourful graphics, a two-sided castle, an updated subweapon/magic system, and three game modes.
What I enjoy most: exploring (but not backtracking through) the castle
You play as Juste Belmont, grandson of the famous vampire killer Simon Belmont, who grew up in a village with childhood friends Maxim and Lydie.
Having discovered that Lydie was kidnapped and being held captive in a castle, you and Maxim set off to rescue her.
Compared to Circle of the Moon (CotM), the previous installment in the Castlevania franchise, Harmony of Dissonance is much more colourful, with detailed sprites and vibrant colours. It seems to be partly a result of CotM appearing too dark in the actual Gameboy Advance. However, looking at it in modern eyes, it can appear garish - whereas the graphics of CotM looks much more classy and timeless. This is especially true if one runs the games in emulator where you are not limited to what the GBA can physically do.
Movement & Exploration
The movement of Juste is very fluid, with the abilites of dashing (both foward and backward) available from the very start, and sliding attack providing a quick way to get around. (On a side-note, jumping in this game feels a bit floatly, and takes getting used to.)
Dracula’s castle is still large and it is a job to discover new areas. There are also numerous shops, as well as a room that belongs to you - where you can bring furniture pieces collected from around the castle. On the other hand, there is a lot of backtracking in the game. This is not helped by the fact that, like Symphony of the Night, there are two sides of the castle.
Juste, as a member of the Belmont family, uses his whip exclusively in combat. Rather than the Dual Set-up System (DSS) in CotM, there is a system of combining different elements with the classic subweapons of the franchise (i.e. magic dagger, boomerang, axe, etc.) that does not only add elemental damage, but change the subweaspons completely. There are also upgrades to the actual whip, which allow for charged attacks and so on.
In general, and when comparing with CotM in particular, this is not a very difficult game. This is particular due to the fact that, if you really want to, you can buy stacks and stacks of healing items and brutal force the bosses. However, it is still a fun game. And there is also a boss rush mode, as well as a mode where you play as Maxim (who uses sword and shuriken, and can triple-jump).
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance provides almost all aspects of gameplay one expects from a Castlevania game, if nothing more. It is not very challenging, but combat and exploration can still be fun. The graphics though, depends on personal taste.
List of metroidvania elements
Name of game: Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Developer / Publisher: Konami
Year of publication: 2002
Style of combat: Melee
Use of magic: Yes
Combat-focus versus Platform-focus: Combat-focus
Death mechanics: Last saved game
(Fall damage): No
Levelling / Farming for XP: Yes
Farming for Gold / Item: Yes for Gold & Item
Skill pick-up: Yes
(Stats allocation): Automatic
Gated by movement abilities: Yes
Gated by bosses: Yes
Type of world map: Double map
World generation: Fixed map