When I first played Symphony of the Night four years ago, I knew that I had experienced a very special video game. I was equally surprised to see much of what was special about Symphony successfully (mostly) crammed into a handheld package with Circle of the Moon. I did not expect the follow up to that game to be noticeably superior. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is the 251st video game that I’ve finished.
When I played Symphony of the Night and Circle of the Moon, I had quite a bit to say about the philosophical ideas suggested by the games’ mechanics. I think I was too busy enjoying myself to think about Harmony of Dissonance the same way.
Like I said, Harmony of Dissonance is superior to Circle of the Moon in nearly every way. Though, balancing musical and graphical fidelity appears to have been challenging for the developers. Some say this tradeoff results in Harmony having a much worse soundtrack, but I found the music to be no less memorable. In fact, I have a feeling that the tune from the opening area of the castle will be stuck in my head for days.
The boost in visuals is a welcome one, though. At a glance, this game looks like Symphony of the Night. Juste Belmont looks suspiciously similar to Symphony‘s Alucard; though Juste is surrounded by an ugly blue outline to be sure that he stands out from the background while playing on a tiny Game Boy Advance screen. The Definitive Edition patch does this game a big favor by removing that aforementioned outline, among a few other minor graphical tweaks that improve the experience of playing this game on a big, bright modern screen. I found myself staring at my budget 55-inch television, marveling at Juste’s sharp, beautiful pixels idly swaying against the oppressive backdrop of Dracula’s castle.
Eventually, I’d stop gawking at pixels and actually play the game. Honestly, Harmony is an absolute delight to play. The game leans away from the difficulty that may typifies earlier games in the series, and the layout of the castle is impeccably designed. I fell into a comfortable flow, and the castle just carried me away. A week later—and about 10 hours’ time—I finished the game.
Ultimately, Harmony of Dissonance is the sort of game that is only spoken of in terms of it’s predecessors. But it’s an excellent game that carries on the legacy of the Castlevania franchise. I’d even go so far as to call it a great entry point for anyone who never dared to venture into the darkness of Dracula’s castle, especially with the game being readily available as part of the Castlevania Advance Collection.
In my ongoing effort to rank every game that I’ve ever finished, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is tentatively ranked 58 out of 251.