Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sink Your Teeth into Castlevaina, Part II: Harmony of Dissonance

Sometimes waiting around is hard work. Like a father in a delivery room, a wife trying to stay calm during her husband’s critical heart surgery, or a FPS superfan trying to contain his excitement for Duke Nukem Forever over the past 13 years, the last two weeks before the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow on the Xbox 360 and PS3 is excruciating for many of the Castlevania faithful. But instead of getting your fangs in a twist, why not play some of the older CV titles you already have, starting with the good ol’ GameBoy Advance trilogy?

Yesterday we examined Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and I spewed forth my love and admiration for it like a mighty fire hose. So all of you went out, found a copy and are playing it now, right? Well PUT IT DOWN and take a gander at the next of the GBA ‘Vanias here on Wordsmith VG. Now distract your elderly neighbor with a festive Autumnal Equinox dance while you steal her Social Security check, “borrow” a cement mixer from the construction crew down the street, and make a b-line though an elementary school to the nearest used games shop so you can complete your portable CV package today!

In Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, the second Castlevania game for GameBoy Advance, the unfortunately dressed vampire hunter Juste Belmont learns from his childhood buddy, Maxim, that one of their mutual friends was kidnapped… by demons or something! Gasp! Predictably, the duo dashes into Dracula’s newly resurrected castle to rescue their princess.

Harmony retains the intriguing backgrounds of Circle and slightly increases the size of the main character and the other enemies. The bosses are still huge and detailed, but with his snazzy red leisure suit jacket, poor Juste looks more like a circus master than a vampire hunter. It seems that’s par for the course, however, given the fact that Circle of the Moon’s main character looked like a shmoe compared to his rival Hugh.

Run! Run! Or you'll be well done!

In order to cram so much into the graphics, Konami apparently wrote the soundtrack to this game with the same software they used for 1985’s Yie Ar Kung-Fu; Harmony of Dissonance sounds more like Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest than it does Circle of the Moon. Tinny, mono midi music fills my dark heart with joy because I grew up with NES games taking precedence over things like friends, school and eating. Fools who started gaming in the PlayStation era or later think I’m crazy and prefer the symphonic sound of Circle of the Moon, but they also suck at hardcore platformers and go crying to mommy when there’s no save function. So there’s that.

The controls are basically the same as Circle, which is a good thing. The only difference is that the run function was replaced with a dash that’s performed with either of the shoulder buttons, saving a little wear-and-tear on your thumb.

Take that!
The excellent gameplay continues to revolve around exploring Dracula’s abode, only this time, there are two castles instead of one. Thankfully there are a few shops scattered throughout the castles, meaning that if you can’t find any decent armor or items, at least you can buy something before getting your head handed to you in a decisive battle. The only problem is that this game is a wee bit easy: I was able to plow through it in 8 hours, and if you weren’t concerned with being thorough, you could definitely do in Dracula in 5 hours or less. Oh well; at least you get to play through the game again as Maxim after you finish it once.

Despite all of its similarities to Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance has a different feel and a style all its own and I ever-so-slightly prefer it over Circle. It’s a little hard to find, but if you do come across it, pick it up. And if you’re really lucky, you might find the CV double pack that features both Harmony and the next game, Aria of Sorrow, in one convent cartridge.

So what could possibly top a renegade ringmaster whipping the undead out of that nefarious nosferatu, Dracula? …Would you believe some emo teen from 25 years in the future? Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of the GBA Castlevania trilogy here on Wordsmith VG!

No comments:

Post a Comment