Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Another chapter in the Dracula saga, another multi-pronged castle to explore, and another Belmont at your control.

One would think that the Belmont family had run out of strapping young men by now to take Vampire Killer in hand and fight the evil reign/curse/rebirth/slumber party of Dracula�not so. This time we�ve got Juste Belmont�heir to the Belmont name, master of weapons physical and mystical, and amateur interior decorator.

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is an original title in the series that follows the charming 2D style of Circle of the Moon, the last GBA game. With nothing but a whip and some frilly clothing by his side, Juste is charged with exploring Dracula�s revitalized manor with his friend Maxim to track down Lydie, a female acquaintance who was abducted earlier.

Despite the change of characters, Harmony of Dissonance almost obsessively copies Symphony of the Night on the PlayStation. The DSS card system in COTM has been replaced with a set of magic books that combine with your weapons to unleash elemental attacks, and you can save anywhere you want now, but otherwise there�s almost nothing new here. (Except for the ability to collect furniture. Oh, those wacky vampire hunters.)

Kiss those halogen lamps and clamp-on lights goodbye! Not only are the graphics easy to see, but they�ve also undergone a major renovation with huge enemies and 3D effects gracing your screen almost constantly. However, something terrible happened to the music in the process�it�s muddy, plodding, and reminiscent of the days of four-channel NES soundtracks, which was fine on the Game Boy Color, but�

Perhaps the biggest flaw of Harmony of Dissonance is the lack of challenge�Castlevania III: Dracula�s Curse this isn�t. The spell-based power-ups are way, way, way stronger than your whip, and most bosses are total pushovers. You�ll likely beat the game in a matter of hours, and while there are some cool unlockable modes to explore afterwards, the low challenge factor is really kinda disappointing if you�re a diehard fan of the series. Although it�s worrisome to see such a majestic series start to run out of originality, Harmony of Dissonance is still a fun action game and a fine Castlevania game in its own right. It just feels more like Castlevania than Circle of the Moon did, and that�s half the battle right there.