Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, revisited

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (Wii U virtual console image via Nintendo UK)
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (Wii U virtual console image via Nintendo UK)
How does the recently resurrected Game Boy Advance classic Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance stack up after all these years?

If there’s one thing we can definitively state about Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, it’s that the developers were clearly channeling the second and third NES Castlevania titles when they made this game.

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Taking place 50 years after Simon Belmont’s story, this story follows Juste Belmont and his friend Maxim as they search for their lady friend, Lydie. There’s a sprawling castle (two of them, really), a magic system and plenty of familiar baddies to go around.

This title also marks the start of a few series entries where the storyline was a bit more involved than the standard “that darn Dracula is back again, let’s whip his ass” faire of previous games. Other obvious parallels are the similarity of the visuals and gameplay to that of Symphony of the Night.

Where Circle of the Moon visuals stood out in a departure for the series, Harmony goes straight for the Symphony of the Night aesthetic. Castle locales and enemies still look fantastic all around, even when increasing the screen size to fit the Switch’s display (this and the option to map the controls are arguably a substantial improvement). Juste Belmont strongly resembles Alucard — just with a red coat, a blue outline and a whip.

New features for this edition are a way to track which items you need to collect in an area; the gadget is useful for finding some of the furniture Juste needs to decorate that empty room in the castle (apparently, Juste found a second calling as an interior decorator!). For everything else, it’s hit or miss. The gadget doesn’t tell players the location of life or heart containers and it can get in the way of looking at the right-most section of the map. Fortunately, you can turn it off if you don’t need it. Otherwise, it’s pretty handy and makes the game a bit more fun overall. It would’ve been nice to include a feature that lets you cycle through and toggle spell books on and off instead of visiting the sub-screen every time you want a different effect.

The sound is just as good as I remember. Standard Castlevania tunes are well represented. The sound effects can get a bit tinny after a while, though — especially when using spellbooks.

As the cobwebs built up in my brain over the years, I guess I had forgotten just how awesome some of the bosses are in this game. Huge, room-filling foes that strike the right blend of nostalgia and terror will face Juste along the way. This game also uses enemies to break open pathways or solve puzzles, which is honestly pretty neat.

The boss rush mode players can unlock at the conclusion of the game (regardless of ending) is a great addition and almost as much fun as the game itself. Savvy players can even play the mode as 8-bit Simon Belmont if they enter a certain code …

Harmony hits all the right nostalgia centers in my brain, but it’s nothing truly groundbreaking and certainly not the best title in the series. It’s still incredibly fun and worth revisiting from time to time.

Ultimately, having access to the GBA Castlevania games on the Nintendo Switch via the new and long-awaited Castlevania Advance Collection is pretty great, and hopefully we see even more of them come along soon.

Stay tuned for next time (who knows when that’ll be?) when we recap our experience with Aria of Sorrow on the Nintendo Switch, with a possible fresh look at Dracula X sometime down the line. Thanks for reading!

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About the author

David Buck

David Buck is an author, musician, copywriter, and voice over artist based in Colorado. His work has appeared on Nerdvana Media, The Nintendo Times, Star Trek.com, EN World, SyFy Wire and across the web. In his spare time, he composes music, writes science fiction, and paints miniatures.