Video Game: Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance aka: Harmony Of Dissonance
The year is 1748, and Castlevania has mysteriously re-appeared in the woods of Eastern Europe. Juste Belmont and his friend Maxim Kischine set out to investigate, hoping to find a childhood friend, Lydie Erlanger. Upon entering the Castle, the two friends are separated and Juste begins the search for Lydie and the answers to the castle's reappearance. The plot thickens when Maxim begins to behave very strangely whenever Juste encounters him.Gameplay is solid, if simple, but can be made almost pathetically easy note Causes include Game Breaker magic attacks, Juste's high dodging ability, Juste's whip has a very generous hit range (covering above and behind him) that makes attacking/projectile deflection easy, and the ability to carry 99 potions (that restore a greater relative amount of your health than standard), and some feel the plot is well-written despite recycling ideas from Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The graphics, however, are a point major of contention. Many gamers feel that the bright colors and cartooney sprites fit poorly with the series' gothic aesthetic, but said sprites are well-animated and the visuals are quite impressive. It must also be pointed out that these colors resulted partly from overcompensation for criticism that Circle's graphics were hard to see (which was actually the fault of the poor lighting of the Game Boy Advance's original model).The music is also a point of contention. The soundtrack, by Soshiro Hokkai (with an arrangement by Michiru Yamane), has the great depth and range characteristic of the Castlevania series, and true to the name of the game, is very fond of rich and often aptly disturbing dissonance. However, the instrumentation suffered, likely due to space limitations, as the developers were trying to fit the game on the 64 Mbit cartridge rather than the more expensive 128 Mbit cartridge. The result is that the music uses (and sometimes inelegantly) the Game Boy (Color)'s Chiptune waveforms. After the well-liked soundtracks of the previous pairof games, this became another serious YMMV point.
Harmony of Dissonance provides examples of:
Absurdly High Level Cap: The level maxes out at 99, though that's far more than required. Also, have fun grinding on bats after level 53, considering you get 1 EXP from everything respawnable after reaching it (and that still applies to bosses after Lv. 59)
After Boss Recovery: The traditional health-filling orbs are once agin included, and the developers must have noticed how players would try and catch them in every pose possible in the previous games, because if you catch an orb by jumping and attacking, or dive-kicking into it, a little message like "Good!" or "Great!" will appear.
Anachronism Stew: You can find an "Old Radio" as a decoration for your room, despite the fact that the game takes place in 1748.
Animated Armor: Several of the bosses and Giant Mook enemies, biggest one being Talos, the enemy which chase the player character over the drawbridge at the start of the game.
An Interior Designer Is You: You can find various pieces of furniture around the castle. You can also find a room that Juste decides to decorate, even though it's not his castle.
Awesome but Impractical: Juste decorating a vacant room in the castle. By the time you collect all the furniture for it, it looks very nice, but what's the point of all that when it's gonna go down with the castle?
Backtracking: A frequent complaint about the game. Both castles are extremely similar, and you'll have to backtrack a lot through both of them for 100% Completion.
Book Ends: The Castle B versions of the Entrance, Marble Corridor, and Wailing Way are the last areas of the game you visit.
Boss in Mook Clothing: The Victory Armors act as this in the early game, often guarding items - if you can beat them, you'll be able to get certain decent items early. Not in the sequence breaking sense, but good armour and the like.
Boss Rush: The first game in the series to have this. Also includes an extra bonus character.
Bragging Rights Reward: Collecting all the furniture, and the "Good!", "Cool!", and "Excellent!" ratings you can get for jumping and whipping at the right moment after the post-boss fight orb appears. The orb ratings get you nothing at all, and the furniture quest gets you a very slight change to one of the endings.
The Cameo: If you input the Konami Code when the Konami logo appears on the title screen, you can play as Simon Belmont in Boss Rush mode. 8-bit Simon, complete with limits on which subweapons he can use, the trademark Belmont pimpwalk, and unforgiving Jump Physics. And he can still kill every monster the game throws at him, mostly because he can take the most damage, deals the most per hit, has the highest max heart total AND requires less hearts to use his subweapons than the other 2 characters, which allows him to spam his crosses (and Holy Waters, which are more accurate and damaging than Juste's) with impunity. And when he dies, the death jingle from the original Castlevania plays and he slumps over instead of exploding into a Rain of Blood.
Degraded Boss: In true Castlevania fashion, Harmony reuses a boss as a regular enemy late in the game. In this case, it's the Devil boss.
Dem Bones: The Cave of Skeletons is an entire area of the castle themed around this. It's easily the most original and interesting environment in the game. The game in general has an incredible number and variety of skeleton enemies.
The Bait-and-Switch Boss. You are not supposed to hit that Living Armor, since it's a cutscene, thus you can't do anything. But if you get Cross subweapon and Wind spellbook... You can hit it, revealing that its name is Revenge Armor, though it doesn't go to the bestiary.
You can still access the Castle B entrance sooner than you're supposed to with use of the double jump and Sacred Fist/Ice book combo, but you need to at least meet Death in the Clock Tower before you can use the Gate.
Dark World: It's subtle, but Castle B is more decayed-looking than Castle A, many environments have unnaturalcolors, and the whole place generally looks slightly creepier. That said, since you see the B version of some areas first, the A version will actually be the more dangerous one.
Dummied Out: Gold Headband, Medusa Pendant, and Mirror Pendant are all unavailable in the doublepack version, due to changes in items dropped by enemies.
Dungeon Shop: A wandering merchant got lost in the castle,and so he set up shop there. No idea who the rest of his customer base is, though.
The location of the fifth spellbook. It's above the savepoint before Legion (Corpse), meaning you access it via an opening in the ceiling in the middle of the save room. (It is technically possible to notice this on your map; it's just a tiny detail.)
In every other Metroidvania game in the series (except a couple of the last ones, which came out years later), the first warp room you find always sends you back to another warp room that had previously been inaccessible. With that in mind, the only people who might get stuck are the ones who have never played any of the other Metroidvania games before.
Heavily Armored Mook: The Armoured Fleamen, who have no repercussions on their agaility despite the extra weight they are carrying.
The Bible + Bolt spell summons a pair of Gradius-style shields. They even make "enemy destroyed" sounds on contact with enemies and projectiles.
The aura around Juste, the save rooms, the enemies, some of the doors and warp rooms, the dual castles, even the center cube thing was lifted directly from Symphony.
Hyperspace Arsenal: Thanks to the furniture sidequest and being able to carry up to 99 of most items, the most impressive use of this trope in the series. All the items you can carry put together would weigh many tons and fill a good-sized warehouse.
Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Any time you use one of the Symphony of the Night-style warp gates, you change castles as well as teleporting.
I Cannot Self-Terminate: Happens in one of the bad endings. Juste finds Maxim barely holding on to himself, and Maxim begs Juste to kill him before his Enemy Within takes over. Juste refuses, and (predictably) Maxim's evil side does take over, and you have to fight him.
Scarecrows are corpses impaled on spears which hop around on the things as if they were pogosticks.
Taking a closer look on Pike Master's namesake weapon reveals that it actually has an impaled skeleton stuck to it.
Irony: The title itself. Harmony and dissonance are exact opposites.
King Mook: Quite a few of the bosses qualify, even more so than is normal for this series, with the Giant Merman, Peeping Big being candidates, but the worst being Max Slimer, which is just a big slime.
Lethal Lava Land: The Castle B version of the Treasury, which has volcanic backgrounds in the hallway areas.
Lightning Reveal: The Castle B version of Chapel of Dissonance has strikes of lightning illuminating the place occasionally, and sometimes they show a creature lurking in the outside of the castle walls, following your progress.
Living Shadow: A Climax Boss where you discover there is something very wrong with Maxim. It takes on the forms of several things, among others a giant moth, a black panther, and a sabre.
Lizard Folk: Lizard men, who attack you with spears, and later variants have poison breath and shields at ther disposal.
A Load of Bull: One boss room in both Castle A and B have an undead minotaur boss waiting for you there. The one in Castle A wields an axe, and the one in Castle B has a ball and chain.
Ludicrous Gibs: There's one particular instance where you're just exploring some caves, you flick a switch... a scream is heard, blood starts pouring down like a waterfall, all this blood makes a platform rise, and you must ride it to the top. Once there, you get a glimpse at the source of all that blood.
Meaningful Name: In French, "juste" means "just", making it a fitting name for a hero.
Interestingly, it means "just" in both senses of the word, including "only". So his name could also be interpreted as "just Belmont", ie only another Belmont.
Mirror Boss: Maxim. While he uses a katana and a giant shuriken instead of your whip and subweapons, he's overall close enough to count.
Mirror World: The game is somewhat similar to Symphony of the Night, except the player does not visit the second castle after visiting the first, but goes back and forth between the castles throughout the game, becoming aware of it around halfway through.
Mook Maker: The Castle A version of the Cave of Skeletons has one room with a statue in the background that continually cries tears of blood that spawn the regenerating Red Skeleton enemies.
Multiple Endings: Depending on which castle you enter the final boss room in (and what items you have equipped), the ending can change. There are three in total.
In the original Japanese version, there was a subtle reference to the much-maligned Castlevania: The Adventure for Game Boy, by naming the Bullet Tip "Christopher's Soul", after its protagonist Christopher Belmont.
Many elements, such as having two castles, the cube layout in the centre, the castle entrance, fighting Death in a dark blue underground area, and more are all based on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Almost everyone who plays this game will recognize the Giant Bat from one of the many other Castlevania games it's appeared in. They're somewhat less likely to recognize the Cyclops, which hails from Castlevania III and whose attack pattern is barely changed from its appearance in said game. From the same game, it also brings back the Skull Knight. Pazuzu also looks very similar to Leviathan.
There is an enemy that looks like a skeletal version of Simon Belmont. Its name is Shimon Wraith in the Western release, but "Shimon" (with the kanji for "death gate") in the Japanese.
The backgrounds in several rooms (mostly in the skeleton cave) contain Mythology Gag sightings of Medusa, Slogra, Gaibon, Carmilla's mask from Simon's Quest, Dracula's final form from Castlevania III, and the three-eyed skull from Castlevania: Rondo of Blood.
New World Tease: Some areas offer a sneak-peek on them before sending baktracking for items that let you properly inside.
No Ontological Inertia: In the Castle B endings, if you do not force Dracula to leave Maxim's body, the bite that Lydie has received kills her. If you force Dracula out and defeat him, the bite disappears and Lydie lives.
Nothing but Skulls: Parts of the Cave of Skeletons. Then again, other parts of it are based around various other kinds of bone, so one could argue this case is actually justified, albeit by something that is also weird: whoever built the place started with a huge mixed assortment of bones and sorted them.
One-Winged Angel: After the usual teleports-and-fireballs shtick, Dracula Wraith turns into a giant brain in a half-skull, with a clawed tentacle and a giant laser-shooting eye.
Palette Swap: Gold Medusa Heads, liquid skeletons, just to name a few.
Peninsula of Power Leveling: There's a room full of skeletons in tanks in Castle A's Skeleton Cavern. These enemies are called Skeleton Glass, and once they burst out of the tank they're not much more dangerous than regular skeletons, and go down as fast. But their experience drop, while not the best, is pretty high up there.
Player Tic: Forward dashing, backwards dashing, sliding... pick you poison.
Power of Friendship: If you remember to wear Juste's and Maxim's bracelets when going to the final battle, you can clear Maxim's mind of the darkness - which turns out to be Dracula himself! It also saves Maxim from his needless death after his defeat.
Punny Name: The Clear Bone enemy, a skeleton that renders itself translucent and intangible, was named Sukeruton in the original version. It is pronounced the same way as "skeleton", but "sukeru" in Japanese also means "transparent".
Random Drop: There is a whole bunch of items that the monsters may drop, naturally leading to...
Rare Random Drop: ...rare items. There is even an item, which is exclusively a rare drop from a monster that's rare itself. Fortunately, the other drop which is exclusive to it can be found in the castle.
Regenerating Mana: Mana replenishes itself over time, and there are some equipmrnt that hastens the process.
Run Don't Walk: You will likely spend more time dashing than walking. Unfortunately, because of the control scheme, this means that you will spend long stretches mashing one of the buttons, as opposed to holding it down. You can also slide, which is about equal and mash a instead. Fortunately, if playing on a Game Boy Player accessory for the Nintendo Gamecube, you can set the controls so that the more accessible, comfortable, and durable X and Y buttons do the dashing.
Save Point: The game has the series' most generous save system to date. You can save everything but your position at any time; if you die, you'll load from the last saveroom you used, but without losing any equipment or EXP you'd gained. This eliminates the familiar problem of desperately trying to make it back to a saveroom, low on HP and carrying some precious rare item drop.
Save the Princess: Kinda played with. Lydie's rescue is ostensibly Juste's main goal, but he soon seems to be more interested in saving Maxim from the darkness within him.
Scenery Porn: It's obvious a lot of work went into the background graphics, among other things. The backgrounds are very detailed, and there are an impressively large number of distinct tilesets. Many background features and even complete tilesets are unique to a single room.
Sequence Breaking: It's possible to visit the Gate in the castle entrance sooner than you're supposed to by using the Ice-Fist fusion. You can't actually use the Gate to get to Castle B (or anywhere else) until after you encounter Death in the Clock Tower, but once you do, you can pull a few shenanigans to get equipment you theoretically shouldn't have. And even in the early stages of the game, you can use the candle just outside to grind for cash, and grab the Platinum Tip for your whip.
Shape Shifter Swan Song: The Living Shadow boss, after you defeat it, cycles through all its forms before petering out.
Death's One-Winged Angel form is reminiscent of the first boss from ''Strider. Maxim plays like Hiryu in some respects.
Just take a look at Dracula Wraith... Does it not remind you of one of the bosses in Salamander?
The Wizard Urn item's description states "Staring at this urn tends to induce sneezing". This urn looks like the genie's bottle from children's anime Hakushon Daimao, that features a genie (who appeared in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom) known for his powerful sneezes.
Space-Filling Path: Several rooms have layouts with no obvious purpose beyond making it take longer to go through the room. Often there aren't even actual threats, just lots of walls or floors to go around. For most of the game, the castle itself is an example, as despite its appearance, it's effectively a winding linear path with copious dead ends. The passages that make the castle less linear can only be opened late in the game, and while something like the standard Metroidvania warp system does eventually show up, you spend the first half the game with warps that only go to one destination. However, after The Reveal, and after you find the proper warp rooms, you have far more mobility around the castle.
Speed Run: Taken to absurd heights with Maxim mode, which has provided shortest Castlevania speedruns to date.
Underground Monkey: Even more blatant than usual for this series, as many enemies have "level 1", "level 2", and sometimes "level 3" versions. Some of the bosses have Underground Monkey versions as well.
Unique Enemy: Glass Skeletons, which get a different sprite, break out of tubes in the background, but are otherwise ordinary enemies and appear on just one screen in the entire game. They seem to be there to facilitate Level Grinding.
Vendor Trash: The various jewels that can be traded to the merchant for cash.
Violation of Common Sense: The path to the best ending (and also to the worst) has you choosing the ending scenario in which Lydie appears to be dead. In the path to the somewhat-bad ending, she is still obviously alive. On the other hand, being Genre Savvy may tell you that the former is how to get to the best ending, since you need Dracula's body parts to unlock it while the latter does not require them.
Wall Master: There's a skeleton enemy who hides inside a mirror, and who'll attack you if passed.