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 seperated 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) some Chiptune waveforms. After Castlevania: Symphony of the Nights epic soundtrack of win and Castlevania: Circle of the Moons orchestral (albeit slightly muffled) background music, 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)
An Interior Designer Is You: You can find various pieces of furniture around the castle. You can also find a room 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?
Collecting and placing all the furniture slightly changes the best ending by making Lydie snuggle up to Juste, apparently attracted to his sense of Feng shui.
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.
Also Peeping Big. At the start, you fight a lone peeping eye with much ease. Then suddenly a giant one appears!
Blackout Basement: A small area of the Sky Walkway is pitch dark except for a small circle around Juste. Naturally, there is an item you can equip to deal with this.
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 Armours 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 Dev Team Thinks of Everything: 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 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.
Dual-World Gameplay: You go between the two castles to solve puzzles and whatnot. It's kind of like the later Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Except the second castle doesn't damage you constantly while you're there.
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 doublepack version, due to changes in items dropped by enemies.
Let's not forget Summon, now! note If you can find it
Guide Dang It: 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.
Homage: The Bible + Bolt spell summons a pair of Gradius-style shields. They even make "enemy destroyed" sounds on contact with enemies and projectiles.
Just that? There are numerous sprites and designs lifted from Symphony of the Night here, too. (Which, not surprisingly, were similarly lifted from Castlevania: Rondo of Blood.) 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.
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.
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. The Pazuzu boss also summons Tiny Devils (Imps in any other game of the series).
Multiple Endings: Depending on which castle you enter (and what items equipped), the ending can change. There are three in total.
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.
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 the needless death after his defeat. Dawn of Sorrow uses the same concept to determine the ending, only that it is about the Power of Love.
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".
Randomly Drops: There is pretty much of items that only mobs drop. Oh, and did I mention that there is a item, which is exclusively a rare drop of monster thats rare itself? Fortunately, the other drop which is exclusive to it can be found in the castle, thus reducing rage.
Rule of Cool: There is no other reason for Juste to have an aura around him when he dashes.
In story that is. The developers added it to make him easier to see on a GBA with no lighting.
Well, he is a Belmont, and they do have magic, and well every Belmont since this game has had the Aura too (meaning... Julius.)
So maybe having a name starting with J is the key?
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.
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.
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.
Shout-Out: Takes significant cues from Simon's Quest. In the original Japanese, there was also a subtle reference to the much-maligned Castlevania The Adventure for Game Boy, by naming the Bullet Tip after Christopher Belmont. (They similarly messed up "Cipher's Charm", which should be "Sypha's Charm" and thus reference Castlevania III.)
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.
Don't forget about the Skull Knight from Castlevania III! Pazuzu also looks very similar to Adramalech Leviathan.
The backgrounds in several rooms (mostly in the skeleton cave) contain shout-outs to Medusa, Slogra, Gaibon, Carmilla's mask from Simon's Quest, Dracula's final form from Castlevania 3, and the three-eyed skull from Rondo of Blood. One of the skulls also resembles that of a giant Crocomire (shown here◊).
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.
Death's One-Winged Angel form is reminiscent of the first boss from Strider. Maxim plays like Hiryu in some respects. Coincidence?
Just take a look at Dracula Wraith... Does it not remind you of one of the bosses in Salamander?
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.
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.
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.
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.