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Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is the second Castlevania game for the Game Boy Advance, released in 2002, and the first one on the system to be directed by Koji "IGA" Igarashi.

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.

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Like Castlevania: Circle of the Moon before it, Harmony of Dissonance is a 2D Metroidvania in the vein of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. However, Harmony of Dissonance also takes more direct inspiration from Symphony of the Night than its predecessor. Not only is Juste's White-Haired Pretty Boy design heavily reminiscent of Symphony protagonist Alucard, but Harmony also makes use of a dual castle setup like in Symphony. Though there is a twist — the two castles are used for Dual-World Gameplay, with Juste being able to warp between them and changes to one castle affecting the other.

Replacing the DDS cards of Circle of the Moon is a brand new magic system. The various sub-weapons can be combined with spell books at the cost of MP, with each combination providing a different effect. Many DDS cards were Random Drops while the spell books need to be found throughout the castles, removing much the RNG inherent to the old system.

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Harmony of Dissonance provides examples of:

  • Absurdly High Level Cap: Juste's level maxes out at 99, though that's far more than required (the game can be comfortably beaten in the mid-forties and the best shop unlocks at level 50). Have fun grinding on bats after level 53, considering you get one 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 again 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.
  • Ambushing Enemy: There's a skeleton enemy who hides inside a mirror, and who'll attack you if passed.
  • Anachronism Stew: You can find an "Old Radio" and a "Phonograph" as decorations for your room, despite the fact that the game takes place in 1748.
  • And Your Reward Is Interior Decorating: Most of the optional collectibles in the game are pieces of furniture, which Juste can place inside a vacant room of the Castle Treasury (the room is the same in both castles). Finding and placing every piece of furniture slightly modifies the best ending of the game.
  • Animated Armor: Several of the bosses and Giant Mook enemies, the biggest one being Talos, the enemy that chases the player character over the drawbridge at the start of the game and returns as a late-game boss.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The "gadget" assistant included in the Castlevania Advance Collection port displays how many items are in each section of either castle, with blue items being relics and red items being optional collectibles. Since Harmony of Dissonance eventually becomes a scavenger hunt for the many Dracula relics and pieces of furniture, this makes it easier to narrow down where everything is.
  • Arrange Mode: Beating the game and using "MAXIM" as a profile name activates Maxim Mode, where you play as the speedy Maxim, who can triple jump, dodge faster, and even somersault. He's more frail compared to Juste to compensate.
  • Backtracking: Once Juste gains the ability to travel freely between both castles at warp points, numerous locations can only be reached by altering something in one to cause a change in the other (such as breaking a wall with the Crushing Stone in one castle to remove the same, unbreakable wall in the other castle). Due to the limited number of warp points, this often leads to having to backtrack through certain areas of the castle to check specific rooms.
  • Bait-and-Switch Boss: An Animated Armor boss (which resembles the Living Armor enemy but is technically a unique enemy known as Revenge Armor) appears in one boss room wielding a BFS, only to be smashed by the just off-screen Talos.
  • 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.
  • Blob Monster: The slimes, which split into smaller enemies when hit. Their King Mook Max Slimer similarly drops pieces of itself that start moving on their own.
  • Bookends: 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 pieces of equipment early.
  • Boss Rush: The first game in the series to have this. It has three difficulty levels, each one adding more bosses with Hard difficulty having every boss except Maxim. Juste is the default character, Maxim is playable with a button input, and an even more secret button input enables 8-bit Simon Belmont himself.
  • 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 Infinite Boots allow Juste to jump in midair perpetually, a useful and fun effect. They're available for 12,000 G in the final Merchant location at the Entrance, and he'll only appear there when Juste's level is 50 or above, which requires grinding several steps above what's gained in a normal playthrough. By the time the shop appears and the boots can be purchased, Juste is almost guaranteed to have the innate Griffin's Wing for less controllable high jumps, and will be strong enough to conquer the rest of the game without needing the added mobility.
  • The Cameo: If you input the Konami Code when the Konami logo appears on the title screen, you can play as 8-bit Simon Belmont in Boss Rush mode, complete with limits on which subweapons he can use, the trademark Belmont strut, and unforgiving Jump Physics. 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 two characters, which allows him to spam his crosses (and Holy Waters, which are more accurate and damaging than Juste's) with impunity. When he dies, the death jingle from the original Castlevania plays and he slumps over instead of exploding into a Rain of Blood.
  • Cartoon Bomb: The Bomber Armors throw round bombs that explode when they hit anything.
  • Chekhov's Gun: You start the game with Juste's Bracelet, and receive Maxim's Bracelet about halfway through the game. If you don't wear them both during the battle with Evil Maxim in Castle B, you won't get to fight Dracula Wraith and will just receive a bad ending.
  • Chiptune: The GBA's primary audio hardware is primarily software-driven with one hardware channel for each ear, so mixing multiple sound channels must be done in software before being sent to the primary audio hardware. To save CPU cycles, the game's soundtrack uses the Game Boy Color's chiptune audio hardware for music since that hardware provides much more audio acceleration like mixing its channels in hardware.
  • Continuity Nod: Harmony of Dissonance repeats Simon's Quest in having to gather Dracula's remains to finally confront and beat him again. This was also a mechanic in the second half of Symphony of the Night, which Harmony takes a lot of inspiration from.
  • Cyclops: One of the last bosses is a blue cyclops that uses a giant hammer.
  • Dark World: It's subtle, but Castle B is more decayed-looking than Castle A, many environments have unnatural colors, and the whole place generally looks slightly creepier. That said, since you see the B version of some areas first — especially the middle part of the castle — the A version will actually be the more dangerous one.
  • 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, which appears times two in a single room in Castle B.
  • Dem Bones: The Cave of Skeletons is an entire area of the castle themed around this, with nearly every enemy being a skeleton variant and the environment being made up of bones and skulls. The game in general has an incredible number and variety of skeleton enemies.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • You are not supposed to hit the Living Armor that gets killed by Talos, 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.
    • At one point, you get slightly different dialogue with Maxim depending on whether or not you'd found one of Dracula's relics. Most of the relics are inaccessible at that point, and the one that can be found is not easy to reach unless you use the Ice Book/Sacred Fist combination to propel Juste forward. Even without that method, it is possible to backtrack as soon as you get the Double Jump ability and score the relic that way (all before meeting Maxim in the relevant cutscene), but many players won't think to do that.
    • You can access a Castle B warp gate 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.
  • Doppelgänger Attack: Maxim's ultimate move, where he fires a lot of shadow clones on you. They each take only one hit before going down, and it's easy to take down a lot at once, but the sheer amount can overwhelm Juste easily.
  • Dragon Ascendant: With Dracula awaiting revival, Death becomes the main mover in the plot.
  • Drop the Hammer: The imaginatively named Hammer-Hammer Animated Armor uses one. Whenever it strikes the ground, it summons three Fleamen to pester you.
  • Dual-World Gameplay: You go between the two castles to solve puzzles and progress through the game.
  • Dungeon Shop: A wandering merchant got lost in the castle, and so he set up shop in various locations. Juste naturally finds it a bit peculiar.
  • Dying as Yourself: Maxim in the Bittersweet Ending, compared to the Downer Ending where he's taken over, and the Golden Ending where he lives.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: It's the first portable Castlevania game to have a Suspend Save feature, but it does it differently from later games; instead of being a true suspend save, it just saves everything except for your current location, so when you reload your file, you'll respawn at the last save point you touched but with all other progress kept. Furthermore, suspend-saving doesn't exit the game; you can continue to play, effectively making it a form of insurance. Later games would implement suspend saves in a more conventional manner.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending: The worst ending is harder to get than the "average" ending, since it requires all of Dracula's remains. That said, it's easier to get than the Golden Ending, which requires you to equip two relatively inferior pieces of equipment, one of which was a part of your starting equipment!
  • Elemental Crafting: The Platinum Tip whip attachment damages enemies more than the Steel Tip does. Granted, platinum is much denser than steel and, in an inertia-based weapon like a whip, would presumably hit harder, so it makes some sense.
  • Enemy Without: The eventual explanation for why Maxim's been acting so strange: the Castle B version of him is a reflection of his dark desires empowered by Dracula's remains, and with the help of Death he aims to merge the two castles to completely take Maxim over and rise again as Dracula.
  • Expy: Juste is essentially Alucard in the form of a Belmont, sharing many of his appearance traits alongside a few odd ones (like taking damage while in water).
  • Fighting Your Friend: The final fight of the game outside of the true ending pits Juste against Maxim.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: Three of the spellbooks you can collect to supplement sub-weapons are Fire, Ice, and Bolt. Wind turns it into a quartet, and there's also a secret Non-Elemental Summoning Tome.
  • Flunky Boss:
    • One of Giant Merman's attacks is summoning its smaller brethren to sic them at you.
    • The Pazuzu boss summons Tiny Devils (Imps in any other game of the series) and watches them try and fail to best you while it stands with its arms crossed.
  • Fragile Speedster: Juste himself is already pretty damn fast, but Maxim is even faster, but has much less defense, and speed-based attacks.
  • Game Mod: Multiple ROM hacks exist to alleviate some of people's complaints, the two most notable being a "Music Overhaul" hack that replaces the music with other tracks from the franchise, and Definitive Edition, which makes the graphics less garish on backlit displays.
  • Giant Mook:
    • Big Skeletons, who take a swing at you with their equally big bone.
    • There are spectral floating skulls called Ghosts, who are sometimes accompanied by their much bigger friend Large Ghost.
    • Quite a few of the bosses are just giant versions of normal enemies.
  • Golden Ending: 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.
  • Golem: One of the bosses in the caverns underneath the castle. It is powered by a red stone buried within its headless chest.
  • Guide Dang It!: The location of the fifth spellbook. It's above the savepoint before the Skull Knight in Castle B, meaning you access it via an opening in the ceiling in the middle of the save room. It's possible to notice a conspicuously empty spot above the save point, but it only gets marked with a door opening after finding it in either castle.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: The Armoured Fleamen, who have no repercussions on their agility despite the extra weight they are carrying.
  • Homage:
    • 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, and even the central area of the castle were all 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. Downplayed in that there are only two pairs. The rest use new teleporters that, while also in Symphony, are based on how the first Doppelgänger entered the arena.
  • 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.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
    • 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.
  • Interface Spoiler: Averted. Prior to Death informing you that there are actually two castles, the map screen shows everything you've trekked through as being part of a single castle. While Juste comments about how things look different after using a teleporter for the first time, players could easily attribute that to being in a different part of Castle A. It isn't until The Reveal that the map shows the bottom-left corner actually being part of Castle B.
  • 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.
  • Irony: The English title. 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, and Max Slimer all being bigger versions of existing enemies.
  • Konami Code: Entering the original code with Select substituting for Start during Konami's logo before the title screen causes you to play as a Retraux Simon Belmont in the Boss Rush Mode.
  • 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: The Shadow, fought as a Climax Boss right after Juste discovers that there is something very wrong with Maxim. It takes on the forms of 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 their disposal.
  • 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, a monster corpse smashed apart by a crusher.
  • Magic Knight: Juste uses both the whip and his magic a lot, thanks to the genes from Sypha Belnades that run in his body.
  • Market-Based Title: Known as Byakuya no Concerto/Concerto of the Midnight Sun in Japan. Additionally from this game up to Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, the series briefly adopted the Castlevania moniker in Japan as well, denoting games in which Dracula himself did not exactly star in any meaningful capacity. The name went back to Akumajo Dracula by Dawn of Sorrow's release.
  • Meaningful Name: Our protagonist's name has some meaningful interpretations.
    • In French, "juste" means "just", making it a fitting name for a hero.
    • It means "just" in both senses of the word, including "only". So his name could also be interpreted as "just Belmont", i.e. only another Belmont.
  • Metroidvania: Harmony of Dissonance follows most of the same conventions that Symphony of the Night established, with the primary goal of exploration and progression being to unlock the center of the castle by reaching the highest point of the Castle Top Floor (Castle A) and collecting all six of Dracula's relics (Castle B). Juste has a lower amount of progression upgrades than is usual for the genre, and most of what he finds are keys or special pieces of equipment that can destroy barriers.
  • Mighty Glacier: Simon Belmont still hits like he used to in the Boss Rush, but he also still moves like he used to. The only new move he gets is the double jump.
  • 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.
  • More Than Mind Control: Evil Maxim is based on Maxim's own jealousy of Juste and (corrupted) desire for Lydie. Where the real Maxim is a friendly rival to Juste and is willing to step aside since Lydie wants Juste instead, Evil Maxim kidnaps her and uses her blood in a failed attempt to surpass Juste. This ultimately fails since, even as the Dracula Wraith, he's still no match for Juste.
  • 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:
    • Castle B, the Golden Ending: Juste confronts Evil Maxim wearing the real Maxim's Bracelet, and his own (Remember that accessory from the very beginning of the game? You need to put it back on before you land the final blow.) to rally the real Maxim into fighting from the inside. The Relics react to Evil Maxim's desires and Evil Maxim flees into them, creating the Dracula Wraith, the true final boss. Maxim and Lydie both survive, and if all the furniture pieces are found and placed before the end, Lydie will cuddle up with Juste, apparently attracted to his sense of feng shui.
    • Castle A, the "Okay" ending: Juste arrives before Maxim can completely succumb. Maxim begs Juste to kill him, but Juste refuses, so Maxim pretends to succumb (complete with using Evil Maxim's portrait) to force Juste's hand. Afterward, Maxim confesses that he wanted Juste to be the one to kill him, acknowledging his superiority, and asking him to take care of Lydie as his body expires. This ending is "okay" since at least Lydie survived.
    • Castle B, the My Greatest Failure ending: Juste confronts Evil Maxim with any equipment he would have replaced with his and Maxim's bracelets in the Golden Ending, and thus, after losing, Evil Maxim is still in control, laments his failure even armed with Dracula's power, and laughs at Juste's fate to hunt vampires alone for the rest of his life. Maxim dies, and since Lydie wasn't freed, she goes to Hell with him. Juste curses that he couldn't save anyone and that all he has to remember them by is a bracelet, and wonders what he's going to do now.
  • My Greatest Failure: In the bad ending, Maxim and Lydie are both dead, and Juste believes he's failed as a vampire hunter.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The game as a whole takes significant cues from Castlevania II: Simon's Quest with its quest for Dracula's body parts. Searching the actual castle for them, though, is lifted from the Inverted Castle from Symphony of the Night.
    • In the original Japanese version, there was a subtle reference to Castlevania: The Adventure for Game Boy, by naming the Bullet Tip "Christopher's Soul", after its protagonist Christopher Belmont.
    • "Cipher's Charm" is a mistranslation of "Sypha's Charm", and thus a reference to Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse.
    • 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 Simon 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.
    • Quite a few of Juste's spellbook moves are the very same Item Crashes made famous by Richter in later games, including Grand Cross and Hydro Storm.
  • New World Tease: Some areas offer a sneak-peek on them before sending you backtracking for items that let you properly inside. This is also used as a plot point. After passing through the warp in the Room Of Illusion area, Juste notes things seem different compared to before. Turns out, from there to when he went to the Sky Walkway, he'd been in Castle B. When Juste runs into Death again in the Clock Tower and uses the warp there, he figures it out. If the player hasn't, they can look at the map and notice the Treasury they'd explored earlier was in Castle B.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Maxim ends up causing the entire plot of the game due to his training expedition to find all of Dracula's relics; their influence brings out his dark side and causes Death and Dracula's castle to reform.
  • 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, and Dracula refuses to leave Maxim's body until it dies. If you force Dracula out and defeat him, the bite disappears and Lydie lives.
  • Nothing but Skulls: Most of the decoration in the Cave of Skeletons consists of piles of skulls in all sizes, though there are plenty of other bones as well.
  • Not Me This Time: Dracula isn't responsible for Castlevania's appearance this time around, something that Death himself lampshades when Juste first encounters him.
  • Oddball in the Series: Despite actually having Igarashi's involvement (and thus being part of his official canon) unlike its predecessor Circle of the Moon, it still sticks out by IGA's standards:
    • Barring Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, it's the only metroidvania in the series to star a Belmont, and thus Juste is locked to the Vampire Killer rather than having an assortment of weapons (while Nathan Graves only uses the Hunter Whip, he's able to morph it into other weapons using DSS cards).
    • You can dash forward, unlike in other IGA games where you can only backdash.
    • The physics in this game give you moon-like gravity, unlike the more realistic gravity of other games.
    • Suspend Save doesn't work like it does in other games, actually saving data to your file except for your position rather than creating a one-time save.
    • The soundtrack uses the Game Boy Color's audio hardware resulting in a more "primitive" sound, resulting in a sound not heard since the 8-bit and Game Boy CV games.
  • 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.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Inverted. After recovering his memories and knowing he's responsible for the whole mess, Maxim wants his rival Juste to be the one to kill him. This only comes to light in the Castle A Ending.
  • Our Minotaurs Are Different: One boss room in both Castle A and B has an undead minotaur boss waiting for you there. The one in Castle A wields an axe, and the one in Castle B is stronger and has a ball and chain.
  • Palette Swap: Numerous enemies get color-swapped into stronger variations as the game progresses, such as the Medusa Heads and Bone Liquids.
  • 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. Their experience rate, while not the best, is pretty high up there and can be useful for grinding up to a point suitable for finishing the game.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Lydie's dress, with all the frills it has.
  • Player Nudge: To access the game's True Final Boss, Juste needs to defeat Evil Maxim in Castle B while wearing the JB and MK bracelets, which will encourage the true Maxim to fight back. Getting the bad ending by winning the fight without that method leads to a line where Juste mentions Maxim's bracelet while mourning, cluing in that it and the other bracelet are important in some way.
  • 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.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: In addition of the series mainstay Axe Armors, there's a bigger Animated Armor called Boomerang Armor which guards a secret path.
  • 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 are many items that the monsters may drop.
  • Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs: The Sacred Fist sub-weapon lets Juste rapidly punch forwards for a couple seconds.
  • Rare Random Drop: There is 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.
  • Red Is Heroic: Juste, a member of the heroic vampire-slaying Belmont clan, wears a red coat.
  • Regenerating Mana: Mana replenishes itself over time, and there is some equipment that hastens the process.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Two years ago, Maxim left to prove himself better than Juste by finding Dracula's bodily remains, which had been used fifty years prior in Simon's Quest. (Symphony is still forty-nine years out.) Unfortunately, when he did, a dark spirit tried to take him over, and he countered it by removing his memories, but failed to complete the task in time to stop his new evil self from abducting Lydie. His post-amnesia self, only barely remembering that Lydie was in trouble, went to Juste for help, and Evil Maxim did the rest by giving him the idea to help Juste out, which really helped Evil Maxim out because being in the castle helped Maxim get his memory back. The only reason this fails is because Juste defeats Evil Maxim at the end of the game.
  • 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. Similarly, if you want to go back to somewhere around the last save point you used, but don't want to go back there the long way, just perform a quick save, reset the game, and load your file. 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.
  • Say My Name:
    • Lydie when Death captures her.
    • Maxim yells "JUSTEEE!" when beaten.
  • 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.
    • It's possible to get the Ring Of Vlad early using the Ice-Fist Fusion, netting a significant Luck Stat boost early on. The developers even planned for it by rewriting a later conversation, but that's actually rather minor. (The developers were likely expecting players to backtrack here after obtaining the Double Jump, which also allows the player to score the relic.)
  • Shapeshifter Swan Song: The Living Shadow boss, after you defeat it, cycles through all its forms before petering out, in a Continuity Nod to the Doppelgänger boss from Castlevania 3.
  • Shop Fodder: The various jewels that can be traded to the merchant for cash.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the skulls in the Skeleton cave resembles that of a giant Crocomire (shown here).
    • The ratings you get from catching the boss recovery orbs seem to be reminiscent of DanceDanceRevolution.
    • Death's One-Winged Angel form is reminiscent of the first boss from Strider (Arcade). Maxim plays like Hiryu in some respects.
    • Dracula Wraith resembles 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.
    • Using the Fist subweapon will make Juste shout "Ora ora ora!"
  • 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 of 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.
  • Status Effects:
    • Poison gradually drains your health for a short period of time.
    • Curse makes you unable to use relics and limits your speed for a while.
    • Stone petrifies you, and you must wriggle yourself free.
  • Suspend Save: Played with. Using the "suspend" save option doesn't create a one-time save with your current room and other data, it actually saves your game minus the room you're currently in; when you reload, which you can do as many times as you want, you'll be at the last Save Point you touched. Perhaps because of how exploitable this is, future Castlevania games play this trope entirely straight.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: If you've played Symphony of the Night, chances are you'll find Juste's movements eerily familiar. Right down to copying the way Alucard runs instead of doing the traditional Belmont strut, unless he's cursed.
  • Tech Demo Game: After Castlevania: Circle of the Moon was praised for its gameplay but derided for its dark and simplistic graphics, Konami gave the development team a single directive — emulate Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as much as possible. To the team's credit, they got damn close despite the GBA's hardware limitations and lower-res screen — several maps in the game are downright beautiful — but the improved graphics came at the cost of a significantly downgraded musical score. Due to the GBA lacking a dedicated sound chipnote  and the CPU already under heavy load processing the advanced graphics, the compositions sounded very much like its predecessors on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. It would take the following entry, Aria of Sorrow, for the team to find the proper balance between visual effects and atmospheric music.
  • Training from Hell: Implied by Maxim after fighting him on the good ending path that he and Juste underwent this when becoming vampire hunters. He states that compared to the training they went through, the pain he was feeling was nothing.
  • Trick Boss: Peeping Big. At the start, you fight a lone Peeping Eye with much ease. Then suddenly a giant one appears!
  • True Final Boss: If certain conditions are met, you fight Dracula Wraith after beating Maxim to get the Golden Ending. Also counts as Hijacked by Ganon.
  • 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.
  • Video Game Sliding: Juste can gain the ability to slide, but you must first find the Lizard Tail item.
  • 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.
  • Voice Grunting: Limited to enemies, as both Juste and Maxim have spoken lines (all in Japanese) and Lydie stays out of this by way of the Say My Name above.
  • Vague Hit Points: This is the state of the game, before acquiring the Soul Orb, which can be turned off, since it:
    Allows user to recognize how much damage an enemy has received.
  • Warm-Up Boss: The Giant Bat, a traditional early Castlevania boss, can be fought a very short ways into the game. Oddly, it's also a Skippable Boss since it doesn't guard anything, with the first unskippable boss instead being the Living Armor that guards the Lizard Tail.
  • Warp Whistle: There are two types of warp rooms: rooms that transport you to a set location, and others that are linked together. The former kind transport you from the other castle automatically (as part of a trick to hide the existence of two castles in the early game), while the latter can be used to warp around one castle or to travel to the equivalent gate in the other castle.
  • Wind Is Green: The Wind Book is colored green, as is the Wind Cloak.
  • The X of Y: Both of the game's subtitles, Harmony Of Dissonance and Concerto Of The Midnight Sun.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: You've filled in almost all of the map, clocking at around 80% coverage... and then Death reveals that there are actually two overlapping castles and you're less than half done exploring them.

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