Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance has gone down as one of the less-beloved entries in the Castlevania franchise, and not without reason. It has issues. The castle structure is cumbersome and frustrating to navigate. The color scheme represents an attempt to compensate for the dimness of the standard GBA screen, but came out around the time the SP launched, rendering it garish and ugly. Much of the design feels uninspired, especially the bosses, most of which are just large versions of common foes. And the music, while well-composed, is kind of screechy on the GBA’s miserable sound hardware.
That being said, it features my favorite artwork for the series by Ayami Kojima. The magic system is interesting (it feels like an attempt to salvage Circle of the Moon’s DSS debacle). And I dig the attempt to draw upon the series’ lore for the story.
So, basically, I guess I’m saying it’s best appreciated from a distance, which sounds harsher than it’s meant to be.
When I caught up on portable Castlevania games by playing them in order, I found Harmony of Dissonance much more enjoyable than Circle of the Moon which I couldn’t even bring myself to finish. The above criticism is pretty much on the nose, though I dig the music despite its crude quality.
However, HoD was throughly outshined by its successor Aria of Sorrow, a terrific game that stands as one of the best in the whole series. You can actually buy these two titles together on a single GBA cartridge which I recommend - at least until Nintendo gets it act together and sells us digital versions of GBA/DS games. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on that.