Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
(Oh, what have we here?) This is quite a rare sight, indeed, but important to video games nonetheless. The last I can remember of this is Tactics Ogre: Really Gay Subtitle. What exactly am I getting at? I don't like this game. I know that sounds like a lot of build up for something so mundane, but we have to look at the reasons I don't like it. This is where things get weird: this game is good. It's hard to find fault with the game, but there's still something about it that just doesn't mesh well with me. So to sum things up: it's a good game I don't like.
And to elongate things: the rest of the blog. It's medieval times, and Dracula's captured a lady. In fact, I think her name is Lady. Go rescue her. OK, that may not be the entire plot, but it's certainly how far the presentation of it goes. There isn't a lot of story in the first place, and when it comes up the dialogue is pretty simple. But whatever. It gets the job done. You get some decent moments, and the story even puts a delicious ironic twist on Simon's Quest. Greatly appreciated. Except on my part, because I want more. For instance, why are there witches and shit in Dracula's castle? Cute pointy-hatted girls don't fit in with the dreary Gothic atmosphere. I imagine it's just because witches are vaguely scary, if you're three, and that fits in with....something. Hard to say that for the post-boss orbs you gather. I don't recall any explanation for why I got these, or what they even are, so all they really do is remind me that I'm playing a game. That's not something you want to do.
Unless, of course, you're reminding me about Harmony of Dissonance, because that's a lot of game. And I don't just mean in terms of areas to explore (more on that in a bit, though), but combat, too. There are tons of sub-weapons in this game, and even more ways to combine them with your various spell books. Granted, it's a bit easy to fall into one pattern for most of the game. Too easy, for my blood; I spent half the game fisting zombies with my ice-cold fingers (DON'T YOU DARE JUDGE ME!). Sadly, I can't hold that against the game, because there are just so many weapons and so much room for customization and experimentation that I gotta take the fall for this one.
What about the environments, though? Can it take the fall for that? Yes and no. I'll get to the no in a minute (assuming you can read this in under a minute), but first, the yes. There's a ton to explore in this game. Should that be surprising? It's a Castlevania game; of course there's gonna be a ton of awesome-looking levels to explore. Fine, there's not a ton of in-game reason to do so. Life and heart boosts are often just lying out in the open because Dracula's too lazy to hide his murder evidence behind a fake wall, and the few chase sequences scattered about don't really do anything for the actual game, but what motivation do you need to run through Castlevania? Wandering around and fucking about should be fun on its own, and Harmony of Dissonance delivers on that fun.
Eventually. Until then, though, you have to deal with some crap pacing and direction.Oh, it starts off fine enough, with the environments leading enough that you go where the game wants you to go without you knowing it, but give Harmony of Dissonance time. Soon enough, you're gonna get lost, and the game does absolutely nothing to steer you on the right track. There are just too many options at any given time, especially when you realize that there are two castles to explore at the same time. Speaking of time, I couldn't even tell if I was making meaningful progress half the time. There are more bosses here than there are characters, but only four or so power-ups in the entire game. What's the point of these guys? Just to occupy space? Like the orbs from oh so long ago, the bosses largely serve to remind me not that I'm a pimp using his icy fist to slap some witches about, but that I'm playing a game. Wait, I already said that, and it led into a compliment toward Harmony of Dissonance. So would I recommend it again? I have no goddamn clue. Maybe the next game will be more clear cut.
- Remember Circle of the Moon's story? Imagine if it didn't suck.
- Mix and match weapons? Yay!
- Mix and match castles? Fuck!
Point to one part of this video that's crazy. I effing dare you.
Ganbare Goemon 3: Shish....there's no fucking way I'm typing all that out.
I probably shouldn't have set the tone like that. Let me restart.
Ganbare Goemon 3: Long-Ass Title in Japanese and English
(Oh hell yes!) Here's a game I can get enthused about, for a change. I'd call this game insanity incarnate, but two things. First, that's not fair to Japan. This game's just weird. Second, it's only insane in the scenarios. Everything else about Ganbare Goemon 3 makes it clear that Konami knows damn well what it's doing with video games. They only choose to be totally out-there with this game. (Oh, and for the curious, the title translates to "The Mechanic Octopus Hold of the Lion Elite Guard". Don't worry, I had to look it up on Hardcore Gaming 101, too.)
Case in point: Ganbare Goemon 3. The game starts with a shitton of weird faces, and....no, that's pretty much the entire scenario. But really, that's all the game needs. That's all you need to give this game the personality it has. What personality is that? As I've already said: crazy. Would it surprise you if I said this game has a hula-hooping Satan pop out of a church for no goddamn reason? No? Good, because this type of thing happens all the time. And that's why you play this game: to see what bizarre crap the game can pull out of its ass two minutes from now. I suspect that there might be more to it, like a story or verbal jokes, but given that I wasn't patient enough to type out the damn title (twice), I doubt I was patient enough to search out humor like that. (This is in spite of a laugh track accompanying every joke.)
Part of that may be because of how exhausted I was switching between all the game's various modes. In fact, that's probably what Ganbare Goemon 3 has most going for it: all the side distractions from the main game. Bash shit up as a robot! Stealth your way past a tomato! Bash shit up as a robot in first person! It....it probably doesn't help that I sound like I'm insulting the game, does it? Trust me: these are consistently great moments. It's amazing how Konami manages to stuff so much into the game and none of it feels forced or lacking. Everything feels fully developed. The only parts that really falter are the overhead portions. You'd think that for taking up such a large portion of the game, they'd be more engaging. Instead, they're more just filler in between the much better platforming sections.
But given that those portions of the game are simply vacuous holes of nothingness, it only means that the platforming is just good. Not particularly great in itself, but good enough. Most of this is because of the characters. OK, all of it. The levels themselves are just really long, really winding straight lines. The only reason they're so damn fun is because of how well they make you use each character. Allow me to repeat an earlier format. Mermaid adventures with Yae! Grappling around with Goemon! Sucking with Ebisumaru! I'd list off all the things that are specifically good about these portions, but there's no way I could ever sound genuine. It's challenging. It's engaging. There's a great amount of variety. It's true, but it doesn't do it justice. You know what would do it justice, though? Playing it. Hey, guess what you should be doing?
- It's definitely effed up, but is it funny, as the laughter indicates? Probably?
- It's amazing that a game can do a billion goddamn things and not fuck a single one up.
- But it proves it can stay focused and be awesome, too, what with the character switching platforming and all.