Hands-on: Castlevania: White Night Concerto

Check out our impressions of the Japanese version of the latest game in the Castlevania series.

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We just received Castlevania: White Night Concerto (or Harmony of Dissonance, as it will be called in North America) for the Game Boy Advance, and we've had the opportunity to get through about 20 percent of the map. The game is similar in structure to both Symphony of the Night and Circle of the Moon, as you'll have to explore and backtrack through the castle as opposed to progressing through a linear set of levels. Even in the early moments of the game, you'll spend a generous portion of your time backtracking, exploring, and looking for any possible passages that you may have missed.

The game begins with Juste Belmont conversing with his friend Maxim outside the walls of the castle. After a brief exchange, Maxim takes off to search the castle for their mutual friend, leaving Juste to make his way toward the drawbridge. About halfway down the path, you'll come across a huge pile of metal that eventually transforms into an enormous walking mechanical beast that chases Juste. Unfortunately, this confrontation doesn't last long, as the lumbering enemy falls to his death as Juste leaps across a chasm and onto the drawbridge.

If you've played Symphony of the Night, you'll almost instantly recognize the first area in White Night Concerto, with its long hallways filled with the traditional Castlevania zombies and one-eyed flying creatures that lurk outside the windows. In fact, much of White Night Concerto bears a strong resemblance to Symphony of the Night. Many of the enemy sprites have been reused, and the sprite for Juste Belmont looks quite similar to that of Alucard--although the animation isn't quite as smooth. In any case, the game is much more detailed and vibrant than Circle of the Moon, and it seems to be playable with normal overhead lighting, which should be welcomed by those who strained their eyes playing Circle of the Moon.

The inventory system is also similar to the one in Symphony of the Night. Juste can equip different types of whips, armor, and items when he comes across them in the castle, and these items will raise or lower particular stats. What separates White Night Concerto from Symphony of the Night, however, is the magic system. At various points in the game, Juste will come across elemental spell books that he can use in combination with any of the Castlevania weapons, such as the boomerang cross, the ax, or the dagger. For example, the ice spell book in combination with the boomerang cross creates a large block of ice just over Juste's head. This block will shoot out little shards of ice intermittently until it melts. Likewise, if you use the holy book in combination with the fire spell book, then large rings of fire will appear on the screen and destroy enemies nearby.

Juste can also use a helpful dash maneuver to help get through long hallways more quickly and avoid enemy attacks. In fact, many of the enemies in White Night Concerto, such as the lizard swordmen, the armor-equipped spearmen, and even the first boss, seem to have attack patterns that require effective use of the dash to exploit.

The only disappointing aspect of White Night Concerto is the music. While the tracks aren't horrible, they clearly aren't good as those in previous Castlevania games, including Circle of the Moon, which used tracks directly from Castlevania: Bloodlines and Dracula Z: The Rondo of Blood. We'll have much more on the game soon.

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