IT'S DANGEROUS TO RALLY ALONE! TAKE THIS.
Nintendo fans have had a rich history with the sport of tennis, dating way back to the NES days and probably earlier. Nintendo have handled quite a few iterations themselves, usually involving Mario and his pals, taking the genre to different places and even introducing some RPG elements. Soon, the new rallying sports game SpiritSphere DX will be gracing the Switch, and I got to play with it at PAX East.
At first glance, you may think you are looking at a snapshot of Link’s Awakening or Oracle of Seasons/Ages. Upon further inspection lies a simple, yet deceptively deep, fantasy-sports game, with the developer describing it as “Air hockey meets Zelda”.
Starting with the basics, the goal of the main game is to get the ball into the opponents goal, but that may not be as simple as you’d think. Some courts feature goals that open and close during gameplay, making the player work a little extra hard to time their shots. The various courts have different shapes and aesthetics as well, changing up the strategy for each player and keeping it quite wacky.
One of the things that stood out to me and fellow staffers the most were the 8 different characters to choose from. These are not mere simple sprite swaps (like Mario Tennis), but are actually completely different and unique characters with drastically different abilities to learn and master. While I didn’t get to play with every one, I did mess around with a few and couldn’t believe the difference in gameplay.
One of them is Dwarf (whom we titled “Jimmie”) that swings his big axe to rally the ball around the court, pretty simple in concept but surprisingly requires some good skill to master. Kao is a crazy character, with little animal friends that follow the player and provide a wider range of attack. You can even throw them as a last-ditch effort to smack the ball back to the other court. Of course there is the basic character Lin (sound familiar?) that is meant as the safe bet first-timers learning the game. If the player charges their attack before hitting they can control a powerful spin that can even send the ball up to 180°, proving that even the starter character has some skill to “git gud” with. I can’t wait to see some high level gameplay with the mixing and matching of these characters, it will look like watching professional ping-pong match, which is always fun.
Whether you are looking for a single player or multiplayer experience, it seems that Spiritsphere DX has you covered. 1v1, 2v2 are included, and even a 2v1 mode where one player controls a huge monstrous boss-like character to take on the other 2 players, which was quite a treat to watch. Other games such as Squash, Target Mode, and even a quirky little Frisbee mini-game are also included in Spiritsphere, which I regrettably got little time to check out, but from what I played and saw was some good solid fun.
The other thing that stood out greatly was the Hand2Hand mode, new to the DX version , and something that really could only be available on the Switch. This mode is played with 2 people holding 1 Switch together, and was actually a very comfortable and fun way to play. This mode is sure to be a pleaser for the youngins, and might encourage more breath mints.
Don’t be fooled by SpiritSphere DX at first glance, for this seemingly simple sports title has some complexity behind it. It will be launching sometime this May or June, and I am extremely excited to get some dig deep and play with my friends and family.
Check out our PAX East 2018 interview with SpiritSphere DX's creator Martino and Publisher Fabraz's Fabian Rastorfer below