The Spectral Force series arrives on the Nintendo DS for the first time, but the end result is anything but great.
The Nintendo DS has plenty of strategy games to choose from, from Nintendo’s own Advance Wars to Square Enix’s Final Fantasy A2: Grimoire of the Rift. There is certainly no drought of quality titles available, hence the reason why niche games such as Spectral Force Genesis get overlooked. That’s not to say that all of those games are great, though.
Spectral Force Genesis is set in the fictional land of Neverland, where the land is divided into 40 countries, and it is your goal to pick a nation and unify the remaining nations into large one. Although you are presented with a mere seven nations initially, completing the game will open up other nations and help build upon the story.
Despite being a text-heavy title, Spectral Force Genesis does little to draw gamers in with its writing. Right from the start, the story is rather dull and bare-bones , leaving players bewildered. The entire storyline is rather weak and never draws you into the action - it’s always a case of here’s the story, here’s the character, now play.
Another major complaint with the game is that the actual gameplay is rather lacking. The battle sequences often consist of just tapping a few buttons and watching how things unfold. There are several situations in the game where you are given the opportunity to collect tax money to improve the capabilities of your country, but it always comes down to tapping a few buttons and letting things unfold - the game never goes that one extra step to get players immersed in the experience, in terms of both gameplay and story. Even the simplest of tasks are made boring, such as leveling up your commander, as the overall quality of the title is not enough to engage players in the experience.
While in combat, there are three different types of armies that resemble a rock-paper-scissors triangle, those being attack, defense, and magic. As you play through a battle, an experience meter fills to enable a unique attack. The battle unfolds on the upper screen of the Nintendo DS, with basic 2D character models battling in simple fights. The bottom screen is where you are given the choice to select commands and plan out your turn.
Each turn in a battle is divided into months, but a problem lies in that you don’t have complete freedom over what you can do each time - you are always limited to either fighting or collecting tax money. This strange restriction keeps you from becoming engaged with the battle, as the game basically tells you what to do each turn -- all you have to do is tap a few buttons to make it happen.
From a visual perspective, Spectral Force Genesis is one of the simplest DS titles around. Both the upper and lower screen appear rather boring, and the simple 2D sprites leave much to be desired as detail and style are notably absent. The backgrounds are rather bland, and the text does anything but make the game feel more lively and engaging.
Spectral Force Genesis is described as a strategy-sim hybrid, but in the end the game ends up being underwhelming. The story is bare-bones right from the beginning, and the combat system does little to immerse players into the action. If that weren’t enough, there is very little decision-making in the game – - most of the game's battles are automatically laid out, and it’s up to you to tap a few buttons to make it happen. In the end, Spectral Force Genesis ends up being a rather disappointing title on all fronts.