The world of strategy RPGs has certainly become abundant over the past year. With more and more titles cropping up out of the woodwork, fans of the genre have plenty to choose from. The problem here lies in which games are worth the money and which you should pass on; which is why I have plowed through a seemingly endless selection of these titles over the past few months and tried to fill you in on which ones to pick up and which ones to pass.
Idea Factory and Nippon Ichi’s latest effort Spectral Souls is the latest of this barrage, and after spending some quality time with this PSP SRPG I have come to the conclusion that perhaps it is time to slow down this gravy train.
Now don’t get me wrong Spectral Souls is far from broken, in fact there are many points of this title that truly advance the genre, but there are also some nasty hindrances that keep this game from being recommended over some other titles on the system.
The game’s basic concept should be familiar to anyone who has played a game from Idea Factory before; stubby protagonists battling it out on a four-sided grid, taking turns advancing around the chess-like board and casting spells. The isometric perspective and clichéd character models make this game almost indistinguishable from any other game of its type. The battle system is pretty standard except for two unique functions that the devs have added to spice up the game play just a bit.
The first is called hold, and it basically allows your character to execute a chain of attacks in one turn. Each hit in the string will provide more damage and if you combine a certain set of strings your attack becomes more lethal and eye pleasing. Memorization is key and you can really dole out some damage when you string just the right combination of moves together.
The second addition is called charge, and it basically does what the name implies. This move can be used in conjunction with the hold command to deliver damage to the enemy currently being attacked. These attacks can also be combined with other party members to create longer, even more damaging combos, which is essentially where the strategy comes into play. Learning to utilize both of these new commands effectively is the key to winning many battles inside the world of Spectral Souls.
Another unique aspect of Spectral Souls is the engaging storyline. While you may have seen the scenario before, the way the game allows you take it on is a nice diversion. The plot follows the story of three armies consisting of demons, humans, and a hybrid that is insistent on peace. The unique aspect stems from the fact that the game allows you to switch sides at will, meaning you will never be fully tied down to one faction for longer than you want to be. The storyline is actually broken up into plot points called “historical points” which allow you to progress the story regardless of which faction you are sided with.
There is certainly plenty to see and do and as you progress, the storyline all of your events will be recorded on a timeline. Gamers with plenty of free time will certainly be able to squeeze a lot out of Spectral Souls trying to find all the secret characters and obtaining the best ending, but casuals can certainly enjoy going through the game without fear of missing much in the way of story.
This leads me to the part where Spectral Souls falls apart at the seams. The loading times here are absolutely horrid. Having the game access the disc at inopportune times such as during conversations and battles is very frustrating to the player. While most PSP users are accustomed to extended loading times, this game takes it to a whole other level. Aspects of the game that you feel shouldn’t be interrupted by loading are, and really slows the game’s pace down to an undesirable speed.
If you can get past the snail pace caused by loading, there is a truly great game here just waiting to be tapped. We do understand that porting such titles from PS2 to PSP can be a bear, but if it could be remedied with a few more months of dev time then I say it’s worth it. Lord knows we certainly aren’t at a lack of SRPG titles for our beloved PSP systems. Recommended only for hardcore fans of the genre willing to deal with extraneous load times.