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Spectral Force Genesis
Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: Idea Factory
Genre: Strategy RPG
Format: Cartridge
Released: US 3/16/10
Japan 6/18/08



Scorecard
Graphics: 75%
Sound: 75%
Gameplay: 50%
Control: 100%
Story: 65%
Overall: 59%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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The Soldier interrupts Raz Raz's shampoo commercial.
 
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Surrendering ends the game more quickly. This could theoretically be seen as a win.
 
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With this screen you now understand the game's battle system.
 
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Draw lines to win. Now do it FOREVER.
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Dave Yeager
Spectral Force Genesis
1/5/11
Dave Yeager

The sunrise. It brings with it the promise of a new day. Something about it speaks to the primal in us, something that says "Awake! Awake and LIVE!" The sun climbs into the sky, revealing a blank slate - it says to us "See how my light eventually reaches far enough to touch everything you see. So, too, YOU can reach out and touch the lives of everyone and everything around you."

Hope. Expectation. Some days we live up to it, some days we do not. But each new day brings that same promise, if we but reach out and grab it - and so each day is a precious gift, each one to be received only once in our lifetime, and each one with the potential to be our last.

It is for all of these reasons that I implore you not to waste any of these days, these gifts, on Spectral Force Genesis.

Idea Factory carries with it the reputation of a company with good... er... IDEAS, and remarkably poor execution. You often hear a disclaimer on television and radio advertisements, particularly for investments, that state "past performance does not indicate future results". This disclaimer is not necessary for Spectral Force Genesis as Idea Factory lives up to its reputation.

The beginning seems promising enough. An opening cinematic features anime characters, some of them with boobs. The characters in this game are competently drawn and often better than serviceable - some are even memorable due to the weirdness of their design. I'd go so far as to say the character designs are the absolute highlight of this game - unfortunately the graphics in the rest of the game mostly consist of menus... we'll get to that.

Then it's time to pick which nation you are going to play. This is where you are fooled into thinking there's unbelievable potential for replay value. There is a metric crapload of nations to choose from, and the choice does actually matter - the game will be easier or harder depending on how well the nation performs in a fight.

Once you've done this you get another little intro – every nation has its own story – but the plot must assume some kind of familiarity with the game universe because I never really had any idea what was at stake. As you progress you access more events and movies (and each nation apparently has a bunch of them) that show how the nation fits into the overarching story, but the problem is I simply did not care enough to make sense of it. I have never seen a game with so many characters named "?" or "?????" that lurk in the shadows. I have to assume if you are a fan of this universe it must make more sense, but as far as stories go I found the game boring and often bordering on incomprehensible.

But story is not the biggest factor in a game for me. We've all heard the argument that if you want a story, pick up a book/go to a movie/etc. I subscribe to this philosophy, and the gameplay can ALWAYS save a game. Spectral Force Genesis does not redeem itself in this department.

Gameplay goes like this - every "round" is a month of in game time, and in every month you are given a limited option to do something. This seems to be random as near as I can tell, which means you can't really plan ahead much. So for example, in one month you might have the option to collect taxes. You do this by pressing a button and then wham, you have money. In another month you might have the option to invest money. You press a button to do this and wham, you are invested. In another month you might have an option to build walls. You press the button over and over and you build, watching your money go down as you do so. In another month you might have an option to recruit other generals. You push a button to pick one of your generals – I assumed higher charisma would lead to more success, but it didn't really seem to have much of any effect – and maybe you get another general.

If this sounds boring, that's because it is. There aren't any real CHOICES to be made here because you would be foolish not to simply do as much of whatever the month allows you to do as possible. If it's an investment month, you should invest everything because it makes you a ton of money. If it's a recruitment month, you should do it as much as you can. You can't plan ahead because you don't really know what's going to happen a few months in advance: it's all random.

Eventually you'll get a chance to battle. This seems to happen every few weeks and is one of the less "random" occurrences, but it is still not predictable. That's right, you are in charge of this nation's army, but you can only battle when the game decides it's time for some battles. But whatever, battles consist of drawing lines from your army towards the other guy's armies – there is theoretically a RPS mechanic in play here, but it really doesn't seem to matter much. Eventually, you win or lose and get more territory.

I should note that the graphics during battle sequences are actually kind of cool; for a moment, if you are only looking at the top screen of your DS you might be tricked into thinking you're playing a neat game, much like one might be tricked into thinking one has found piles of jewels and willing virgins in the middle of a vast desert when dying of dehydration. On the bottom screen your armies are represented by little symbols such as a sword for example, while on the top screen SCORES OF SOLDIERS run around doing awesome stuff, crashing into each other like waves... then you look down again and your sword made the other guy's sword disappear. Yay.

You keep doing this, over and over, and keep unlocking scenes from a story that makes no sense, and then when you are done you get to do it all over again from scratch with another of the many nations that are available. This is one of the few choices in the game, incidentally, that seems to matter – the nations that aren't as good in a battle take longer to win with because they lose more often. Yet, as long as you keep pushing whatever "progress closer to victory" button is presented to you in the months before the next battle, you'll eventually make it.

The absolute only way I can recommend playing this game is if you are a huge fan of the Spectral Force universe. If you are there is a TON of stuff to unlock here by playing through each and every nation. I would also recommend this game if you are a fan of pressing the "Door Close" button over and over again on an elevator.

Speaking of elevator buttons, you'll note I have given this game's "Control" a score of 100% insofar as tapping the various buttons does illicit a tactile response. There is really nothing else that needs to be said about the control since 99% of your time will be spent tapping buttons with the other 1% spent drawing lines from your army to the other army, and that's not even strictly necessary since they'll come to you anyway. When the interface to your game consists of this little, it's pretty easy to score 100%. If you know how to operate an elevator, this will be a snap for you since you don't even need to choose from a variety of floors – playing the game is like riding in an elevator with two buttons, one that says "Cake" and another that says "Torment".

The music is, like the graphics, perfectly adequate but forgettable. In fact, the music may actually be better than average because I had so little actual fun playing this game it probably colored my perception of some of the other things. I'm giving it a score on the "average" scale because I never actually muted the DS while playing, so that has to be a point in the music's favor.

If you are not a fan of the Spectral Force universe or, like me, have never played a Spectral Force game before, stay far, far away from this. You are Superman and this is Kryptonite. You have the power to shape the world in your hands, and Spectral Force Genesis is one of the only things on earth that can destroy you.

I do not wish to be unnecessarily cruel. I understand that game design is a difficult thing, and I know for sure there are people out there who like the Spectral Force universe and like this game. I saw them on the GameFAQs message boards where I went to try to understand if there was something I was missing. I found analysis on the game, the various statistics, and their effect on the gameplay. Apparently, the fans have found something worth playing here, something worth embracing. I can respect those people. However, I do not agree with them - I think perhaps that they have fallen too far into the cave and they perceive the shadows reflected therein as real.

Often in reviews of poor games you see comparisons to torture. This game is not like most torture. Most torture makes you feel something - it makes you feel fear, panic, helplessness. This game does not do that. This game sucks hope and possibility into it like a singularity. It is like being trapped in a box where you have two options - press the green button and you get precious life giving water, press the red button and you get an electric shock. There are no decisions or choices to be made in this game unless you want to intentionally handicap yourself.

Break out of the box. Better yet, don't get in the box. Don't go near this game.



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© 2010 Ignition Entertainment, Idea Factory. All rights reserved.


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