Spectral Souls Review

Spectral Souls has made the transition from the PS2 to its younger handheld cousin, the PSP. Formerly a Japanese release called Shinki Gensou: SSII Unlimited Side (that,s a mouthful), Spectral is an SRPG along the lines of the famed tactics games, and more closely associated with the recent Disgaea series as it,s brought to the states by the same group at NIS software. As you’ve probably divulged thus far, this is a niche title, with some background to go with it. This style of game falls squarely into a love-hate relationship with players, and most likely if you’re reading this review, you have some background with the genre already.

Still, for those of you unfamiliar with this style or wondering what the differences are in this particular title, it’s rather simple. Spectral Souls is a grid-based strategy game in a style that has often been described as "Chess on Crack." This is in the sense that every move – and indeed sometimes 5-10 moves ahead – must be planned and executed perfectly using limited resources and abilities, in order to defeat some levels/enemies. Characters are small and sprite-based with special abilities like ranged attacks, magic, melee and more. Spectral also introduces the Charge and Hold systems which allow you to stack several attacks in a single turn or between characters, essentially letting you set up massive combo damage. There are a few other gameplay tricks done here which haven’t been seen (or fully explored) yet, as well.

The world you’re plunged into contains three armies vying for victory, and you get to play as all of them at some point. Demons, Humans and a Hybrid army all have conflicting agendas and points of view, creating a nice environment. As the story unfolds you’re given the option to switch between the groups, and affect the outcome of the game to reach one of the multiple endings. There is also a branching storyline path, as each victory or loss can lead to new and different options further down the road. Suffice it to say, for a handheld title this game brings a lot of depth to the table.

In terms of looks this game also brings a lot to the table; the level of detail for a PSP game is impressive. The visual effects for attacks and special moves are surprisingly well rendered, and the levels themselves contain more detail than you’d expect. These knockout graphics on a handheld don’t come without a price, however; the rumors of abysmal load times in this title are not unfounded. NIS has assured us that they have taken these complaints into account and done their absolute best to conquer the dreaded PSP load times, and I can say that they have succeeded to some degree. Most actions like movement, positioning and attacking result in little to no wait time, but almost every single spell, special move, or graphically intensive task does result in a brief pause and loading message to appear. These pauses are only a few seconds in length, but you will encounter them often in every battle, so they add up.

Each level is an experience in itself, and while it can take a solid 10-20 minutes to complete a level on some occasions, you are given the ability to stop and save in-between, so it does lend itself to the handheld ideal of "pick up and play" to some degree. Make sure you have a decent chunk of time for the intro, though, because it’s quite lengthy (but very impressive). To summarize, this is not a game for everyone; it has its load times and a learning curve that can throw the average user at first. However, it is an incredibly well made game, an awesome transition to the PSP from the PS2, and (if SRPG titles are your style) a lot of fun. If you find yourself enjoying the title, it will keep you engrossed for a LONG time, as well. I can’t heartily recommend this to everyone, but if you fell in love with Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea and own a PSP, this is most definitely your next step.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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