Spectral Souls

Review

posted 10/26/2006 by Matt Mirkovich
other articles by Matt Mirkovich
Platforms: PSP
Back when I lived in Southern California, I was blessed with a friend who played a lot of import strategy RPGs. He would kindly translate for me while I scratched my head at the squiggly lines I would eventually understand. One of those games or rather a series of games was Spectral Souls. I played through the first game for a few hours before scratching my head in confusion and my friend decided to give me the long and short of it and suggested I just try the second game. Sure enough I wound up liking the second game despite the intense language barrier. I was really pleased to hear that NIS was going to pick up the Idea Factory developed Spectral Souls II, mainly because I would be able to play it in English and even better, play it on the go. After putting this game in my PSP though, I wanted to quickly put it right back in its case and mail it back to Charles with a bottle of powdery white stuff attached. And by that I just mean powdered sugar… maybe…
 
Spectral Souls is a Strategy RPG that really had a lot of average things going for it on the PS2, but on the PSP everything managed to get much worse. The game already contains sprites that hail from the tail end of the SNES era, and it only looks worse when ported to the PSP’s small screen, planted against serviceable polygonal backdrops. So what you have here is a sad contrast between the then and the now. Had this been a first generation PSP title then I might have been a little more forgiving. What I really don’t understand is how Sony can allow this game to be released yet they won’t give Konami the chance at releasing the Suikoden 1 and 2 compilation that is out over in Japan. Even though it is a fully 2-D title, it looks vastly superior to Spectral Souls. This game also has a really grainy filter on it making it look like you’re staring at the pages of a poorly printed magazine. One of the technical high points of this game winds up being the audio, which is really nothing more than your standard rock fare that has been heard better in games like Guilty Gear Judgement. There is no voice acting in the game and that’s perfectly fine with me, though the battle cry audio is also acceptable.
 
The story is something that I still scratch my head at even when I am able to read it in English. Basically you have three different armies that can be controlled and contains a branching story. This leads to a number of confusing story lines but I tried to stick with it and I found it to be interesting. In the world of Neverland you’ve got the Demon Army trying to overrun the land of the humans and essentially commit genocide and rule the world. The humans want the same thing, the outright slaughter of the Demons. Lastly there is the Rozess Liberation Army which looks to just make peace for everyone. It’s a story loaded with political machinations and plot twists and back stabbings, perfect for those who want something closer to a novel in their games. Though I must say the ability to switch armies to augment the story is something I would like to see more of. The only other game to come close to pulling this off was Suikoden 3 on the PS2.
 
So from what I’ve told you so far this all seems serviceable and should have been a good game. Unfortunately it has a large number of technical flaws that make this game insanely difficult to play. Only the most patient will be able to sit through the load times that will rear their head at every turn. Got a dialog box of text popping up? Load time. Moving a character in battle? Load time. Completing a battle? Oh you better believe there is a load time. A lot of these load times must be against some of Sony’s technical requirements, but I guess not if Sony let load times greater than thirty seconds fly. It may seems like this is just one thing to focus on, but it cuts so heavily into the already short life span of a PSP battery that it simply cannot be ignored. To top it off the game runs slowly, moving around town is a sluggish affair and moving around battles is even worse. It’s hard to navigate menus with the way this game runs. A battle takes so much longer than it really needs to. Five minutes in this game will barely get you through an entire turn.
 
Spectral Souls should have been a decent strategy RPG with an interesting twist on the story. But instead it’s a title plagued with technical flaws that make it a challenge to play. Even the most patient of people are going to have a hard time playing this game. Each action within this game seems to take an eternity, and if you had a stopwatch to measure the loading times I sure that’s what the reading would be. Avoid this title if you can, Generations of Chaos, another flawed title, is quite superior, and even then, that’s not saying much. It’s too bad NIS wound up with this dud of a title, perhaps someone branched off from their story at the wrong point in time.
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