A unique strategy game for a more patient audience.

User Rating: 6.5 | Spectral Force Genesis DS
I labeled the game as "hard," not necessarily because its gameplay is challenging so much as the concept of the game itself is just kind of difficult to wrap your head around. It's not a real-time strategy game per se, but it does have elements of that in it. It's more of a civ game that will likely only appeal to a very select crowd.

After playing it for a while, I'm not sure I'm actually one of those folks, but I do find the game undeniably charming. The game plays out like a board game (picture Risk for a point of reference), with a map full of warring nations as its focus. It's basically your job to conquer the world. Simple enough, right?

Each month there's a certain task (chosen seemingly randomly) you must see to, i.e. foreign affairs, strategy, taxes, battle, etc. All nations must see to the same given task each month, so the playing field is level in that regard. A month of taxes, for example, will have you...taxing your people, of course, as well as assigning troops to your generals. Battles, on the other hand, are where the only real action comes into play.

Visually, battles seem to play out as some sort of RTS, but in reality, it's much more simple than that -- for good and bad. You can have up to three generals on the battlefield at once, each with up to 400 soldiers. However, you move troops as groups by tracing on the touch screen. It's kind of clumsy, and troops often get in the way of each other, but the concept is still pretty cool. It's a rock-paper-scissors thing, where swords beat magic, magic beats shields, and shields...well, beat swords. Abuse that strategy, and half the battle is won.

For me, what makes the game especially interesting is in how the game requires you to be flexible as a nation. With battle months sometimes popping up too often for you to rally enough troops to defend yourself, you'll ultimately have to settle for becoming a vassal nation. Doing so means you wait patiently to once again rebuild your nation and take back your country's fate.

Unfortunately, much of the game plays itself, and there's lots of details, such as flooding, famine and other disasters that occur that don't seem to have any real bearing on the outcome of war. Each month you're updated on occurrences around the world, but your part as the player is kept a wee bit too simplified. The story, too, is pretty trite, though the attempt at adding some sort of impetus for conquest is appreciated, nonetheless.

In terms of presentation, it's a decent game to look at, but it's mostly a matter of sifting through text, dealing with management and the like. The real-time battles look cute, but once you've seen one, you've pretty much seen everything the game has to offer visually. Additionally, the music is very repetitive, though the sound effects are admittedly delightful.

I kind of want to recommend Spectral Force Genesis, but only on a "try" basis. It's one of those odd, little gems that isn't for everyone, and even those folks who get into it will likely tire quickly of the game's simple nature. It's a cool concept that brings back old ideas, as well as offering up new ones, but it's a limited package to say the least.