Spectrobes provides a solid starting point to a new frachise to grow and evolve.
Story is great, but the way it’s told is not. There is only a few CG cutscenes and all the dialog is done with text and a few still-images of the characters talking to each other. This makes the story much less interesting than it otherwise would have been. Game is also pretty long and for me it took 32 hours to get through. The final boss fight has multiple phases just like in Metroid or Zelda and requires strategic thinking. I personally enjoyed it a lot.
Graphics are not very good in themselves, but luckily the different Spectrobe models are detailed and interesting. Also the use of colors makes this game nice to look at and cyber-like details in menu screens brings some sci-fi feel to the mix. Music is just OK, but it loops way too often. For this reason I often found myself playing with volume turned off. Sound effects are much better than music and the different Spectrobes sound correct, even though I have no idea what a live Spectrobe would sound like. Gameplay gives a very good first impression hinting that there’s a lot of different things to find and do. In many ways that’s true, but there’s also some repetitive and monotonous things that you simply have to do over and over again in the course of this game. Main thing in Spectrobes is to explore different planets in Nanairo´s star system and find Spectrobes within these planets. But there’s a catch: Spectrobes can only be found as fossils, so you need to dig them up, wake them up and finally grow them up in your space ship’s incubation chamber. Digging is done by using the stylus and waking by using Nintendo DS’s microphone. Growing your Spectrobes is done by feeding them with minerals found in the ground. All of this works well and is fun for a few hours, but soon it becomes boring to do the same digging and feeding process over and over again. At this point it’s advisable to buy Giga gadget (or drill), which allows you to dig up Spectrobes and minerals with just one tap of a stylus. Exploring the ground can be done either with a stylus by tapping the Spectrobe with it or by pressing the R-trigger and I strongly recommend you to use the R-trigger.
Spectrobes have three different forms (or actually four): infant form can be used to find fossils and minerals, but adult and evolved forms in combat. There are 22 different Spectrobe species, so it’s a lot of growing and feeding for you, if you wish to have them all. You can also give individual names to your monsters, which helps you to create a special bond between you and your best Spectrobes. You need to use a lot of different menus in this game and luckily they are intuitive and work well. One thing I have to say is that the scrolling bar on the right side of the screen is too sensitive making it a little too hard to use properly.
Combat is another big part of this game and the system itself is not very good. Entering into combat happens by getting in touch with a black or purple vortex, which you encounter regularly when playing. Unlike Pokémon for example these battles are in real time and you control only Rallen while your two Spectrobes move according to your movement. Giving orders to Spectrobes is done with the shoulder buttons. This system works, but a turn-based would have been much more tactical and better. You can also hold down A button to gather four bars on the bottom right of your touch screen and then unleash a super attack, which causes major damage to all your enemies. This mechanic makes many of the fights extremely easy and boring.
Even though you are an interstellar traveler there is no map for you to use. This is a big drawback, but nothing you can’t get over with in time. In later part of the game you’ll be given a Jet Pack, which allows you to come back to your ship at any time. This is a great thing, but unfortunately you can’t use you’re Jet Pack to go BACK to where you just came. There definitely should have been a warping system similar to Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
For some reason you can only save while in your space ship, but this is not as bad as it sounds, since if you get defeated you start from your ship, but get to keep all the items and experience points you gathered before you got wasted.
Spectrobes also features wireless play with a friend, where you can fight against or exchange Spectrobes with your friend. You can’t exchange items in Wi-Fi, but you can download some cool webisodes, evolved Spectrobes and Custom Parts for your Spectrobes to use in combat. This is a cool little feature, which I hope to be enhanced in future games of this franchise.
Spectrobes is a polished and good game making a great use of Nintendo DS´s touch screen and microphone. Still it’s not a perfect game. I hope to see an improved sequel somewhere in the future. Iku ze!