If it seems like Spirit Hunters Inc has taken a while to come out, you’d be correct. Local developers Nnooo have been working the game for the better part of two years and with the Nintendo 3DS on the scene can a DSiWare game still shine through?
Sure it can. You see with DSiWare available on the eShop now, it’s entirely possible that Spirit Hunters inc. will get a better audience than it could have ever received on just the DSi by itself.
Spirit Hunters Inc. lands you in the role of newbie at Spirit Hunters Incorporated. Your job is to find, battle and capture these colourful and pesky spirits that are inhabiting the real world right around you. They’re under your desk, in your bedroom, at the park and in the girls locker room. Actually, no there are none there. I checked. They are a pesky and cheeky bunch so finding them all won’t be easy. The games story is never really pushed in the game too far, it’s just there to set you up on your way and isn’t a bother.
Spirit Hunters Inc is an AR game, you all know what that’s about, your Nintendo 3DS came with Face Raiders and you’ve no doubt played one before on your phone. However instead of just using the real world for a setting in the game, the cameras in the system will use the colours around you to generate the Spirits that appear in the game. You will be forced to go outside and explore, because otherwise you’ll just keep getting the same spirits again and again. Heading out at different times of the day is recommended too as that mixes up what Spirits you’ll encounter.
Before you end up going hunting though, you’ll need to register for the Spirit Hunters fun club and choose an element to align to. There are six to choose from and each have their strengths and weaknesses. There’s fire, water, ice, shadow, light and fungal to pick from and each element is weak to another certain element and stronger against others, if you’ve played Pokemon (or any RPG in the last 20 years) you’ll get it. Your selection also affects the spirits, as they also play slightly different, so you’ll want to pick one that suits your typical play style. Later on in the game, you’ll be able to use in-game currency to purchase a second elemental alignment and switch between them whenever you’re out of battle. Eventually you’ll want to collect all of them so you’re always ready for a challenge.
The actual battle takes place once the you’ve selected your element and run through a quick tutorial. The initial battles in the game are pretty slow and boring, with tit for tat attacks for the first few levels being par for the course. It’s not until you level up, gain some extra abilities and get some intense battles going that the real fun kicks in and it feels less like a chore.
The battles are made more interesting when the spirit moves around the screen at a fast pace, making it hard to keep track of them on your screen. Your abilities also have cool down, so during these faster battles you’ll be scrambling to pull off a second wave of attacks. It’s not just poking the screen to battle, different moves require different gestures and there’s items and traps to assist you when you come across more difficult enemies. Apart from using items though there’s no real way to defend against the spirits, you can have to cop the damage and be as efficient as you can with your attacks. Make sure you pick the right moves or the spirits will chop you down. Health regenerates over time so if you come across a real bad Spirit and take a whopping you can come back after a few minutes, regain your composure and then re-attempt your pursuit, claim your XP and Ghoulders (the games in-game currency) and restock on items.
Completionists will have a field day with Spirit Hunters Inc and not just with collecting all of the spirits but also all of the abilities that are in the game, then there’s also the challenges to complete which put you out of your comfort zone. The hidden rare silver and gold Spirits too will test you.
The Challenge system between the two titles is the other big part of the game. You can send any battle you’ve taken part in to your friend for them to test their mettle. It’s a little bit of a complicated process though, you’ll have to make sure you get your mates name right because after that the game will spit out of 28 character code in which your friend can then enter to do your battle. You’ll also have to input this data as it’s outputted, which might not be the best time if you’ve not got your friends name handy.
All of this complication though is really not a problem with the game but with perhaps the system it is on. If Spirit Hunters Inc were an eShop or 3DS game you’d be able to use your friends list to send a challenge via StreetPass or SpotPass, or perhaps generate a QR code to put online to challenge your friends on Twitter or your favourite forum. It’s a victim of being stuck on DSiWare.
Nnooo have created some truly wonderful art for the game – the spirits are cute, funny and unique and have their own character but it’s not best portrayed on the limited graphics that the system can offer. The games menus like all Nnooo’s titles are very smart and minimalistic, some people may not appreciate the minimalistic approach to a user interface.
These issues don’t detract from the game too much though, there’s still a bunch of fun to be had inside the main game and if you battle with the challenge system you’ll be able to collect all the spirits spread across both games and battle your friends. Spirit Hunters Inc. is the perfect allegory for the DSiWare service. A little rough around the edges, but filled with heart. It’s the perfect game to send service off with and is some of the most fun you can have downloaded on your DSi or 3DS.