Australian-based video game studio Nnooo, best known for their MyNotebook applications, bring Spirit Hunters Inc. to Nintendo DSi.
The ambitious Augmented Reality title has been in the making for over three years and is heading to Nintendo DSiWare and Nintendo 3DS eShop on November 22nd in two versions: Light and Shadow, each with different spirits appearing in the game and an alternate ending.
So what’s an AR game like on Nintendo DSi? Read on to find out!
Spirit Hunters Inc. follows the story of an employee at “Spirit Hunters Inc.” – a corporation that hunts down other-worldly spirits in the name of research. You must find, battle and capture these spirits in order to promote your way up the corporate ladder, unlocking new abilities and items along the way.
The story is told through text messages received as you level up through the game. Since ‘you’ are the character, there is no “game world” – a concept that is easier to see than it is to explain. Your Nintendo DSi or Nintendo 3DS console becomes a spirit scanner and you must use it, with its camera, to find spirits lurking in the real world.
The game actually finds spirits based on several factors: the colours that are in the frame, and the time of day. This means that you can return to the same spot the next day at a different time and you might just find some different spirits. It’s a game that actually makes you want to go outside.
There are over 96 spirits to find, each with different abilities and strengths. The game borrows the ancient RPG standard for types – water douses fire, fire melts ice, ice freezes water, for example. There are 6 elements in total and over 90 abilities. There are also tonnes of hidden spirits – silver and gold versions of the 96 standard characters, bringing total up to 288 to hunt and collect. Each spirit seems to have their own charming personality.
Battles are played out on the touchscreen. Players use their stylus to select attacks and perform an action, such as flicking, pointing or drawing a circle around the spirit, to unleash their ability. This is a tremendous amount of fun – it feels accurate and right, and the Nintendo DSi’s touchscreen is used beautifully. Abilities have cool-down periods and there is a huge amount of attacks to unlock, some better than others but all providing a very professional level of balance.
The battles themselves range from pretty easy to very challenging. You’re able to level up to Level 100 and the first 20 don’t really provide much of a challenge. Levelling up in these early stages flirts with feeling a little repetitive, but the story and unlocks are very well paced and the game urges you to keep playing.
Level 30 and especially above Level 40, though, you’re in for some real gameplay. At these higher levels, strategy becomes more of a factor and you must use your abilities wisely if you’re going to win each match.
Players can also trap Spirits which gain them extra in-game money, but less experience points. It’s a cool system that has you actually thinking about each match, especially in the higher levels. There are various types of traps and so some skill is required if you want to be in-game rich.
After each battle you’re faced with the option to create a challenge code. This is a number that, once your friend inputs it into their game, will spark a battle between the spirit you just faced. You’re able to use this code to re-battle that spirit yourself and it comes in handy as a trade device to give your friends some spirits they haven’t gotten yet. The Challenge Codes are over 20 characters long, though, which is a little bit of a turn off.
Another big part of Spirit Hunters Inc. is unlocking hidden items. There are tonnes of abilities, traps, health items, spirits and medals to unlock. The perfectionist gamer will feel right at home.
When playing through a game with this level of polish, it’s hard to remember you’re playing a Nintendo DSiWare game so you have to forgive some of the lacklustre presentation elements like the menu and background elements. That said, the fact I’m nitpicking about menus and fonts says a lot for the quality of the game itself: this is top notch and at $12, it’s a steal.
Rare is it that a game of this quality, depth and value pops up on the Nintendo DSiWare store – but when it does, you’d be a fool to ignore it.
Spirit Hunters Inc. is by far the best AR game released to date on any platform and stands up as a solid, addictive RPG that you’ll want to play right through to the end.