Review: Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version (Nintendo DSi)
After years in development Spirit Hunters Inc. is finally upon us, bringing with it a breakthrough in handheld augmented reality gameplay.
The long and short of it is, players use their Nintendo DSi or 3DS consoles to scan the real world around them in search of sprits. Once found you engage them in heated battles with the aim to defeat or capture them, then simple rinse and repeat.
It’s a formula that shows inspiration from Nintendo’s own Pokémon, but has Australian based developer, Nnooo, captured that same level of magic in Spirit Hunters Inc.?
Read on and find out!
Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version will be instantly relatable to anyone who’s played Pokémon, sans the massive in-game over world map to explore. Instead, Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version pushes the idea that our very own world, the one you and I live in, acts as the game’s over world – using augmented reality.
As a new employee of the International Ghost Hunting task force, Spirit Hunters Inc, it’s your task to track down, battle and capture the 288 Spirits that are hiding somewhere in the real world. These 288 Spirits include 96 unique Spirits, each a varying element and group, and 3 differing varieties – normal, silver and gold.
Finding Spirits is relatively easy. Simple use your Nintendo DSi/3DS to scan your area for puffs of smokes. Since Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version‘ uses impressive augmented reality what you’ll see on-screen is actually the world around you, with the Spirits themselves represented by computer generated images.
And on that note, the augmented reality technology is the reason why Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version is such a remarkable game in of itself. To date there hasn’t been a game that has used augmented reality on such a massive scope, building a fully realized game around it. But, more on that later.
For the majority of your time with Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version you’ll be battling the escaped Spirits. It’s during the battles that the full advantage of the DSi/3DS’s duel and touch screen(s) are used. The touch screen displays the Spirit as it weaves and throws damaging attacks at you. In addition it also displays your techniques bar. Whereas the top screen displays your stats – which includes your and the Spirit’s health.
During battle you touch icons of the technique you want to use, then using the stylus either tap, flick or make an action to perform it. While sounding simple, it makes for exciting gameplay and utilises the touch-screen to full advantage. To add in a layer of strategy techniques require a cool-down timer, depending on their damage output or effect.
But that isn’t the only layer found in Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version. Wearing it’s obvious RPG roots on its sleeve, the game features a classic elemental system, not unlike the differing element types found in Pokémon, with some differences and unique additions.
While you’ll encounter Spirits who come in a wide variety of different elements, you can only be aligned with one element at a time – or at least to start with. This means you need to stockpile Ghoulies, Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version‘s in-game currency, from won battles to buy new techniques to give you an edge over elements that you’re weak against. While at the in-game store you can also purchase health items, and capture traps, which as their name implies allows you to capture Spirits.
To begin with you won’t have any issues beating the Spirits you encounter. Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version starts off relatively easy, and as a result you find that you’ll shoot up in level rather quick. While certainly good in helping new players feel like they’re achieving something, there is the danger that some players will find this a little dull and repetitive. Thankfully, this doesn’t last for too long.
As you grow in level and progress the story – which plays out through a series of text messages – you’ll unlock challenges, which feature incredibly tough to be beat Spirits. As you unlock more of these, and in turn advance in level, the strength and cunning of the Spirits you encounter increases ten fold.
Further to these story challenges players can set challenges to one another via a somewhat clunky code-system. After any battle you can choose to turn it into a challenge for your friends. Put in the name that appears on their Spirit Hunting License and give them the code the game generates. Socially speaking, it has great potential by way of encouraging players to share codes with one another either in-person or via the internet. Room to improve perhaps, in a possible follow-up?
So, as you reach the later levels of Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version game’s element system really comes into play. Choosing which techniques and which additional elements to align yourself with are crucial. You simply can’t spam the same techniques repeatedly – each features a cool-down feature – and so planning a strategy is crucial to your advancement.
For that does right, Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version isn’t perfect. Like the aforementioned code-system, the game’s menu lacks just that little bit of extra polish found almost everywhere else. For the most part it comes across a little underwhelming, perhaps simply being more functional than flashy.
Though in the grand scheme, this is totally fine since the overly simple and plain ‘app’ like design fits the concept of the game – your handheld being turned into a device – and so there might not had been any real reason to expand as far as what it’s in the final build. Just an area to improve on.
That all said, Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow Version feels remarkably polished. From the amazing use of augmented reality technology, the addictive ‘one more go’ gameplay, to the overly cute design of the Spirits themselves, Nnooo have delivered handheld gamers possibly the best DSiWare title ever.
Do yourself a favour, and download this gem when it becomes available. Spirit Hunters unite!