Date: 2007 June 12 14:55
Posted by Azure
With the new Pokemon close to arriving in the UK we take a slightly late look at Disney's attempt at the catch-em-em all RPG Spectrobes on Nintendo DS.
Spectrobes sees you take on the role of Rallen who appears to be some kind of space ranger. Whilst on a routine mission he encounters the Krawl, the only way to combat them us by getting help from the Spectrobes an ancient race of fossilised creatures. Using technology abandoned on the planet Rallen is able to wake the fossils and uses the Spectrobes to battle the Krawl.
You start the game with two Spectrobes, you can equip one whilst still in it's child form which follows you about and when tapped with the stylus helps you find more fossils as well as minerals (needed for levelling up) and cubes which unlock special features including wi-fi play. It takes ages to unlock all the features, and surprisingly the much promoted add on cards aren't available for use at the start,
Searching is pretty simple you tap the Spectrobe with the stylus which then emits a search field. If it finds something you'll see a glow tap that and it takes you to the excavation screen. This basically evolves tapping the screen a lot and then moving the stylus around until you uncover the shape. Unlocking extra tools didn't really change this process, and it's a real shame seeing as it was potentially a big selling point for the series and dare we say it with a little more effort could have even been educational.
Once the fossils are retrieved they can be awoken in the lab, this involves yelling into the microphone and sustaining the volume at the correct level for a set amount of time. I assume the player is supposed to get into things and yell "Wake up!", but it's more likely they will say anything that comes to mind ("It's allliiiive!!"), or hum in a monotone. Like a good Pheonix Wright session not really the ideal feature for a portable game.
Woken Spectrobes can be assigned as Rallen's search monster or stored in the incubator where they can mature and level up. Feeding Spectrobes minerals you find whilst excavating helps level them up as does time. This could have been a pretty interesting feature but all you can do is feed them or poke-uh pat them. Since the game centres around monster raising I found this disappointing. The Chao system in Sonic Adventure went further and that was only a sub game. The introduction of special items, more interesting environments would have improved it greatly.
Battle is a pretty simple real time affair, pressing shoulder buttons causes the Spectrobes to attack or in some cases brings up a command menu. At first this works fairly well, but as the game progresses and the Krawl get faster and more powerful it gets annoying. When I press attack I expect my Spectrobe to attack but since it follows Rallen, he needs to be aimed at the Krawl as well potentially placing in him in harms way. Otherwise it's likely your Spectrobe will go bounding past, in this case a little AI would go a long way.
The designs are pretty indistinctive a lot of the Spectrobes look and sound the same, and it was a nightmare remembering which was which. The humans are easier to distinguish, but after seeing how Rallen is illustrated in 2d during conversations I was reminded strongly of Ed from Full Metal Alchemist.
Spectrobes is certainly well made, but if it's aim was to develop an all new IP, it fails. There's very little that's distinctive about this game at all, and when your reaching well into generic RPG territory it's distinctive characters and locations that really grab the imagination.