Spectral Force: Genesis Review
Spectral Force: Genesis box art
System: DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Nude Maker, Platinum Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: SEGA 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: March 17, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
So Many Ways to Conquer the World
by Kyle B. Stiff

Spectral Force Genesis is a large-scale strategy game where you choose to control one of seven nations (out of forty total), and then battle for world domination. You rule behind a desk rather than from a throne, meaning you must laboriously complete your nation's paperwork, collect taxes, buy and sell stocks, send out your minions for diplomacy or recruitment, and so on. Your job as the master of pencil-pushing bureaucrats is occasionally interrupted by awkward battles and bare-bones cutscenes that deliver SFG's slim storyline.

Spectral Force: Genesis screenshot

Spectral Force Genesis actually opens with a very interesting and inspiring cinematic. The bass hammers in time to a montage of characters, some of them gothic-themed, some militant, some bestial - and none of them are silly or copied from another source. Unfortunately, the intro sequence is the best part of SFG, and once the plodding, repetitive gameplay begins, any initial excitement is soon left far behind.

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Rounds are divided into months and years. Unlike a well-crafted turn-based strategy game like, for example, Sid Meier's Civilization, where you can do anything you want within a given span of game time and you are limited only by the current situation of your nation, Spectral Force Genesis scripts what will occur during each round. January might be tax season, then during July everyone might go to war, then September might be dedicated to foreign affairs, followed by another month of combat, and so on.

Spectral Force: Genesis screenshot

Because of this, the feeling is one of constant confinement. You can't really choose how you will rule your nation, you can only "choose" whether to deal efficiently or poorly with each round of chores brought to you in a predetermined fashion. It feels like the world has been taken over by robots, and those robots are simply executing their programming line by line.

It could be argued that player choice comes in at the very beginning, when the player is allowed to choose what nation he or she will control. Each nation does have its own particular strengths and weaknesses, thus offering a variety of playing styles. However, one single moment of allowing the player to make a choice, followed by hour after endless hour of rote behavior, does not make for an enjoyable experience. And don't assume that you can play as one of the diplomatic powerhouses, and then work hard to beef up the military so you can attain some sort of balance, as it seems like there are hidden stats that the player is not allowed to touch. For example, when playing as the warmongering nation, it seemed like I always had an edge in combat even when I got sloppy, yet when playing as a diplomatic nation, combat remained an uphill battle no matter how favorable the circumstances were.

Spectral Force: Genesis screenshot

I was looking forward to SFG because it appeared to be one of those rare Japanese games not populated by happy, smiling, childlike characters. The feudal lords and warriors of SFG have a hint of darkness about them, and none of them really seem like traditional "good guys"; which was exactly what I wanted, as I think I've had my fill of Japanese games where only the bad guys are interesting while the good guys are downright silly.

Unfortunately, you'll only be seeing those slick character designs during a few cutscenes. Most scenes only use dialogue portraits that are extremely tiny. They're like grainy suggestions of characters that you remember liking, though you're never sure exactly why. In combat, the interesting-looking characters are replaced by squat, super-deformed creatures, like infants in medieval armor.

Screenshots / Images
Spectral Force: Genesis screenshot - click to enlarge Spectral Force: Genesis screenshot - click to enlarge Spectral Force: Genesis screenshot - click to enlarge Spectral Force: Genesis screenshot - click to enlarge

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