When the Spectrobes series burst on the scene several years ago, a comparison was instantly made to the wildly successful Pokémon franchise. Both series were made for handheld devices, and both featured collectible animals that could do battle. However, as the series matures, I think it is doing a good job of distinguishing itself from Pokémon. The most recent entry in the series, Spectrobes: Origins, does an excellent job of fleshing out the Spectrobes series as a whole, and it makes for an excellent console debut.
The story in Spectrobes: Origins finds our heroes Rallen and Jeena dispatched to investigate a strange energy reading in the far reaches of the universe. Although the two main characters find this a waste of their talent, we soon find out that all is not as it seems in this universe. Rallen and Jeena are then swept back through a portal where the past is the present! Although the story builds upon some key ideas from past titles, its time-shifting nature revisits important events from previous entries in the series, which is great for those who aren’t familiar with the DS games.
Your adventure starts off with your party of two landing on a planet that finds itself under siege by the nefarious Krell. After responding to the planet’s distress signal (and subsequently saving them from the Krell threat) you set off to explore several planets, each with their own landscape and, of course, Spectrobes.
For those new to the series, Spectrobes are tiny creatures that can be awakened from excavated fossils. Once awakened, these creatures can help you dig up other fossils, or can be evolved to fight your enemies. Like previous games in the series, Spectrobes: Origins has a heavy focus on the creature collection. You’ll start off with three Spectrobes, but the game has more than 100 to collect, and your ability to scour each planet’s landscape and look for fossils is paramount.
The excavation system itself has been much improved since the handheld version, and it is much more engaging in this entry. Fossil blocks are now rendered in three dimensions, and you can twist, turn, and zoom in on the block. To free the fossil from the block, you’ll have to use special tools like a drill, hammer, and laser in order to remove the rock particles away so that the fossil can be examined. But you have to be careful! If you accidentally harm the fossil while removing the rock, you’ll damage its life bar and it won’t emerge at a high level.
One thing that I really enjoyed about the excavation aspect of Spectrobes: Origins was the control. You use the Wii-mote like a laser pointer, which allows you to pick up tools and interact with the rock by pointing the Wii-mote at the screen and then moving the tools where you need to use them. The excavation system here works a lot like Trauma Center and is surprisingly responsive.
However, even though the excavation portion of the game is fun, the real meat of the gameplay involves the fighting mechanics. Spectrobes: Origins falls quite firmly into the action RPG genre. You’ll be able to walk up to enemies to trigger a fight, and from there you can use a weapon (like a broadsword or axe) to hack ‘n slash your enemies. However, you will also need to use your Spectrobes in battle if you are looking to succeed.
You are able to have up to five Spectrobes equipped at a time, but you can only pull them out one at a time. When a Spectrobe is summoned, it will attack enemies all by itself. However, as a Spectrobe master you can direct their attacks toward a certain enemy or to engage a Spectrobe’s special attack. Although it might be tempting to just let Spectrobes go off on an enemy all by themselves, knocking down enemies strategically will lead to more efficient battles and, more importantly, less of a need for preparatory grinding before a boss fight.
The battle system in Spectrobes: Origins also employs a fairly simplistic elemental system, which encourages you to keep different types of Spectrobes equipped while in certain areas. For instance, if you are on a water-based planet, you’ll want to keep several fire-based Spectrobes on hand so that you will have an advantage over the natives.
Although the combat in Spectrobes is not all that complex, I found myself having a lot of fun with it. Instead of hard grinding or doing impossible quests for rare items, Spectrobes: Origins keeps the gameplay simple but avoids being stupid. As a hardcore gamer, I definitely found this game to be fun, even though it wasn’t particularly challenging.
One aspect of Spectrobes that I was particularly impressed with was the control. I already mentioned the finer aspects of the control in the excavation mode, but the controls in battle are also put to good use. The game uses the Wii-Mote and Nunchuk combination, and there is a nice balance between motion and button-based control. This is best exemplified by the battle system. You can move around the battle field with the thumbstick on the Nunchuk, and you can slash your equipped weapon with the A button.
Although all of your character’s actions are button-based, the motion controls come into play when you are using your Spectrobe. The game uses an automatic targeting system, and if you want your Spectrobe to attack an enemy that has already been highlighted, all you have to do is flick your Wii-mote forward. You can also auto-target an enemy by using the C button on the Nunchuk. If you want to use a special attack, you can engage it with the B button, and then perform a series of motion-sensitive gestures to charge it up. Although there are a lot of motion control aspects to the battle system, everything works very well. I never once struggled with a waggle or became frustrated with a flick, which definitely made the experience very pleasant indeed.
The visuals in Spectobes: Origins are also very good. The pre-rendered cinema scenes are of particularly good quality, and I was impressed by the smooth texture and level of detail in the game’s many cutscenes. However, the visuals do take several hits when you are playing the game, and there was considerably less detail in the in-game environments than in the cutscene environments. Another visual issue in Spectrobes: Origins is occasional camera issues. Although the game’s camera is fully mobile during regular battles and while exploring, it has a tendency to become fixed during boss battles, which can be very annoying.
Spectrobes: Origins is a very impressive game. Though it is not punishing in difficulty or complex in story, the gameplay is fun, and collecting all of the game’s Spectrobes makes for some decent replay value. This game is an easy recommendation for new RPG gamers, or RPG fans who don’t take themselves too seriously.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
Visuals during cinema scenes look smooth and polished, but in-game graphics are a little on the bland side. There are some occasional camera issues during boss battles. 4.2 Control
Controls work extremely well, both in battle and during excavation. Motion control is implemented intelligently, and it never gets in the way. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music is cheerful and voiceovers sound great despite being slightly repetitive. 3.9
There is plenty to explore in the game’s multiple settings, and optional collection quests inspire a modicum of replay value.
3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.