The title of the Shaman King: Legacy Of the Spirits Soaring Hawk Version should be abbreviated to The Sham.

The Shaman King is a collecting RPG in the tradition of Pokemon - shamefully so. But instead of expanding on this style of gameplay that's already been done to death, The Shaman King sees fit to simplify it so that it offers a challenge akin to turning a water faucet on and off.

The "hook" of the game is collecting souls. Instead of collecting monsters as you do in Pokemon, there is a cast of wacky dead characters that need to be harnessed to help you fight your battles and ultimately help you become the Shaman King. These spirits have various abilities and will increase them as you earn experience points. Amidamaru is your closest aid and if you level him up from the beginning he will be able to take on just about every enemy you encounter. Gradually you will acquire a party of rag-tag characters that will also have the ability to level-up and assist you in battles.

Battles are mostly random. There are tons of them. It's a big concentrated mess of fights. You won't be able to take more than a few steps before you find yourself confronted by some enemy. You do have the option to refuse these battles by running away without sacrificing so much as a scratch. If you do, you can always start again from your last save spot and restore whatever you may have lost. I guess you won't need any cheat codes for this game unless there are some that actually make it more challenging.

Aside from random encounters with various enemies you will also fight other Shaman that are vying for the title of the Shaman King. You can use up to six spirits in the turn-based battles and change them at any time, although it will cost you a turn. The spirits have different attacks and they are somehow aligned with different elementals but it's not sufficiently explained in the manual. All you can do is experiment with different items until you come up with some super attack. Frankly, I just didn't care enough to try more than a couple of configurations with no luck.

Spirits can be added, exchanged and combined to your arsenal. You can combine spirits of former humans and animals to create strange hybrids that have little correlation to their separate components. It's fun to see what you get but once again, it's all so random there is no way you can create something specifically. You have to use what you get instead of making something you can use. This severely limits the strategy of the gameplay.

The environments are empty looking for the most part but the maps are loaded with enemy upon enemy looking for a fight. It's like a minefield nightmare. The characters are colorful and quirky. The dialog is funny which helps to show that the game doesn't take itself too seriously. At least the game and I share some common ground.

Both versions of the Shaman King are identical as far as gameplay is concerned but each version boasts different spirits. You can trade them via the Link cable with other gamers. There are more than a thousand different spirits from cats to karaoke singers. It sounds like a lot more fun that it really is.

Unless you're under eight years of age you won't find anything interesting about either version of Shaman King.

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System: GBA
Dev: Konami
Pub: Konami
Release: Feb 2005
Players: 1
Review by Fenix