Review: Gotta catch em all?Or maybe just as many as I can.
The Pokemon phenomenon is slowing, but its impact is undeniable. Children everywhere are still playing games that follow the Pokemon formula, which basically forces the protagonist to collect and nurture some sort of creature that aids them in battle. Shaman King follows in this tradition, started by Pokemon and continued by titles like Digimon, Mega Man Battle Network, and Yu-Gi-Oh.
Shaman King: Legacy of the Spirits follows the story of Yoh, a young, laid back boy that has the strange (but not unique) ability to see spirits and harness their power. Yoh can acquire new spirits by defeating them, defeating their respective shamans, or sometimes by simply speaking to them. There is a staggering number of spirits to acquire as this game boasts over a thousand different types. Due to the vast number of spirits, quite a few are odd, such as a variety of spirit salespersons, a karaoke spirit, even cat and dog spirits. New spirits can be created by combining different types of spirits, and this is where the game is most interesting. The types of spirits that can be captured or created are varied enough to make the discovery and creation process addictive.
Fans of the cartoon will find Shaman King's story interesting. While decent, the storyline includes a fair amount of quirky, Japanese humor of the show infused into the formula. Unfortunately, not all of it translates well to text delivery. As a young shaman, Yoh must battle other shamans to eventually attain the title of Shaman King, which would allow him to actualize his dream, a world where everyone can relax. Yoh and his guardian spirit Amidamaru are both likable, but the supporting cast, such as Yoh's friend Morty, seem superfluous to anyone that isn't familiar with the show.
Legacy of the Spirits has graphics that are simple, but well articulated, with colorful and detailed characters in a super-deformed style. The audio is functional, but not quite memorable, with a number of simple Eastern-styled tunes to complete the Oriental setting.
Legacy of the Spirits does have a number of flaws. Primarily, its major liability is the turn-based battle system, which is almost completely text-based and almost mind-numbingly boring. Battles consist of a view of the heads (or comparable part) of the contesting spirits. The illusion of action is created by a moving backdrop, a familiar element for anime lovers. However, beyond this, all action is implied. Every attack, no matter how powerful or weak, results in the receiving party shuddering for a moment. There are no battle effects, which is incredibly disappointing considering the large variety of attacks. This lack severely undermines the ?gotta catch ?em all? feeling, since the major difference in spirits comes in their appearance and not their performance.
Also disappointing is the element system. Some of the spirits' attacks have an affinity with different elements, and certain elements are more effective against certain types of enemies. However, the game limits experimentation in this, as the ?best? choice is always highlighted in gold, and the worst choice is highlighted in green. When the player chooses the best elemental attack, the game rewards the player with text that simply states, ?Amazing effect?. However, this system is also flawed as sometimes, depending on your level, your spirit can score an amazing effect and still only damage his foe one point more than an average or poor effect. Overall, the battle system seems soporific at worse, and boring at best.
The locations included in Shamen King are tied together by a field map that instantly transports the player between locations. As the game progresses, more locations become available, although a number of them only consists of one or two screens, such as the museum where players combine spirits. Some players may feel claustrophobic because of the limits that this system of locomotion imposes on the player.
Finally, the training that is imposed on Yoh by his bossy ?fianc?e? oddly pits Yoh against a series of spirits. However, the player must memorize the sequence to fight the spirits in, which makes the training sessions a mixture of leveling up blended with a game of Concentration.
Shaman King: Legacy of the Spirits has two versions: Soaring Hawk and Sprinting Wolf. The storyline and gameplay in the titles are identical, but the available spirits are different. By trading between the two versions, players can create new spirits. However, this is only for the most hardcore of collectors, since there are plenty of spirits to collect in either single version.