Spectral Force 3 was clunky, ugly mess, with a fun battle system.
Where do I start with Spectral Force 3? I'm not familiar with the series at all, since this is the first one to be released here. I'm not entirely impressed with this one though. The storyline is almost non-existant, which means, I really didn't care for the characters at all. Especially the optional ones.
The graphics are completely outdated, and unstylish. There is no reason why this is on the 360, as it takes no advantage of his horsepower at all. The controls are clunky as hell. This is not a game I would suggest SRPG newbies to jump into. While it's not hard at all, the complex controls can be a total turn off. They don't explain ANYTHING with the tutorial missions. You basically figure everyone out on your own. I didn't learn about the "fast foward" button, which speeds up enemy attacks for you, until 45 hours into the game.
However, the battle system was kinda fun. There was really nothing BAD about it, but then again, there was nothing NEW about it either. It was just there. The battle system was this games only saving grace, but it's a shame the controls were just so crappy about it.
I enjoyed the freedom of the game though. The first couple hours you're forced through a linear mission to mission system, but once you get over that hump, the whole world opens up to you. This means you can tackle any mission you want in any order. You eventually unlock the storyline mission, which you are require to do, but between then, you can go along at your own pace. Even fighting older missions if you want to grind.
I'm having a hard time rating this game, because I wasn't entirely bored of it, but at the same thing, I know it has MANY faults and it's only for hardcore fans of SRPGs.
Spectral Force 3 is a turn-based strategy RPG. The turns are determined by the character or enemy with the highest speed or agility. After you accept a battle, you can bring 6 characters into battle with you. However, you are almost always locked with the two main characters, Diaz (healer) and Begina (warrior). That leaves pretty slim pickings after all.
Each character is assigned a job class, and they have to stick with it. The game does a good job at introducing these type of classes with the main characters. There's a healer, standard fighter, a heavy attacker, a spearman, magic user and archer/gunner. The enemies you fight usually follow these sort of lines too. All the optional characters you recruit follow suit aswell.
You don't gain experience by each successful move you make, like you would in Final Fantasy Tactics and it's clones. Rather, you gain experience after each enemy you kill or each time you Heal someone (since Healers can't kill things, typically). This sounds stupid, but your characters do level pretty fast this way. You only need a flat 500 experience to gain a level, and the experience runs over, so if you gain 1,000 experience for killing a boss, then you'll gain 2 levels. If you are a lower level character and fight a higher level monster, then you'll gain a ton of experience. If you are higher level, and kill a lower level monster, then you'll gain less experience.
After you gain a level, you get to distribute 1 point towards your stats for bonus stat boosts. After you complete a mission, you gain bonus experience. You can distribute that among your characters after on the menus screen. This is alot like the Fire Emblem games.
On the menu, you can buy armor, accessories, skills and emblems by a blacksmith. You can also improve your weapons abilities too. This is alot like the Suikoden games, you stick with one weapon but improve it over and over again.
The combat system is where it gets kinda confusing. While they use the typical grib battle system, and certain characters can attack in a variety of grid attacks. For example, a fighter like Begina can only attack in close range, but a magic user can attack in 4 grids out. A gunner has long range attacks, but can only attack in straight lines. A Spearman can attack in 2 grids, but they can only attack on flat surfaces.
Ok, that's not the confusing part, that actually makes sense. The confusing part are all the small little factors they throw into the game. The most annoying thing about them is they don't really explain them at all. I learned most of this stuff on my own, which is kinda satisfying in a way, but I felt really gimped at the beginning of the game until I learned by way through it. I'm going to have a heck of a time explaining this.
Basically, each character has 7 AP points. Each time you attack, you lose an AP point. So you can walk up to an enemy, and hit it with combos. You can attack it with a low attack (1 AP), medium attack (2 AP) or a hard attack (3 AP). Think Xenogears. There's also Skills you can use and up to 6 special moves you can pull off. You can equip 3 skills, all which heal your character or boost your stats within a mission. You can also equip characters with 3 Special abilities the same way. Each character will gain 3 unique special abilities though out their span though.
To use Special abilities or Skills, you need SP, I'll assume that means Special Points. You gain SP by attacking monsters. The more time you attack, the more SP you build up, and this means you can start pulling off good moves. So the start of battles are usually slow paced, unless you equip special SP boost accessories.
Also, each time you attack, you not only gain SP but you also gain FG. FG stands for Friend Gauge. When you build up enough Friend Gauge points, you can click on an "assist" button, and have a near character toss in an extra attack during one of your turns that doesn't cost any AP. If you have 2 FG points filled up, then you can give a character an extra turn. Each time you use Assist or when you give a character an extra turn, you gain points in ANOTHER meter.
When you have atleast 25 points meter, and all 6 of your characters are still alive, then you can pull off a special move where all your characters attack a single enemy at once, creating a huge attack. This is very important for boss fights. You can boost that meter to 4 levels (100 points) for a MASSIVE attack too.
They also toss special colored spots on the map. If a character stands on one of these things, then they get bonus stats boosts after a turn is up.
There are no healing items in the game, so you mostly have to rely on healing just by your healing character's magics. If a character dies, then they retreat. You can't revive them, but they do come back to your party after a battle.
----------Characters / Story----------
You play as a rookie Mercenary, Begina. While on a routine mission, your Mercenary group is attacked, and your leader is murdered in the battle. Before he passes, he assigns Begina as the new leader. Untrusted as leader by his teammates, they decide to disband his group. The only person that stands by him is fellow greenhorn, Diaz. Begina and Diaz try to reform the mercenaries group to make money and survive.
That's basically the jist of them. I enjoyed the opening of the game. It starts off pretty strong, but the storyline pretty much stops there. Most of the game is just doing odd jobs for random Kingdoms. You take no sides and there isn't a greater evil that you must stop to save the world. There is barely a story to this game at all.
You might get a dialog scene before you recruit a character, but they have nothing to do with the plot. There is only one small, reoccurring plotline in the game, and it felt more like a sidequest you would find in a generic JRPG than the backbone of a game.
Oh god. The graphics are awful. It's not so much the aesthetics. I love the main menu, I love the anime celled characters during dialog scenes. I just hate the battle system. All the characters remind me of the squatty 3D characters from Final Fantasy III DS. They have giant exagrated heads, and short bodies. It just looks really dumb. The maps are generic, with little flair at all.
The game starts off with a cool anime cutscene, but that's the only one in the game. When characters use special moves, a nice looking anime cell will show up, and they'll try to flair it up with CGI around it, but it's still a weak looking cutscene for a special move.
While I did enjoy the anime cells they used for dialog, I just wish they would add more animation to them. The dialog scenes are alot like Fire Emblem, they'll have one character on the left and right talk at all times. They just use the same cells for a single character. They don't change them up at all, and there is no animation either. So the dialog scenes are kinda boring to watch.
I enjoyed the music quite a bit. It was very simple, keyboard driven JRPG music. Basically the same quality music you would find in PS1 RPGs. The songs are catchy and rememberable. I found myself humming the battle theme even after the game was over. So that's a plus.
They only include voice acting to important storyline sections. The voice acting wasn't terrible but very typical with JRPGs. All characters have battle cries when doing special moves, so that's a plus in my book.
The world map, in a lot of ways, reminds me of the map in Final Fantasy X-2. Basically, they give you 10 or so locations to visit. Each location is a rival kingdom, and it's your job as mercenaries to take on their jobs. Most of the jobs require you to fight other kingdoms. You can also eventually destroy Kingdoms aswell.
Each Kingdom has a set of seemingly random missions for you. Some missions are identical though, but you're basically taking the same mission (like to Raid the Overlord Army) from various Kingdoms. Each mission has a skill level set for you, for example, the earlier missions are Level 1, and the later, harder missions are level 9.
You will fight on the same maps through out most of them game though, all they do is just tweak the monster level and mission tasks. They will start you on different parts of a map, so it gives an illusion that it's a different map. This is kind of like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance in a way.
----------Time to Complete Game---------
The ending is quite possibly the worst ending to a game I've seen in a long time. You beat the final boss, and they say two lines, and BAM, credits. After the credits roll, there is another small and short scene. After that, you can save your game for a New Game+ mode.
I didn't bother loading the New Game+ mode up, but from what I read online, it just carries over your items and money. You can also unlock another character too. Big deal.