tenshin's Spectral Force Genesis (Nintendo DS) review

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Great substitute for sleeping pills

Ugh, I don't know where to start. It's bad.
The story is completely different depending on which nation you choose to play as, but it is absolutely irrelevant and you might as well skip the few, sparse, non-sensical cutscenes the game provides. Yes, I do recommend skipping them because, and here comes a major spoiler: the game has no ending. I played for about 20 hours and when I finally conquered the enemy nation that the main character wouldn't shut up about, there was not even a mention of the fact. When you finally sink a total of 40 hours into the game and manage to conquer the whole continent of Neverland, you get some scrolling text with something akin to "congratulations!" and you are booted back to the main menu. Warning, tears may ensue.

The economy system is a total joke. It made sense at the start, but as soon as I gathered a few nations under my rule and played the market a little, I quickly hit the cap for 9999 gold and 9999 troops, granting me endless gold, upgrades and troops. It became a boring chore to, everytime I conquered a new castle, upgrade it to max defenses and troop productivity. In fact the castles were so juiced up that I didn't even need to defend them, I could just let the enemy troops bash against the walls mindlessly.
The one thing that you do have to look forward to is the combat with it's novel control scheme using the stylus. It feels really good to flank an opponent or lure them in for a combined attack. You see the triangle system present in many other games, in this one Casters beat Armored troops, Armored troops beat Sword troops and Sword troops beat Casters. However, because of the game's Calendar System which assigns only a few months as "war months" (other popular ones are Tax, Upgrade and Diplomacy) you have to wobble through bureaucratic crap for around 2 minutes (if you are losing your patience and just doing the bare minimum castle maintenance as fast as you can) so you can have a few minutes of combat.
Now I will crush any hope you had for this game and describe why the combat is broken. Some heroes are stronger in stats or in spells than others and even if you get the upper hand in the triangle system, you will still get your butt kicked. When recruiting new heroes, there is no way to know if you are about to recruit a gem or a turd and then the game doesn't let you "fire" heroes, you are stuck with him until he is unhappy enough to leave (which never happens). Also, the limit to how many heroes you can have is 20 (which I was unaware) and I did not like it one bit going through the whole game with 18 turds. Now what is also unfortunate is that characters don't level up, so you are stuck with what you have, in fact, pretty soon you are forced to resort to the cheap way of winning battles because you are simply fed up with how much time and effort it takes to conquer a single castle: simply find a hero with a good healing spell and, because you gain mana as you are damaged, you can keep healing yourself without any concern (well, there is a possibility you will fall asleep and lose the battle).
There's also a sort of alliance system which, basically, you can keep proposing an alliance to another nation until it finally accepts (and they do accept eventually). Apparently you can also win the game by allying with every nation, but it's so lame. Basically you just keep offering it and hearing from your heroes "oh I couldn't do it this time!" until you hear "Yes! I convinced them!" But why would you want to win the game like that? Specially once you figure out that there is no ending, then why would you care? At least the combat was fun. At the start, anyway.
You might hear from some people that "it's fun", the "graphics are nice" and the "characters are interesting" but trust me on this, they played for about an hour, got a feel for the game and shelved it with a smile, thinking "it's a good game, I'll get back to it soon" but guess what... they never did. The game didn't have enough time to drain their soul.
If you don't believe me and you simply must play it because you are a fan of the series, I suggest that you borrow it from a friend. Just until you realize that there is no meaningful anything to be had here. No deep connection to some other great game you might have played before. It's just that bad.

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