14 Mar, 2007

Spectrobes Review

DS Review | Pokemon should be worried.
Spectrobes is a completely new IP published by Disney Interactive Studios, though the first thing that should pique your interest in the title is the fact that it's also developed by Jupiter Corporation, who developed Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. It's also notable that the game has a lot in common with Pokémon, one of the best-selling game franchises of all time. However, much like Saint's Row built upon some of the gameplay elements that Grand Theft Auto presented, Spectrobes includes things that Pokémon fans have been crying out for, and for some time. In short, it's clear that this is the beginning of a great franchise for Disney Interactive Studios, and the good news is that if you simply cannot wait for Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, there's a great alternative in Spectrobes.

At the start of the game, you'll be introduced to Rallen and Jeena, officers in the Nanairo Planetary Patrol. While out on a routine mission, the pair pick up a distress signal and respond. Rallen goes exploring, and eventually finds an old man named Aldous, but is attacked before he can assist Aldous. Rallen alone is powerless against his evil attackers (creatures known as Krawl), and so uses two creatures (known as Spectrobes) to defeat the Krawl. After you speak to Aldous, he'll inform you that the Krawl goes from galaxy to galaxy, destroying civilisations along the way, and that the titular Spectrobes are the only key to saving Rallen and Jeena's galaxy.


You'll start off with two adult Spectrobes and a baby Spectrobe. A Spectrobe has three forms: child, adult and evolved. Adult and evolved Spectrobes are able to fight, though a baby Spectrobe isn't ready for combat just yet. One baby Spectrobe can accompany you on your missions and help you to search for minerals, cubes and fossils. When on land, you can also use the baby Spectrobe to search for anything under the ground - if there's anything near you, then you'll see a coloured spark. After you do this, it's time to excavate the object. You do this by tapping the stylus on the DS touchscreen to remove some of the rock covering the object, and then very carefully trace around the outline of the object to reveal it. If the object is a mineral or a cube your work is done, but if the object is a fossil, then the process of nurturing a Spectrobe is only beginning.

Inside each fossil is a Spectrobe, and to reveal it, you'll need to awaken it first; to do this, you'll need to head for the lab system in the ship. You'll need to talk to your fossilised Spectrobe in order to wake it up, and the game will helpfully show you a voice bar, which you'll need to maintain at a certain level to wake the creature up. With this done, the Spectrobe will stay in your inventory, but will only be a child - to evolve your new pet, you'll have to place it in an incubator and feed it minerals. Only then will it be able to battle. The actual process of retrieving a Spectrobe and getting it ready for combat involves plenty of touchscreen use, and works really well. During the game, you'll need to consistently use the touchscreen to manage your inventory, while in game the action will be split over both DS screens, mighty handy for seeing what is ahead of you.

The most impressive aspect of Spectrobes is the battles. As you move through each planet, you'll encounter black vortexes, and if you run into one of these, you'll initiate a battle. This works extremely well, because you'll be able to see when a battle is coming up, rather than randomly walking around and hoping to encounter the Krawl. Something that is sure to please Pokémon fans is the fact that all of the battles happen in real time. Rallen will be joined by two Spectrobes in battle - the left shoulder button directs one of the Spectrobes to attack, and the right will do the same thing for the other Spectrobe. Rallen is also able to attack, and whilst he starts off pretty weak, you can buy items which will make him a little more powerful against the Krawl.


As the battles happen in real time, you can dodge the Krawl's attacks and protect yourself. You're also able to hold down A and charge an attack, and when you've fully charged the attack, both of your Spectrobes will pull off a super attack, meting out a considerable level of damage. Unfortunately, your Spectrobes are only really able to pull off one attack during battle, though as they level up (this is done by winning battles and gaining experience points) the one attack becomes stronger. Nevertheless, it's a touch disappointing that there's only really ever one "move" per se, excluding the combined attack.

Throughout Story mode, you'll be roaming from planet to planet finding and defeating the Krawl, and ultimately you'll need to try and clear all of the Krawl from your planet. The storyline is rather linear, and you'll need to complete certain challenges before you'll be able to progress. Occasionally it feels a little bit like you're just completing meaningless fetch quests during the story mode too, which can certainly grate. Overall however, the Story mode has good pace, so it's very unlikely children or adults will become bored during the campaign. Jeena will give you hints on where you need to go next, so young children should always be aware of their objective. One of our main complaints of the game is the fact that there is no map - there is after all quite a few planets to explore, and it would have been handy if you could bring up a map of each level.

Spectrobes also comes bundled with four code input cards. By obtaining a certain cube in the game, you'll unlock the card input system. By placing these cards over the DS touch screen and tracing the dots, you'll unlock special items and Spectrobes. These cards are currently only available when you purchase a copy of the game, but you're able to trade them with friends to unlock more Spectrobes. The cards themselves are semi-transparent and are really well-designed. Two other major features of the game that you'll need to unlock by playing through the campaign include the DS wireless communications and the Nintendo WFC option.


By enabling the wireless comunications system, you can trade Spectrobes with friends, participate in a versus battle, or play in a battle championship. By enabling the Nintendo WFC mode, you're able to download things such as new Spectrobes, and upload and register your scores on the official Spectrobes website. Throughout the single-player campaign, you'll come across layer battles - essentially continuous non-stop battles - and your score from these battles can be saved and uploaded onto a leaderboard. The game also awards you download points, so when you first log on, you'll get thirty points, and then ten points every Friday. The download points are used to purchase these extras which are made available online. Disappointingly, you cannot battle online, which would have been a brilliant inclusion.

The game itself looks great and when the action is taking place over two screens it's hard not to be impressed. Jupiter Corporation has made the game look highly slick, and it's definitely one of the best-looking games on the system. The Spectrobes themselves are all well-designed, and whilst some of them look better than others, they all look unique. The planets look fantastic, and the game can be rather colourful at times. In terms of the audio, all dialogue is done through text (so children will need to have a basic reading ability to understand the game), and the music is unintrusive but not particularly compelling.

Spectrobes is a brilliant game then, and the start of a big franchise for Disney Interactive Studios. It does have a few shortcomings, but it uses the DS in some of the best ways we've ever seen. The game includes some really good ideas that Nintendo should look at implementing for their Pokémon franchise. The best thing about Spectrobes is the fact that it appeals to both children and adults. Children will love collecting the cards and trading them with their friends, while adults will enjoy levelling up their Spectrobes and playing through the campaign. It is a shame you cannot battle online, and the limited moveset for each Spectrobe is another irritation, but these are really minor complaints - in truth, you'll be enjoying the game so much you just won't care.
The Score
Spectrobes is a great beginning for Disney Interactive's new IP - it's clear this is only the tip of the iceberg for the franchise. Spectrobes comes highly recommended.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 years ago
Just bought the game & are LOVING IT
7 years ago
Came sooo close to putting it on lay-by today but found FF5.
7 years ago
You really should mate, it's a great game.
7 years ago
Hmm i dunno........it IS disney.....

Look's good though.But disney?
7 years ago
Trust me, aside from a logo you won't be able to tell.
7 years ago
I am so glad this game is good, I really wanted it to be good.

Consider this on my 'to buy' list.

Great review Luke.
7 years ago
Arrrgh, another DS game on my to buy list. If I had the time and money I'd get this ($60 at Target) but I'm pritty broke and busy with uni and other games right now.
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    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
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European Release Date:
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  Disney Interactive Studios
  Jupiter Corporation

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