Shaman King: Master of Spirits
When anime series are adapted into a video game format, it usually means one of two things. You either get a very narrative-driven choice-based game, or you get an over the top, all-action fighting game. However, with Shaman King: Master Of Spirits, you get a game that tries to buck that trend through taking inspiration from other big-name franchises, blending them together into a sort of hybrid experience and does so with a decent level of success.
The games that this title takes a lot of inspiration from is the Metroid series, the Castlevania series and The Legend Of Zelda series. With most relevance to the Castlevania series based on the combat system and the backtracking and map exploration focus.
It Ain’t Easy to Be Shaman King
What you will notice right off the bat about this game is just how difficult and inaccessible it can be at times. The combat is not easy to grasp, the hit detection isn’t as refined as it could be and on top of all this, the ability to regain health is seldom seen in natural gameplay, you’ll instead have to gather in-game currency to buy health packs. Money which you will only get by pressing onward into more hoards of enemies. It feels like your always fighting an uphill battle but not in the harsh but fair way you might encounter in the Dark Souls series for example.
Combat does become a little more complex than a single attack through being granted spirits. These act as special attacks that offer unique battle options. However, the way to change these on the fly is extremely clunky, so expect to be pummelled for a few seconds until you select the right one. As a whole, the combat is great on paper but is poorly executed.
The game also encourages backtracking, exploration and discovery. However, the implementation of this idea fails to hit the mark. The games areas belong to overworlds which you can navigate between at will. However, to get to areas you need to re-explore, you need to transverse an entire series of levels to get to your destination. It’s not difficult but it is time-consuming and frustrating.
It’s a looker
The game does happen to have a really well-designed art style. It stays true to the manga/anime source material and translates this well onto the GBA platform. The environments are varied enough that you won’t get quite as bored during the long traversals between levels. Plus the character models are instantly recognisable if you happen to be a fan of the Shaman King series.
Then to go one step further, the sound for a GBA game is outstanding. Most titles on the platform sound tinny, uninspired and relentlessly repetitive. However, this one has a surprisingly good musical score. The score manages to capture the ominous and eerie themes of the environments perfectly and thanks to the more subtle sound effects, the music takes centre stage, as it should. Overall, presentation is a real strong point for this title.
A diamond in the rough
Shaman King: Master Of Spirits is a game that relies on a series of other mechanics and tropes from other games to succeed. Though, what it does with these aspects has to be commended. There is a good story that runs concurrently to the anime plot without messing with any canon content. The art direction and sound is fantastic considering the hardware. Plus, the game has a combat system that, although clunky and difficult to master, has a decent amount of depth to it.
The game does have a poorly designed map, poor pacing and a backtracking system that simply doesn’t work with the format of the game. Plus the title can be unnecessarily difficult in areas with no means of making it easier with more health to work with. However, this could be seen as a positive depending on how much you love a challenge. Overall, not a runaway success but certainly a serviceable game that does the anime proud and should be enjoyed by fans and casual gamers alike.
- Sound and visuals are superb
- Story is enjoyable
- Spirits within combat offer depth
- Backtracking is frustrating
- Unnecessarily difficult in areas
- Short run time
Download Shaman King: Master of Spirits
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP