Take a few steps, choose what action you want to activate, and then proceed to do the same thing over and over again with the rest of your squad. Sounds familiar? Well it should, since this game follows the same basic prinicples of any turn-based strategy game (i.e. Disgaea, FF Tactics, Front Mission). We’ve all been through this before so many times, but this game brings something else to the table. Want to find out what? Read on!
Spectral Force 3, as obviously shown on the front cover, is a JRPG with the function of a turn-based strategy game for the XBOX 360. Which is quite rare for this system, and needs it too. The opening sequence is a fully animated (and very well done) cut-scene, and it doesn’t stop there either! Through out the game, you’ll hear voice acting from the main characters, monsters, and special effects/action sequences. The voice acting isn’t terrible at all, in fact it fits just fine with the type of characters introduced in the game. Even the sound effects of magic being cast and swords clashing is impressive.
Now the graphics aren’t “top notch”, but don’t let that sway you from buying this great game. There are over 40 characters you can recruit into your merry band of mercenaries. Ranging from giant, sword swinging dolts to cute, furry cats casting unholy magic. Yeah, they even threw in cats in this game. Not that they’re supposed to be the cute and cuddly kind, some are far from that. You can also recruit demons (and some VERY hot ones as well) and have them deal long range damage from the cliff side. There’s a wide variety of strategies you can pull off, it’s just a matter of how far you think your way through each battle.
Aside from the fighting and casting magic, you can perform three powerful actions with your team mates. The first one is called “Assist”, which takes affect while one of your characters is still fighting an enemy and you press the Right Bumper to select the closest ally to aid you in combat without taking away their AP (Action Points). Doing so will increase the combo number, thus increasing the amount of experience and damage given. Then there’s “Team Work”, and you can pull that off once you have filled your “FG”, or Friend Gauge” to a certain point. After you press the Right Bumper, you can select the closest ally to move within his movement limits and perform an action without taking away his AP. So it’s like having a free move for your team mates. Finally, there’s the Rush Gauge gauge and that’s worth filling to the max when it comes to boss battles. With each “Assist” and “Team Work” performed, the Rush Gauge gets filled bit by bit. Once it’s full, you and all your allies on the field can initiate a Battle Formation, which is a powerful attack on one enemy. Trust me, it can be a MAJOR life saver later on in the game.
The beginning of the game can be tough. Knowing the rules, analyzing enemy strengths and weaknesses, and buying armor and skills. Later on, it does get a bit easier after a few battles, learning better strategies, and recruiting more characters. So the learning curve, to me, is a perfect arch. Tough at the beginning, easier when you reach the top, and harder when you’re near the end. My main concern is learning the controls for each character, because depending on what you equip them, the button pattern layed out for one character’s skill set could be polar opposite for another. Though, it can be considered a minor issue to others.
As for the music, nothing really stands out or pulls you into the game. It’s a mix of light hearted battle BGM that tries to pull off a Final Fantasy mega boss music theme. You know the kind, drums pounding in the background with trumpets playing out of angel’s asses. Sounds all epic and what not. That isn’t the case for this game, sadly enough since the anime cut scenes are superb. It’s like going to an opera and before you is the most beautiful singer you’ve ever seen, but the only thing she can do is cough up hair balls.
One of the coolest features about this game, is that the war going on between all nations affects who you can recruit or the missions you can go on. Also, depending on what missions you take up will affect the rest of what will happen later on in the game. There are ten nations going at it, and each one has around 10 missions for you to choose from. Although, there is a difference between working for a nation and working for a private individual (i.e. farmer, general, rich man). So far, I have too many damn mages in my squad, but you never know who you’ll meet in those missions. Frustrating? Yes, but having more people with a variety of skills/magic isn’t so much of a bad thing. All I need are more fighters…
I’ve clocked in around 9 hours so far and I’m still near the beginning. This game is a must for those who love JRPGs (or just RPGs for that matter). With a great story and realistic dialog, well as realistic as you can get in a fantasy world, Spectral Force 3 could be one of the best (J)RPGs for the XBOX 360. Right next to Lost Odyssey, of course.