The late January release of Skulls of the Shogun for Windows Phone 7 and 8 might have quenched some players’ thirst for a mobile strategy game. But you can never have too many strategy titles, and besides, Skulls (while not a casual game) is not the most hardcore strategy game in the world. Windows Phone still needed a true strategy role-playing game like Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea that could keep a player busy pretty much forever.
Japanese developer HyperDevbox recognized that need, and now they’ve published the very first strategy RPG for Windows Phone 8: Spectral Souls. Originally a retail Playstation 2 release, Spectral Souls promises hundreds of hours of role-playing goodness for dedicated players.
This is why we don’t break mirrors
Spectral Souls tells the tale of the Seven Year War taking place in the fantastic realm of Neverland. At the outset, the evil Demon Army (you were expecting them to be good guys?) destroys a small town called Petun. This sets into motion a three-sided conflict, as the established human army and a new rebel army clash against the demons and each other.
As the tale unfolds, players will be thrust into battles against both humans and monsters alike. The combat takes place on small battlefield maps. Each character has a certain range of movement and a unique assortment of attacks and skills they can draw upon in battle. It feels very much like Final Fantasy Tactics, so that’s definitely a good thing.
This game also introduces more complex attack techniques such as Holding, Charging, and Chain Attacks. Hold allows a single character to chain multiple attacks together for increased damage, while Charge requires the participation of multiple characters. Chain Attacks occur when a character performs specific attacks one after the other. It’s all very complicated, but the game does at least explain it to you early on. It also provides a dauntingly large Tutorial menu that basically functions as an instruction manual.
So much game on the go
Spectral Souls really feels like a full Playstation 2 S-RPG squeezed onto a Windows Phone. It opens with an anime-style intro (that doesn’t give you enough time to read anything) complete with lyrical Japanese rock song. The graphics won’t amaze anyone, but they’re up to par as far as this genre goes and certainly higher resolution than Skulls of the Shogun’s. While the story is told entirely through text, the music is quite good and consists of 52 different tracks.
The actual controls rely on a virtual d-pad and buttons, which takes a little getting used to. A larger or repositionable d-pad would be more comfortable, but this one works well enough. As for the buttons, I recommend switching to a style that puts the A button on the right side instead of the left. Nobody wants to reach all the way to the middle of the screen every time they need to confirm options or advance the text.
Size and value
People who balked at the $7 price of yesterday’s The Amazing Spider-Man release will possibly have a heart attack when they see how much Spectral Souls costs: $12.99. Yes, that’s a lot for a mobile game, but for comparison, Final Fantasy Tactics (there I go mentioning it again!) costs $15.99 on iOS. This is a full retail console game squeezed onto phones, and it really offers an immense quantity of gameplay.
For some people, every phone game should cost a dollar, and no game will ever be worth more to them. That’s a very unhealthy attitude as it would prevent larger projects like this from coming along. If game makers adhered to that value proposition, we’d never get anything but puzzle games and Angry Birds clones. If $7 or $13 is too much for you no matter what, you’ll just have to be content with small casual games. /soapbox
Get your strategy on
Spectral Souls requires Windows Phone 8 and unfortunately does not offer a trial. But if you like the genre, it’s a safe bet. The download is 575 MB, so you’ll need more than 2 GB (possibly 3 GB) of free space to install it. Get it here at the Windows Phone Store.
Alternatively, the Windows 8 version for PC and tablet costs $15.99. Get it here from the Windows 8 Store.
Thanks to Ben Sillis of Republic Publishing for originally tipping us on this game!