Shaman King: Master of Spirits 2 Review

Developer: Konami Publisher: Konami
Release Date: August 2, 2005 Also On: None

I don’t know what it is about anime that turns me off to it on TV. In all likelihood, it is the fact that anime battles often play out like the battles in a turn-based RPG, with each participant, one at a time, launching some insanely huge attack that takes thirty seconds to prepare while the opponent just sits and waits to get hit. If it were me, I’d be running or something. But I digress. The point is that although I am not fond of anime on TV, games based off of anime don’t seem to get the same response from me. I respect Dragonball Z Budokai, and Rave Master is one of my favorite fighting games on the GCN. Because of those two games, I guess I naturally assumed that the only good licensed games based on anime would be fighting games. Shaman King: Master of Spirits 2 has emptied my mind of that theory.

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Aesthetically, the game is pleasant to look at, if maybe a little bright and cutesy. Of course, I have no idea what the anime looks like, so I don’t know how the graphics look compared to it. The game does look anime-like though, so I’m going to assume they’re pretty close, at least as close as a 2D game can get to a 3D cartoon environment. What few sound effects and voice samples there are aren’t too bad, nor is the music. The music never really gets repetitive because the world you traverse through has different sections such as palaces, deserts, ice-covered mountains, etc., and there is different music depending on which section you’re in. None of the music is as memorable as, say, the Super Mario Bros. theme, but the music is pretty good overall.

Shaman King is a straightforward action-adventure game. The plot, which I presume is somehow related to the plot of the show on which the game is based, is simple, with a young kid named Yoh going after some guy named Zeke. It is a simple plot, but it is reasonable nonetheless. Now, the box says that this game is an RPG. It is in no way an RPG, although it has some RPG elements. If you’ve ever played Faxanadu for the NES, that game is similar to this game in many ways, enough so that if you are a fan of that game, you might as well just go buy this one and skip the rest of the review. The same could be said in many ways if you are a fan of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.

Like both of the aforementioned games, you control a guy with a sword in a typical A jumps, B attacks control scheme. Like both of them, you have special magical abilities that you can gain through the game, although, granted, in Faxanadu the magic was purely straight forward projectile attacks. There’s so much more diversity than that in the special abilities in this game, which, instead of being magic spells, are actually caused by spirits that Yoh can fuse with. There are many of these spirits that can be found, with some allowing extra maneuvers to be done with the L and R buttons, and some just causing status changes for your character. For the ones that allow extra maneuvers, there is a SP that depletes every time you use the extra maneuvers, but the status-changing spirits don’t deplete SP at all.

The fighting system is a bit more complicated than either Zelda II or Faxanadu. From the beginning, you can attack high or you can duck and attack low, or you can even jump and attack. You also can do a back-dodge to evade attacks if you hit down twice, although the maneuver is not often necessary. As you progress through the game, you can find three books of learning. Each one allows another attack to be added to your arsenal, starting with a jump forward attack that is powerful but not worth the effort it takes to pull off, with the second being an air maneuver similar to Kirby’s midair attack with the Sword ability in Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland and the third being an attack meant to hit enemies above you while you’re on the ground. These relatively few maneuvers are sufficient for any battle situation you may find yourself in, especially when combined with the spirits who offer powerful attacks or, in some cases, projectile attacks.

So far as the actual game is concerned, the action takes place in 2D stages, none of which are particularly lengthy. To get between them, there is an overworld map similar to the one in Super Mario World, but with one major difference. In Super Mario World, once you beat a level, you can walk right past it without entering it. Things aren’t that simple in Shaman King. If you need to go back to a previously visited area, you’ll need to go through every area between your current location and it to get to it. Oh, and I should mention that the game sometimes forces you to do this because there’ll be items or spirits in earlier areas that you can’t get to without the abilities of spirits that you’ll get later on. However, Konami knew this would be inconvenient, so they left you with a large world and many routes. It’s not just one long line like Super Mario World essentially is, but you will occasionally find yourself getting back to previous areas by new routes and opening up shortcuts and the like. Basically, when you get to a new destination dot, one or two new routes will open up for you, but usually only one.

One other major difference between this game and other games of its type that I’ve played are in terms of the bosses. There are many of them. Sometimes you’ll go through four or five areas before you meet a boss, and sometimes it seems like you only go through one new area and you’re at another boss. The advantage to this is that the spirits that you get by beating bosses are the most important ones, the ones that give you the abilities that you need to get through areas that you previously couldn’t. You can find spirits from other people within the normal areas, or sometimes even just sitting around in a level. However, those spirits are usually helpful, not necessary.

The game isn’t particularly long either. In two and a half hours of play, I was able to get a third of the way through the game, and that’s with the occasional backtracking that I had to do to get stuff. However, don’t take that to mean that there is no replay value in the game. First of all, you could always try to find all the health increasing items and spirits, since, as I mentioned, most of the spirits in the actual levels aren’t necessary for beating the game. Beyond that, the game comes with four skill levels, so you could always try playing the game at a higher skill level after you beat it. Other than those things though, there’d really not be much reason to replay the game after you beat it.

So what’s my recommendation? I’d say that if you have played and enjoy either Faxanadu or Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, you should be able to get some entertainment value out of this game, even if, like myself, you are not a fan of the anime on which it is based. The story hardly seems to get in the way of the game itself, and the enjoyment potential will not be hindered by the fact that the characters’ names mean nothing to you. This game is a worthwhile purchase for anybody looking for a good action-adventure game on the GBA.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7.1
Written by Martin Review Guide

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