Did Finish — Spectral Force: Genesis

Spectral Force: Genesis from Ignition Entertainment is like a paste-eating cousin of the Nobunaga’s Ambition series. It’s perfect for a handheld device like the Dual Screen, and only slightly less difficult than playing Risk while drunk.

You must unite the 40 disparate provinces of Neverland because video game logic. Each nation has its own history, and their tales are as deep as the oily residue your fingers leave when using the DS touchscreen without a stylus. Factions include some girls who think a “non-aggression pact” means conquering your neighbors before they can conquer you, a fascist bureaucracy that looks like a family-friendly version of the Third Reich, and a nation of Sasquatch monsters who want to kill all the humans. Spectral Force: Genesis gets points for variety, despite the active harm they do to narrative coherency.

A diffuse conundrum of words have been dragged from the thesaurus to support each nation’s poorly defined manifesto. Holy Army Cosdalio battles Palace Army Virgina, who is at war with Republic of Gemarny, while Stone Room fights Unicorn Flag. Review some of those faction names again; In Spectral Force: Genesis, subtle typos of real-world names are part of the game’s… uh, let’s call it charm.

Spectral Force Genesis Units

Battles are like rock, paper, scissors: you flick three units at your opponent and hope that your strengths match up against their weaknesses. Units types include villagers, samurai, mages, and chick bugs (don’t ask), but it boils down to swords beating staffs beating shields. And shields beat swords, to complete the circle.

The faster you draw a path for your unit on screen, the quicker they move. Sometimes you can use special attacks that make lots of colors and occasionally do actual damage.

Generals have detailed but largely invisible backstories — you can trigger brief conversations as rivals (or former allies) face off against one another, hinting at Important Events from their past. You also get ten unique cutscenes on the way to your faction’s “true ending,” unless you wimp out and resort to alliances and peace treaties.  

Do the math: there are 10 scripted sequences for 40 nations, plus 1 alternate ending, which means the game has 440 unique exchanges in addition to the battlefield dialogue. But “unique” is not the same as “interesting.”  

Spectral Force: Genesis Elf Image

The plan for victory is simple: hire the best generals, fire the losers, and roll over the other 39 factions. The reality is that you don’t know which generals are actually competent at any given moment. Everyone has poorly defined stats with numbers, but the numbers change whenever you appoint a new “strategist.” Sometimes your generals’ stats change even when you keep the same strategist, because no one said this game had to make any sense.

The other delightfully confusing mechanic in Spectral Force: Genesis is the currency system. Everland has four in-game currencies, but you can only spend one of them on improvements — not actual structures, just larger numbers for a territory’s “economy” or “defense” values. Different in-game events change the relative value of these currencies, but the big picture doesn’t really matter. You just buy low and sell high every few turns, max out your treasury reserves, and declare yourself a foreign exchange genius.

Spectral Force: Genesis Image from the review at Worthplaying.com

Here, I swiped this image from the review at Worthplaying.com. You can read their review, but mine is 50% shorter. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Once in a while, somebody’s general gets killed by a meteor, effectively retiring him or her from combat. Other generals can defect or organize a rebellion, and more random events make it look like things are happening while you wait for your turn to pick choices off a menu.

Either the team behind Spectral Force: Genesis dressed up a simple game to trick you into thinking that your decisions are insightful and strategic, or they broke a complicated game so completely that can only appeal to people who need terms like RTS and RPG defined for them — as you can see in the video below:

Winning a campaign in Spectral Force: Genesis is not very demanding, but it still counts as a win. And since I have no interest in spending twelve months fighting through the opening act of a Nobunaga’s Ambition game, I consider this an acceptable alternative.

About B. Indifferent

Bitterly Indifferent is a belligerent hillbilly with a substandard internet connection. He is also a fan of retro gaming who has previously written about the state of games journalism and the intersection of games and family.