Well, Konami, this is disappointing. Sure, you’ve brought us Metal Gear and Suikoden, but you just can’t seem to get licensed games down. When it comes to Yu-Gi-Oh!, there isn’t much that can be held against you; Upper Deck shoots expansions left and right, and it is tough not to spit out a game every three months just to keep up. But you could always just release games with future card sets, which would guarantee at least some improvement between games. Then there is the Disney games?let’s not get started on them. Now, there are the Shaman King games. While they are based on the ever-so-promising (from a gaming perspective) Anime/Manga series, this game captures none of the action or drama of the battles that make the series great.
The game’s plot holds fairly true to the series. Everything starts with Morty (Manta in the Manga) meeting the hero, Yoh Asakura, on top of Monument Hill, the gravesite of the fabled ?Demon’ Amidamaru. Yoh is a Shaman, a seemingly regular person who can see, channel, and battle with the spirits of the dead. A Shaman’s main goal is to become the Shaman King, a title granted to the victor of a tournament that comes around every 500 years, and whose victor can make or break the world. While on Monument Hill, Morty and Yoh are jumped by the Dead Enders, a biker gang led by the vain and goofy Shaman-to-be, Rio of the Wooden Sword – who’s clad in a disco suit. Rio’s gang ends up ruining Amidamaru’s gravesite, which angers Amidamaru enough to appear and attack them. To remove the Dead Enders, Yoh performs ?Spirit Unity’ with Amidamaru, which is where a Shaman takes a spirit and channels it into their body. This bonding allows both Shaman and spirit to fight as one, which they do before proceeding to kick the s**t out of the Dead Enders – no problem. From here, Yoh battles various Shamans, receives training from his fianc?e, and prepares to fight for the title of Shaman King.
As great as Shamen King: Legacy of Spirits-Soaring Hawk could have been, Konami went off on a distinctly poor tangent when it comes to the game’s battling. Instead of the high-speed, action-packed duels, which appear in the show, fighting in the game takes place in the form of Pokemon-style spirit vs. spirit battles. Instead of using Amidamaru exclusively, as in the show, Yoh collects, captures, and battles spirits, using six-member-parties. Sound familiar? Well, it is no way near as good as Pokemon. The Shaman King battle engine is very similar to its counterpart; each Shaman sends out a single spirit and they fight each other using one attack per turn until one of them is dead. However, unlike Pokemon the battles lack any true strategy. While Pokemon has an immensely wide variety of attacks, Shaman King pretty much consists of three basic kinds of attacks; Attack, Attack with Status, and Recover. However, all you need do is use attack over and over again in order to win almost any battle. Well, as vacuous as the battle system is, the main problem with it is the spirits themselves. While the spirits in the show are samurais, tigers, warriors, and elemental spirits, the game features the spirits of bowlers, singers, fast-food waitresses?and cats. Seriously. Also, while the game claims to contain over 1000 spirits, many of them are the same, but with different elemental alignments. The only cool feature in the game is the ability to combine spirits to form new ones; however, even that is blemished by the lameness of the other spirits. For example, how does a Skeleton combine with an Earth Spirit to make Kyuco the Dog?
Battle complaints notwithstanding, the game doesn’t look or sound particularly good, either. The regular sprites are pretty much simple bobble heads who move, but can barely use their limbs. The in-battle graphics are also largely unimpressive, amounting to little more than profiles of Yoh’s spirit on the bottom of the screen and the enemy’s on the top, which vibrate when attacked but, no, there isn’t any battle animation. The music is also lacking, and the sound effects are thoroughly mediocre – even for a GBA game. Really, it makes the game as much fun to look at as it is to play. Oh, the irony.
Honestly, this is the worst GBA role-playing game this reviewer has ever played. While it tries to rival one of the best, it fails miserably, and in every respect. Even though it holds true to the Anime/Manga’s story, it fails to capture any of the elements that could make it a good game. The battle style is neglectfully ingenuous, which thoroughly kills any hope for the game being worthy of play – even for a die-hard RPG fanatic. Konami even neglected the artistic aesthetics of the game, leaving it ugly, as well as dumb. So, unless you are the most die-hard Shaman King fan, perhaps you’d be better off picking up some other – any other – videogame