by Andrew Yoon,

Nintendo DS


A merciless force known only as the Krawl is threatening to destroy the galaxy. Rallen and Jeena, two Interplanetary Patrol officers, must find and tame the strange, prehistoric creatures called Spectrobes and use their powers to save the galaxy from impending doom.

It's easy for a hardcore video game and anime fan to shun the Pokemon series. The notoriously popular series is infamous for its ability to target children and get them hooked. While the Saturday morning cartoon may not feature the depth of other critically renowned series, it's undeniable that for many, Pokemon was the first step into the world of anime. The games are equally important: gamers that criticize the franchise most likely fail to understand and appreciate the incredible balance and elegance that graces a typical Pokemon RPG. There have been countless Pokemon clones over the decades, and most fail to provide the same engaging experience as Nintendo's franchise.

Spectrobes is one of the many Pokemon clones that fails to understand what made Nintendo's collect-'em-all franchise so successful. It certainly has a few original ideas, but the execution is downright poor.

The game's basic premise should be familiar to any gamer that's played a Pokemon game. Once again, you embark on a quest as a young, adolescent boy. You stumble upon a mysterious creature, called a Spectrobe, and you must catch them all in order to save the world. Although the game walks through familiar territory, it does provide a far more compelling backdrop than the Pokemon series. The story is told through a near-endless amount of dialog. Too bad none of the conversations are particularly well written, lacking an edge that would keep it interesting.

Of course, a good story isn't necessary when the gameplay proves to be compelling. Unfortunately, Spectrobes fails to deliver much in this category as well. It's clear that there are lots of good intentions here, but many of the game's ideas don't coalesce into a pleasant experience. Firstly, the process of finding Spectrobes is much too cumbersome. Your character must run around the map and use radar to find potential locations to dig. The creatures are actually prehistoric monsters and must be dug from beneath the growth. While interesting in theory, it becomes much too frustrating, and much too boring, to aimlessly wander the world map, stopping every few steps to search for fossils. To make matters worse, there is no in-game map, meaning explorers will quickly get lost when searching for monsters.

The process of excavating fossils is interesting, but its novelty wears out very quickly. It's certainly an innovative use of the touch screen, but it becomes tiresome to repeat the same act over and over again. Many of the buried items that are uncovered look exactly the same, so the sense of excitement dissipates within a few tries. The incredible frequency one will dig the ground makes the process seem more of a chore than it should be.

Once a Spectrobe is unearthed, there are numerous options for customization for trainers to use. While this is much appreciated, it doesn't help alleviate the problematic battle design. This is where the series takes the most drastic departure from its Pokemon-styled roots, and it's also where the game falters the most. Battles happen in real time, with players able to command creatures to attack. Unfortunately, this becomes a rather frustrating affair due to the rather unresponsive nature of your creatures' AI. Players will have to move with the Spectrobes, and hope that they're aiming at the right enemy. Battles become chaotic, confusing, and most importantly, uninteresting. The level of strategy necessary in every Pokemon battle appears to be missing from these real-time encounters, reducing itself to something akin to a button masher.

There are a few admirable things to note about the game: the graphics are pretty good, with 3D that fills the top and bottom screen (although having some useful information on the top screen would've been far more useful). The game also accesses the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection for some unique downloadable content.

Spectrobes is not necessarily a terrible game: in fact, it features quite a number of admirable traits. However, it's not a compelling one either. Gamers that have short attention spans and don't mind boring, repetitive gameplay may want to give it a try. However, everyone else will be wise to wait for the next true Pokemon releases to hit the system.

Production Info:
Overall : D

+ Impressive 3D graphics. Lots of things to do.
Generic story and characters. Repetitive gameplay.

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