One of the key advertising elements of the Nintendo DSi when it was first announced was its use of augmented reality and camera technology. The ability to bring the real world into a video game had been done before, of course, but not with the added strength of Nintendo behind it. Though a few bits and pieces came out, it wasn’t until Face Raiders on 3DS that the idea became more than just a mini-game. So it is that Spirit Hunters Inc. by Nnooo takes that initial concept and steps it up a notch.
But before I get into it, I wanted to point something out to you. Spirit Hunters Inc. was originally designed for the Nintendo DSi, so unfortunately there’s no 3D support despite most users no doubt downloading this for their 3DS. Still, that doesn’t detract from what can only be described as the most compelling reason to get off your couch in a long while.
Spirit Hunters Inc. doesn’t waste too much time getting into the action. You’ll set up an ID as you’re inducted into the international ghost catching organisation, before a quick run through of the controls. You’ll choose your primary element, which will determine what’s available to you in terms of abilities and future upgrades, before jumping into a quick battle with a spirit. For this review, I chose fire as my primary element but soon purchased a few other types along the way of which there’s a lot of variety.
You’ll be using your stylus a lot, unlike most other augmented titles. Catching spirits isn’t just a case of moving the camera and throwing a ball at it. You’ll have to complete certain swipes and movements on the lower touch screen to reduce the spirits health bar as it moves in, out and around you. Simply choose your attack from the bar below then tap, swipe, move or rapid press on the spirit to perform the attack. Timing is everything in certain instances, while others are more about aim.
All of this sounds tricky, perhaps a little annoying for those who hate using the stylus, but once you get the hang of it everything becomes second nature. You’ll soon have a few go to moves that you’ll string together to bring the pain, though you’ll have to alter that move set as the spirits get trickier or don’t take as much damage from certain attacks. There’s actually a strong level of variety in the spirits themselves, the more you level up the stronger and faster they may become. Of course, each spirit class is made of a different element, so choosing opposing elemental attacks provide the best results.
Spirit Hunters Inc. is a single player experience, though there are a few extra challenges included in the package that you can share out to other hunters. By and large, though, you’ll be spending most of your time searching for new spirits, moving through different rooms in your house or out to the back garden to find the right colour combination or lighting conditions to coax out a new spirit type, then spending your winnings on more powerful moves. There’s a nice level of progression here, relatively easy at first but gradually becoming more challenging as you level up.
Of course the obvious comparison comes from Pokemon, but this is a different beast entirely. Nintendo released Pokemon Dream Radar not too long ago, a game that tries to mimic a similar design, but Spirit Hunters Inc. trumps it in every regard. There’s a ton of features, plenty of unlockable moves and most importantly a ton of spirits to hunt down that will keep you enthralled for a long time. Sure Spirit Hunters Inc. might not win any visual awards given its DSi level graphics, but it’s a strong and clean design with plenty of colour.
This is a complete package, something many DSi releases lack. It’s unfortunate that Nnooo couldn’t upgrade the game to the 3DS in time, but perhaps a future sequel may tap into that potential. As it stands, if you’re looking for something different with plenty to do and at a very affordable price, Spirit Hunters Inc. should be the first thing on your download list.
Spirits Hunters Inc. is available now on Nintendo eShop in two different editions, Light and Shadow. If you want to know more, you can visit the official website here.
[review pros="Great use of the touch screen and camera, plenty of content, highly addictive" cons="Mainly a single player affair, sadly not a 3DS title" score=91]