Monday, March 22, 2010

Spiritual successor to Dragon Force is rubbish

The March 12 English language release of Spectral Force Genesis by Idea Factory for the DS, totally slipped me by. The fact that people from the original Sega Saturn Dragon Force work with Idea Factory makes me very excited for this – the videos also make it look similar. EDIT: I've played it, and the game is awful - short review in the comments section, caveat emptor!

When a title I’ve been interested in for so long gets released without my knowing it, I start to get worried. It means I’m not getting all the information I want or need. With the death of PLAY magazine, I no longer have a regular print publication to read. And despite using about four different forums, if no one on these forums is talking about something, then I won’t hear about it. I visit Kotaku, but they update a little too regularly, and there’s a weird scripting problem where 50% of the time Firefox crashes on me (can anyone explain that?). It would seem my sources for niche information have abandoned me, leaving me clueless as to the state of the gaming world beyond the mainstream.

Only today did I discover that this had been released, which is especially annoying since sometime last November I was trawling the internet for news of its being localised, and found absolutely nothing.

I was first interested in Spectral Force Genesis when reading the following on Insert Credit back in May 2008:
Spectral Force Genesis is the latest in the millions of Spectral Something games from Idea Factory - but this one looks pretty neat. If you poke around in the system section, you'll see that troops are commanded and sent against the enemy in a very Dragon Force style. But since the stylus is there, you should be able to have much more control over what your units do. Check the movie section for more evidence. It's different, but similar enough to be exciting. When you add to that the fact that several key folks from the Dragon Force team currently work with Idea Factory, it becomes all the more appealing.
Dragon Force stands as one of my all-time favourite Saturn titles. The strategy elements are a lot of fun to play around with and their simplicity prevents the game from becoming a chore like a lot of other genre titles. You simply choose the right creature type, select a formation, and unleash havoc. It also features an unprecedented number of sprites on-screen at a time – well over 200 if you count background elements and projectiles during a full-scale battle, and every one of your 100 fighters can interact and battle with any of your opponent’s 100 fighters. It’s a thing of beauty to watch played out in RGB on an SD TV. The sequel was never localised, though is said to be not as good. In the end Dragon Force was mostly overlooked, the Saturn died, and now it commands a high price.

So of course anything even vaguely similar grabs my interest, which is why I’ve got SFG on order. Sorry I’ve not got any first hand impressions to give, but I wanted to draw people’s attention to it first, especially since everyone seems to be ignoring it. There seem to be a lot of high profile releases right now, and they’re all overshadowing these cooler, more niche titles, such as SFG and Patchwork Heroes (if someone mentions FF13 to me again, I’m going to break something).

More importantly, since I’ve also received Infinite Space for the DS, and dislike it quite immensely, I could do with another DS title to remove the bad taste from my mouth. While I had been hoping for Star Control 2 meets Elite, what I ended up with was a 100 hour grind-fest with a confusing map to navigate (which contrary to promises of being able to explore space, actually removes any hint of exploration since you’re travelling along linear lines between each planet), and an endless string of battles which rely not on skill, but random luck in a game of paper-scissors-rock (or guns, more guns and shields, as the game likes to call it).

Here’s hoping my hopes for Spectral Force Genesis end up fulfilled.


  1. an english version came out in america last summer...

  2. Spectral Force Genesis, eh? I was under the impression that those games were all mediocre, but this one is supposed to be different anyways, so whatever. Hope to see your impressions post soon, because I'm a bit swamped on cash and won't be able to buy anything for a while. BTW, Patchwork Heroes looks pretty cool, but since PSN is being gay to me at the moment, I can't add my debit card to it. :( Well, I'll try and get it soon.


  3. This doesn't look half as good as Dragon Force. I trust Idea Hacktory with nothing. FYI, that battle image is from the PS2 Sega Ages remake of DF.

  4. This came out in Europe ages ago. but no one noticed, as is so often the case.

  5. @Laufeyson
    Really? I thought SFG only came out this month in the USA... Are you absolutely sure about that? Of course, I'm only going by GFaqs' data table, but I'm sure I was searching last year and saw nothing on it.

    I could be wrong though, in which case shame on me! I thought I'd missed this by a few days, but if you're correct, I missed it by half a year!

  6. it could have been a european version, like that anonymous poster suggests. either way, i played an english version of this on my ds last summer

  7. It was released in Europe last year. I played it but the abreviations got on my nerves. Not that you can do much because of the small size of the screen.

  8. This is what I wrote on another forum:

    The similarities to Dragon Force on the Sega Saturn are unmistakeable. The overworld map with nations to conquer, the use of special magic items, the hiring of generals, the battles themselves. It could almost be a second sequel to DF.

    As much as I want to love it though, it suffers from several terrible flaws which stop it from being excellent, and reduce it to a barely playable mess.

    Unlike Dragon Force where you had total freedom to assign troops, reinforce castles and order generals off to war at any point during a round, in SFG each round is divided into 12 months and you can only do one action per month, depending on what is assigned to that month. This is done randomly, meaning if you wanted to assign troops in June, but June is council assignment month, you can't do anything other than that.

    The game shackles and cripples you so severely by only one random action per month. This also means that in an entire year you might only fight 2 battles, and the game is so slow moving, one year might last half an hour or more. Also, most actions are useless. Council assignment is pointless, since once you've assigned 3 generals to their posts, there is nothing left to do except scout for extra generals, but you're limited to 20 so this type of month soon becomes redundant.

    This arbitrary shackling of your actions makes the game extremely slow, since some castles are so heavily fortified you need to attack 6 or more times to capture them. And remember of course, after each battle there's a good chance there'll be a fortification month, allowing enemies to make themselves stronger again. The whole thing plays out like a really slow moving game of stalemate. Attack, be attacked, fortify, back to square one, start again.

    Other times, you'll attack someone, take their castle but lose a lot of men, and then there won't be a troop reinforcement month before the next battle, meaning enemies will attack from all sides and, because you don't have any troops, you'll lose several castles. The game doesn't feel balanced, and there is never an opportunity to take advantage of anyone else's poor strategies.

  9. There are tricks though, for example you can loot money from enemies so they don't have enough to fortify with, but money is easy to come by and within the first hour I'd maxed myself out to 9999 currency, and most enemies end up with so much that the 5 or even 20 that I steal does nothing. You can also steal generals, so they can't use their full supply of soldiers in battle, but the likelihood of success is like 1/10, and goes something like this:
    Select nation
    Select general to use
    Select general to capture
    Char 1: Goodluck with this!
    Gen 1: I'm going now!
    Gen 1: Damn, I didn't do it
    Char 1: The general couldn't do it!

    Furthermore, the generals which you choose to capture, aren't really explained. When I first started I had no magic users and, because it doesn't tell you what class a general is when you try to capture them, I ended up capturing 10 swordfighters before eventually, randomly stumbling across a magic user (who was crap). I'm sure Dragon Force allowed you to view the stats of enemy generals. Everything thing here is so opaque, you don't know the strengths of anyone until you've fought and likely lost to them - it desperately needs to show the battle class of each general, since otherwise it's just random nonsense. Worse still, there's like 30 different nations all fighting each other, and what must be at least 200 generals, so memorisation is out of the questions.

    Also, each text box during an attempted stealing takes a few seconds, now multiply it by your 20 generals. It's so tedious, that I tend to skip general stealing. Why couldn't I just select everyone and get it done with a single menu selection? Every action in the game is like this: lots of unneeded dialogue boxes and time wasting.

    The whole game suffers from this problem of not letting you do the actions you want to do, and then when you do them, it takes so long it's questionable if it's worth doing. Dragon Force was a lot more streamlined, with greater momentum, and a helluva lot easier to do stuff. It was a challenging game, but its system was easy to play around with. I'd often send 2 battlions to a heavily fortified castle, one to capture it, the other to boost the troops once capture. Or I'd send raiding parties after enemy platoons which were going to attack a different enemy, because I knew they'd be sent away defeated, allowing me to fight some already weakened foes and capture them.

    There is nothing like this here. It is slow and very restrictive. It feels like a game where they came up with a whole bunch of cool ideas, and then let another team finish it. The battles are cool (even though the collision detection sucks and results in your platoons getting stuck to each other), and the ideas are good, but it's badly executed.

    Which is a pity, because as I said, this whole thing reeks of being like Dragon Force, so much so I wasted about 8 hours on it already... But after that you''re likely to just want to quit and actually go play Dragon Force.

    This is the kind of game where I hope the ROMhacking community take an interest, and do a hack job which makes the game more playable and streamlined.

  10. I completely agree with your review. I really wish they didnt just randomise what you could do each month. It is one of the killig points for me.

  11. Somehow, I'm not surprised that Spectral Force Genesis isn't all that good. I did enjoy Aedis Eclipse, however, and I'm still wondering how the hell I suffered through Spectral Force 3 as long as I did.

  12. Good thing I run into your blog. I was planning to buy this game and am looking for reviews for it. Maybe the next one's going to be better after all the review it got here.

  13. Hey ifany of you like DRagon Force try Generation of Chaos on Psp if you can find it, its very similar to DF other then it being 20ish ppl per side instead of 50 but you generals can also have pets which are stronger then normal troops