(Game Boy)

Avenging Spirit (Game Boy)

Game Review

Avenging Spirit Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Like Kirby... if Kirby were SERIOUSLY TERRIFYING

It's a story as old as time itself: boy meets girl, boy takes girl out for a walk, boy is murdered by mobsters who kidnap girl, boy possesses vampires and kangaroos to get her back.

Jaleco not only provides us with a bizarre and attention-grabbing backstory for the game, but they made sure to craft a memorable and unique enough experience to justify it. Avenging Spirit probably isn't a game many people remember, but it's certainly one worth rediscovering.

The story, indeed, finds you controlling a young man who is already dead. As if that weren't an auspicious enough start, you spend the game as a ghost, periodically possessing other people (and robots, and animals...and monsters...) in order to find and free your girlfriend from the clutches of the mobsters who killed you.

You won't spend much time playing as a ghost, however: in fact, you can't. If you remain outside of a physical body for too long, you will die or whatever. The vocabulary isn't important. The point is, your game will end.

Because of this, you will have to continuously jump from vessel to vessel, taking control of other peoples' thoughts and actions, using their bodies to fight enemies and traverse treacherous paths.

It's a pretty dark concept for what, on the surface, appears to be a darned cutesy game. While you can possess anybody you like (more on this later), you basically get them killed one by one in the service of finding your girlfriend. Anybody you possess is as good as dead; you either get them killed, or you abandon their form, leaving their corpse behind. In the case of animals, you actually just leave a depleted skeleton. Creepy.

Switching bodies gains you the weapons and abilities of whatever body you happen to occupy at the time. Some bodies are more durable, and some are frail; some can jump high, and some are difficult to manoeuvre. It's reminiscent of the Kirby series, as the way you're playing the game one minute can change entirely the next when you steal somebody else's abilities. The difference is that Kirby never left a pile of rotting corpses behind to stink up Dreamland.

At any point, you can abandon the body you control, and become an intangible phantom again, as will also happen if your body dies. When this happens, you have only a short period of time to find a new body or the game will end. Of course, you can't take damage as a ghost, meaning it can sometimes be a wise strategy to become a ghost in order to float through a difficult part of the stage, and hope there's a body close enough to reach on the other side. It adds a surprising element of elasticity to the platforming, and that's certainly appreciated.

It's an interesting twist on an otherwise straight-forward "rescue the girl" plot, and as the dead bodies mount up, it's difficult not to question the wisdom of your quest, which adds an element of passive philosophizing to the gameplay as well. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the game is a huge deal of fun.

The controls are very tight when they need to be, or very stubborn if you're piloting a body that isn't quite as agile. In other words, the controls are exactly what they need to be for any given situation. The graphical presentation is misleadingly adorable, but that only makes the darker elements of your quest stand out in sharper contrast. The game's soundtrack is good, but nothing too memorable, barring a pretty excellent boss-fight theme.

It's also amazing just how varied the gameplay is for a Game Boy game. Being able to possess any body in the game (barring bosses) is quite impressive, especially when they all do control and attack in such unique ways. In fact, this element of the game is also what redeems it from being so short: by being able to play through the game in different bodies each time, you will always have a unique experience. Again, an impressive feat considering the game's original platform.

There isn't much bad to say about Avenging Spirit. The concept is delightfully weird, the controls are solid, and the experience is a memorable one. Some of the levels are maze-like and can get a bit confusing in their layout, but that's more a word of caution than a complaint.

Any fan of platformers with interesting twists should at least check out Avenging Spirit. Your mileage may vary, depending upon how keen you are on playing through the game several times in order to experience each different body, but even if you only play through it once, we doubt you'll forget it.

Conclusion

There's no two ways about it: Avenging Spirit is a forgotten gem, and its reincarnation on the 3DS Virtual Console is apt: like the murdered hero of the game, Avenging Spirit is getting a second chance on a new platform to show what it can do. Your own enjoyment of the game is going to come down to how much you enjoy the character possession mechanic, but we found it to be both addictive and deliciously dark. The odds are very good that you missed Avenging Spirit the first time around, but we hope you don't let this game go gently into that good night again.

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User Comments (56)

Colors

#1

Colors said:

I'll definitely be downloading this the next chance I get. And want to hear some bad luck? I'm not charged with tax. And I have exactly $2.98 left on my eShop account. Mmm-hmm ;______;

DazzaAdmin

#2

Dazza said:

Great review Phil. I'm not familar with this one from back in the days, but the premise does sound intriguing indeed.

I love it when Virtual Console throws up a hidden gem such as this :-)

@B4SDR4G - I heard that eShop cards are already on sale in Ireland so I guess it's only a matter of time until the rest of Europe gets them too

Wolfenstein83

#3

Wolfenstein83 said:

Too bad it's not the arcade version, but still a cool game to download anyways.
Yeah, that cover is kinda funny, considering what the game is actually about.
If I saw that and never played it, I would assume it was like some sort of Dick Tracy game or something.
Another Gameboy game that needs to be re-released is Monster Max, anyone else remember that one?

Tony3DS

#4

Tony3DS said:

I've always like strange, obscure, Jaleco titles (like Utopia on SNES) so maybe I give this one a buy. Yeah, I think I will.

edhe

#6

edhe said:

The western cover art is bloody awful. since it was first announced, I was initially turned off by the cover art, because it look so generic.

Untitled

Compare it to the Japanese cover, and you'll see it matches the charm of the game itself.

Bankai

#7

Bankai said:

Great review, Phil. Completely agree with you, this game is brilliant.

LordJumpMad

#8

LordJumpMad said:

Nice review Philip!
I can see why nintendo want to bring this game the 3DS VC
@7
The Jap cover makes more sense about the game.
with the US cover, I would have never have guess it was about a ghost.

Sneaker13

#9

Sneaker13 said:

@B4SDR4G, since your from the Netherlands, use 3vcash.nl. It's basically a virtual prepaid creditcard but it works with iDeal. It's safe, easy and most important, very quick. Within 5 minutes you are downloading games in the eShop or on the Wii.

About this game. I like it. I don't like the cute graphics in comparison to the serious story but I love the gameplay idea. Too bad not more was done puzzle wise. With certain characters only being able to open certain doors or that sort of things. What I also don't like is that the game goes from very easy, to brutally difficult in the last two levels (especially the last). Music is good, expect level 4, that's terrible. I like this game, but I think it's more of an 7 or 7,5.

Samholy

#11

Samholy said:

yeah i agree. the american cover is ugly. very ugly. what i thought would be some kind of dick tracy game was something totally strange and fun.

i missed something when i was younger, because of WRONG cover art. you see how importanrt that is.well i can still play it now, but i wont have that nostalgia feeling like i use to have with virtual console games. :-(

Bass_X0

#12

Bass_X0 said:

I don't like the cute graphics in comparison to the serious story

The story is wrong. The graphics are not. The Japanese version's story had cute manga cut-scenes for the story but apparently they thought that the American audience wouldn't take to such a thing so they just made the story more serious and gave it serious cover-art to match.

Untitled

Winter

#13

Winter said:

How do I switch before my current one dies?

And can someone tell me why everyone waits for the prepaid cards to buy games? I don't understand, why don't you use Visa or credit card og something? Works for me :)

Link79

#14

Link79 said:

Well in that case I'll be downloading this ASAP.
I honestly wasn't expecting so good a review.
I can see why people ignored it originally though. They probably saw the cover and ran in the other direction.

Bass_X0

#15

Bass_X0 said:

Yeah, I imagine older gamers attracted to the cover looked at the back and were turned off by the cute gameplay. And younger gamers or their parents looked at the cover and were turned off by such 'violent' looking artwork. I wouldn't have bothered with this as a kid based on the art.

Winter

#16

Winter said:

By the way, the game is actually quite good! I would never have bought it based on the cover though, it is ugly and too serious!

Tate24

#17

Tate24 said:

am stuck on level 4 i keep dieing on sewer level!!!

but its a really good game!

My favorite body to snatch is the ninja because he jump real high and i like thunder mage and dragon!!! so many body's so little time! ;)

JayArr

#18

JayArr said:

What a phantastic and unboolieveable review, really to die for. You must have been like a man possessed when you were writing. Definitely captures the spirit of the game. I ghost to get this game now.

Pokefanmum82

#20

Pokefanmum82 said:

getting this game as soon as possible although i have to wait until i get my flame red 3DS.

@Winter
most people are waiting for the prepaid cards because they don't have a credit card. Like me. But they aren't releasing the cards in canada anytime soon

XyVoX

#22

XyVoX said:

HOW ON EARTH DO THESE prices equate, across the 3DS Vc & Ware services, $2.90 = £2.60 not in a million years do these prices make sense for the UK.

pntjr

#24

pntjr said:

I might pick this up when i have the money... (Saving up for Vita)

NintyMan

#25

NintyMan said:

That's a surprisingly good review, and the gameplay sounds very interesting! I think I'll try it out. That western artwork really is a turn-off and nothing like Japan's. I guess Anime hadn't caught on back then and the Japenese thought stereotypical rough artwork would win the West over, but they were wrong. This game looks more like ghosts than mobsters.

Radbot42

#27

Radbot42 said:

This sounds interesting, about how long does it take to beat this forgotten gem?

Edit* apparently I missed a paragraph. Maybe if i have some money left over if i get another game I will pick this one up.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#28

Philip_J_Reed said:

@Winter:
How do I switch before my current one dies?

Press Y. The amount of life your body has left is deducted from your energy meter though, so try not to do it unless you have a good reason!

@zranoll:
about how long does it take to beat this forgotten gem?
You'll get probably a couple of hours out of your first playthrough...more if you aren't a seasoned platformer. It's worth a replay though, to try out all the bodies you missed...and to pick up the three keys if you missed any of them. (It's worth it.)

TeeJay

#29

TeeJay said:

Wow. I honestly fifn't believe the game was going to be that good. It seems very interesting, though! I'll definitely pick this one up next time I get my hands on an eShop card.

cheapogamer4life

#30

cheapogamer4life said:

Ha! I had a strong feeling by the time I made it to the last paragraph that this game was going to get an 8/10 from you guys. :)

Anyways, I'll definitely be downloading this one later today.

SuperLink

#31

SuperLink said:

I want to get this, but I'm gonna get all the classics forst, like Link's Awakening, Super Mario Land, etc.

TheGreenSpiny

#34

TheGreenSpiny said:

@33: Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Sounds like a old school 2D version of Geist. Man I wish they would have made a sequel to that game for Wii... That would have been awesome.

grumblegrumble

#35

grumblegrumble said:

i had my doubts before purchasing, but after I played it, it definitely IS a hidden gem! Great review, too.. I strongly urge you guys to download this if you like retro plat former titles. This game just oozes 'class' and 'style' but in a simple, fun and endearing kind of way ;)

WaveWarlock

#40

WaveWarlock said:

I'll definitly get around to checking this one out. Like many here, i was completely thrown off by the Dick Tracy-like Cover art...I insantly though it was probably some sort of generic mediocre lamo GB title nobody bothered with back in the day....Guess I was wrong! :D

Worst Gameboy Box Art ever by the way....Should of had the ghost smack dab on the cover.

Supremeist

#42

Supremeist said:

I'm gonna pick this one up tonight for my 2 day road trip. At the hotel now. This will be good game to keep me occupied. Great Review Phillip!

eviLaTtenDant

#46

eviLaTtenDant said:

Downloaded. And it's in fact very hard to put down. Got up to level 3 so far.
Amazingly polished, fun and the stage screens reminded me of a certain Treasure game. So thanks for the review guys. :)

MeloMan

#47

MeloMan said:

I felt this was a pretty good game. I'll be sure to pick it up when I can.

Rags

#53

Rags said:

this is the first video game i ever bought. the original avenging spirit on gameboy i think when i was about six. awesome awesome game!

MegaAdam

#54

MegaAdam said:

This is an excellent VC game, in the sense that it's quite a novel and polished title I'd never heard of before. I enjoyed playing through it.

I saw on a couple of sites there are button combos to press on the title screen to get to an "expert mode," but I can't get it to work. Has anyone gotten that to work? It says press Up+A+B.

Adam

#55

Adam said:

Holy crap, I used to see this game in stores and video rentals all the time but thought it would be some crappy game about mobsters. I had no idea the game was anything like this. Can't wait to try it.

advance_melee

#56

advance_melee said:

I'm having fun with it but i don't like how fast the enemys respawn and how fast they shoot at you. they shoot immediately it's kinda dumb other than that it's a fun game possessing different characters

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