Game Review

Spirit Hunters Inc. Shadow/Light Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Bustin' makes us feel bored

Announced way back in May 2010, Nnooo's Spirit Hunters Inc. — available now in both Light and Shadow flavours — promised, in Nnooo's own words, "a Role Playing Game set in the real world." That's both a tall order and an idea with enormous potential, which is why it's a shame that the finished product mistakes "role playing" for "standing and spinning."

Spirit Hunters Inc. casts you — yes, you... you'll even pose for a picture and everything — as the latest recruit in the titular organisation. The fact that there's very little story beyond this is not an issue... the fact that the little story you do get comes in the form of a pace-breaking text crawl at irregular intervals is an issue. And this, oddly enough, shines a light on a game-wide problem with Spirit Hunters Inc. — its execution. The entire experience positively aches to be tightened up and refined, as though we're beta testers fine-tuning a product before it's released to the masses.

The cameras on the 3DS and DSi have always cried out for interesting implementation that they've only rarely enjoyed. On the positive side of the spectrum you have The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave, which uses AR as a way of bridging the gap between the game's fantasy world and the actual space around you, but a far larger number of games tend to follow The Hidden's mission statement, which is that the game should actually take place in the space around you.

It's a nice idea, but the execution fails universally for one very obvious reason: games don't know anything about the space around you, and so can't react to it or offer gameplay specific to it. Therefore instead of masterfully crafted gaming experiences, we end up with bland titles that don't let us do anything more than spin in circles and shoot at targets, while our living room plays a cameo role as set dressing. That's Spirit Hunters Inc. in a nutshell.

When the game begins you fight a tutorial spirit. It's a simple experience that sees you moving your console around to keep the spirit in frame and tapping it until it dies. You might think you're being trained in some very basic strategy so that you can face bigger and more dangerous enemies soon, but, really, you've just seen everything the game has to offer. You spin around, you find a spirit, you tap it, and you repeat until it's dead. There's no planning or strategising necessary, and if you don't feel like spinning around you can just wait until the spirit comes to you, defeating the purpose of the AR hunt altogether.

Each spirit has an elemental affiliation — either Light, Shadow, Fungus, Fire, Ice, or Water — and you select an affiliation for yourself as well. As expected each element is strong against some and weak against others, and if you wield a weapon that complements your own affiliation you'll be more effective. Unfortunately there's not nearly as much strategy involved here as you might think; any spirit can be pounded relentlessly with any weapon and will eventually be defeated. You may not be doing much damage with your weapon, but as long as you keep tapping and swiping you will win every battle.

At the end of each battle — they all occur in isolation, further working against the intended immersion — you'll receive some experience and money, each of which allow you to upgrade your weaponry. Unfortunately all of the weapons feel similar. Sometimes you tap, sometimes you press, and sometimes you swipe, but once you've done all three you've experience the entire game. Navigating the menus to the shop and spirit list — wherein you can read details about the baddies you've vanquished — feels like a needlessly sluggish ordeal, and further breaks the pace of the game.

Visually, the spirits all share the same dead-eyed non-expression, and their designs don't seem particularly inspired. The audio is fitting and ambient, apart from the bizarrely chipper loading theme that, of course, you'll hear constantly.

The real disappointments come in what should be the game's main selling points: the friend challenges, and the Shadow / Light versions. First we'll address the two versions, as that's quite simple: the changes are minimal. Several unique spirits feature in each version, and there's a different ending, but aside from that they're pretty much identical. That's okay, though... the intention isn't to get anyone to buy both versions, but to give those who buy one version an experience unique — in some small way — to that of those who buy the other.

Mainly, though, it fuels the friend challenges, as the only way for one player to encounter all spirits is to share the unique ones through challenges. Of course the logistics here are almost comically cumbersome. See if you can follow us here: at the end of every spirit battle, you'll face a prompt asking you if you'd like to save the previous fight as a challenge. If you do choose to save the challenge, you'll be asked for the in-game name of your friend, and the challenge won't work unless you enter it exactly right. The game will then export a 28-character (!) code which you give to your friend. Your friend then navigates through a series of menus to find an open challenge slot, inputs the code, and is then able to fight the spirit you exported. Whew.

There are plenty of things that should strike you as potential problems there — the constant questioning after every battle, the need to know in advance who you want to share a challenge with and what their in-game name is, the fact that you can mis-type a name and then your friend won't be able to use the challenge, the fact that you can't export "open" challenges for anyone to try, the chance of writing down one wrong character and rendering the code useless, etc. — and all of them are valid. It's certainly a feature that's more trouble than it's worth, even when it does work, which we don't imagine will be very often.

It's worth pointing out the large number of spirits to catch and the almost dazzling quantity of weapons, both of which are bound to thrill completionists — especially if they do find themselves enjoying this game — but no amount of item collection or stat-levelling makes up for the paper-thin and entirely unfulfilling overall experience.

Spirit Hunters Inc. definitely had potential, but by fencing itself into a predominantly AR experience it never becomes anything other than a repetitive target hunt. And that's a disappointment that will haunt us for many years to come.


With all due respect to the developer, it's not easy to see two and a half years' worth of effort in Spirit Hunters Inc. While it has good intentions and clearly wants players to engage with each other and share their experiences, it feels unfinished and is far too repetitive for its own good. We like what the game tried to achieve but it didn't quite get there, and that's a big disappointment. This is one occasion on which we will advise you to give up the ghost.

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User Comments (45)



RedYoshi999 said:

Oh dear... I feel bad for Nnooo, they worked on this for so long. I was even thinking of getting it too...



BenAV said:

Oh well.
I don't buy DSiWare games any more anyway thanks to my 3DS internal memory being full, so nice to see I'm not missing out on anything here.



stipey said:

Sad for Nnooo, those guys seem great, and I loved EscapeVektor. But massive kudos to Nintendo Life for being upfront and saying you didn't like it when they gave you so many exclusives on the game. I'm sure nobody's crowing about this review on either side. I'll still get it to support the team, I guess. Looking forward to EscapeVektor on 3DS!



Buzzthebatgirl said:

I was looking forward to this game but now it seems like I will be saving my money for something else. Thank you for being honest with your reviews (that's why I like this site) and please polish your big titles in the future Noooo



Void said:

Well that's too bad, I was mildly interested in this when I saw it.



RR529 said:

Too bad it ended up poorly, with all the hype it had been building up.




I really like Nnooo's stuff, but I could c this was going to bomb from the trailer. Try again with something else fellas



WiiLovePeace said:

Damn. I was really hoping this would turn out well & wanted to buy it to support Nnooo. Guess I'll save my monies for the Denpa Men that should be coming next week & I'll just give them my monies when EscapeVektor comes to the 3DS.

Its actually quite suprising how badly this turned out for Nnooo, given their previous games & applications reviewed so well. I really don't see them giving NL anymore exclusives anymore, oh well



Aqueous said:

Hmm. I was looking forward to this one, since it had lots of potential. I'm not sure if I'll pick it up now. I know @Philip_J_Reed puts very good and trust worthy reviews. Though nothing sounds broken in the game its self, so I might get it still.



Flowerlark said:

What a disappointment! And I'd really been looking forward to this. I think I'll pass and stick with Zelda II this thursday.



Auracle said:

NNNOOOOOO! Will all the coverage this game had received, I thought it was going to be pretty good. I am glad though that you were honest with your review. Kudos!



Squashie said:

Ouch! With all the coverage on this one, I was expecting a high score. I feel sorry for the guys at Nnooo, but I will still give it a try!



Crazybrain1 said:

I've noticed, Why can there not be a good AR game?
Anyway, this must be a big blow to the people at Nnooo.



iBazly said:

I'm also not very surprised. All the hype the game was getting was making me think that maybe my initial perception of the game was incorrect, but this basically sums up what I thought when I saw the first trailer.

It just didn't look like there was... enough game. And with Denpa Men available... this just feels pointless!



C-Olimar said:

I thought this game looked awful, but I didn't want to judge it from the trailers. I guess this confirms my fears.



KiwiPanda said:

It looked relatively okay at first, that's disappointing. That was a great review, though.
Also, did anyone else notice the ESRB Rating states "Use of Tobacco"? Not seeing how that comes in at all



Retro_on_theGo said:

Oh man. This isn't cool. Nnooo worked pretty hard on this, it's really disappointing to see this is how it turned out. I still kind of want to get it thought. It's not like they didn't try, guys!



CharmingWizard said:

Nnooo clearly has the talent and potential to make great games, so it's painful to read such a review. I saw the red flags that this wasn't going to be the right game for me— as others have pointed out for themselves. But I wanted to like it, y'know? In any case, I hope there are some lessons learned and no hard feelings between Nnooo and NL.



slidecage said:

knew it would be too hard to understand and 90 monsters are way to small to catch.... maybe 1.99 but never 7.99



Joygame51 said:

Ahhhhh Well ! such is life... not afterlife .... lol I to had hoped it might be a good game but thats the way the dsiware crumbles!



Bassman_Q said:

It seems as though Nnooo took a stab at something they couldn't handle... But that surely doesn't mean all of their future releases will be so bad! EscapeVektor was excellent (which is why I'm still REALLY disappointed that they won't release the other chapters on WiiWare!), and I'm sure if they keep within the genres they are good with (ie not AR-based games), their games will be of great quality. They just dipped into a genre they couldn't properly handle is all.



glyth said:

i still want this game hoply they dont cancil it cuzs this reveiw



AyeHaley said:

It's also due to personal preference. I'm sure many will still enjoy this game. But I'm not getting it at that high price.



JayceJa said:

rather disappointed, the exclusive dev talkes made it sound like there was real difficulty and strategy involved, rather than simply tapping like made as you do in pokemon dream radar/face raiders

from the sounds of the review, the strategy exists, but the difficulty makes it completely superfluousness...



rayword45 said:

I'm contemplating giving this a go. Every other review has ranged from 7 (Wiiloveit being the lowest) to 10 (Aussie-Gamer), but NintendoLife has the most professionally written review thus far with a 4.

I'll probably wait for another positive review or another eShop card.



FonistofCruxis said:

I'm not surprised. This never looked like a good game to me but I still feel bad for Nnooo after they put so much effort into it.



Aqueous said:

I'm curious enough to still give it a try after some thought. Though I lack the eshop cash to buy it and the time to play it, for now.



Retro_on_theGo said:

Didn't Waltz do the review of Digitally Download? Idk man. I want this, but... I don't have a lot of money.



harpnbass said:

I purchased the game despite the review. I had been planning on purchasing it and after reading other reviews decided to give it a chance. I am enjoying the game and its use of the cameras etc. That said, I have been gaming for 20+ years and think that this is the type of game that may not appeal to everyone. Too bad Spirit Hunters got stuck with a review like this. Up to you to decide in the end.



themac2001 said:

I think, if it was a couple years back from now, before the 3DS, this would be IT.
No other DSi game used the camera for ar searching. The DSi camera wasn't used effectively back then, and they wanted to bring out the best in it. Since i have some spare change, i might get it, even though it's not quite DenpaMen



MeloMan said:

...Guess it couldn't out-do Sprit Camera afterall. Ah well, that's too bad...



Squashie said:

@glyth It's extremely unlikely that the developers or Nintendo for that fact would remove a game from the eShop just because of a single negative review. It is still very likely that this game will sell many copies.



gurtifus said:

Well, I like this game.
Although it's repetitive, It's addictive as well.
After each battle, I always want to challenge another spirit.
It has a kind of appeal I can't explain but I'm glad I believed in other reviews listed in this thread.



Grubdog said:

Honest review, more like lazy. You barely talked about the battle system and strategy, sounds like you didn't get past level 10. Complaining about how long it takes to enter a code is more proof you barely played it and wanted to rush the review. Such a shame.

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