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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sequelitis! Or, let's talk about Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals...

Diggy diggy fossil.
After finishing Spectrobes, I was a little hesitant about a sequel. I mean, Spectrobes had a relatively engaging universe and concept to it, but things were a little less-than-polished. If Spectrobes was to have a sequel, it would have to improve upon the original in a number of ways, most importantly, the battle system, and then the generic nature of the story.

Fortunately, Spectrobes II managed to fix all that.

Why is Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals better than Spectrobes? Well, the original game is so bland from a story aspect- you were scratching the surface of the Krawl mystery, and discovering these weird ancient ruins along the way. But Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals amps up the story to a whole new level, not only showing how the Nanairo Planetary Patrol has adapted to the discovery of Spectrobes in general, but also how the Krawl have responded- with four new High Krawl that really drove the character-based setting of the Spectrobes universe- something that differentiated the original from Pokemon, taken to a further extreme. The High Krawl are wonderfully characterized in Beyond the Portals- it's almost Dragonball Z-esque in execution, but works a little bit better because of the interactive format. The characters from the first game appear once again, as well, and they're very welcome- whereas they are established in the first game, the second allows their personality traits to be better defined and exploited.

The most important difference between the first and second games, though, is that the combat system has been HEAVILY altered. Instead of playing as Rallen and his two Spectrobes in combat, the two are split, with the exploration/discovery aspect also functioning as a Rallen-combat mode, where you can fight "Krawl Dust" which act as easily-defeated opponents that offer health recovery items for both you and your Spectrobes, while Krawl Vortexes, much like in the original game, act as the main battles- and usually appear in set amounts on the exploration fields. Krawl Vortexes take you into confined battles where the two Spectrobes of your choice against whatever Krawl the Vortex implied there would be. The Spectrobes can dash in any direction depending on how you double tap the D-pad, and each attack charges up the CH gauge, allowing you to unleash an attack on whichever opponent you want. The main improvement? LOCK-ON.  Sweet goodness, the ability to lock on to whichever opponent you want to attack and strafe around them while attacking and CH special attacking greatly refines the combat system, and makes things a lot more strategy based. Type advantages and enemy behavior once again factor into things, but there's so many more options that make this game so much more unique- And the real time strategy is fun.

Also, NEW SPECTROBES. Yeah, even though some of the 112 new Spectrobes introduced are merely Dark versions of some that already exist, they're totally awesome recolors and much tougher, to boot. But the new ones are really cool and very varied, and with the improvements to the combat system and the lock-on ability, CH attacks and normal attacks in general are much easier and more fun to toy around with. Plus, there's custom parts, like adding a chainsaw to a turtle.

Oh, and the whole excavation aspect? Well, they took what made the original so addictive and fun and added elemental hazards to it, thereby properly upping the difficulty (as any sequel should). The elemental hazards can cause some pressure, but it heightens the entire experience.

Incubation is the only thing that remains relatively unchanged, although the inclusion of an actual "evolution point" statistic that allows you to see how much more your Spectrobe has to grow before evolving is GREATLY appreciated. Also, the incubation seemed to be the one gameplay mechanic from the original that was pretty solid.

Out of the three Spectrobes games, Beyond the Portals is the one that feels the most deep- not only because of its content but also by how much more polished everything is. The story, though shallow, is still far better than the first. The gameplay is much tighter in SO many ways. The difficulty and number of options are improved upon, and it's just more fun.

But there's still one more game to go, and it's the most ambitious of the three- Spectrobes Origins. We'll cover that soon enough, eh?

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