Neverland is a world populated by humans and demons and a world all too familiar with war. Two great wars have passed and yet the world remains on knife edge. Peace is held together with fragile treaties and wary trust.
Spectral Souls: Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires follows the rise of the human Reformed Simba Empire Army and their ambition for domination over the Neverland along with the complete destruction of the demon Imperial Neverland Army.
Who will ultimately claim their dominance over the Neverland?
Developer: Idea Factory
Platform(s): PlayStation Portable (PlayStation Network)
Genre: Strategy Role-Playing Game
Release Date: (EU) January 26th 2011, (JP) October 22nd 2005, (NA) September 26th 2006
Spectral Souls: Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires dives straight into the action with a very busy and somewhat confusing introduction. While you start off with following the wanderer Naiz on his first encounter with the Fitishia Liberation Army, there is a large amount of plot jumping between the then forming Simba Empire and the Imperial Neverland Army. Without a proper introduction for most of the characters featured in the conversations I initially found it hard to follow.
Once the dust settles and the prelude is completed, the world map becomes available with a wealth of information and you start to appreciate the scale the game sets to achieve. You are in charge of both sides of the conflict, progressing through the story by completing their events on the world map.
You do not have a direct persona within the game but you will be able to make the decisions of individuals on how they handle each situation presented to them. The army you choose first to complete an event with will have an impact on the opposing army once they enter the same area event. It plays out nicely and brings everything together in a coherent flowing stream of time. Occasionally there are a few unexplainable time lapse errors but these are relatively minor.
After several events are completed a major historical event will present itself. How each event is handled will also affect how the historical event plays out. Historical events can only be completed by one of the armies and your decision will shape future events and ultimate how the story will end.
Spectral Souls: Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires contains all the staples of a strategy role-playing game and offers a few unique elements to the mix. It adopts a time shift battle system, where each individual character races for a turn rather then allowing each character a turn in order of their agility. Slower characters are at a large disadvantage as more agile characters can attack multiple times and stack multiple combos.
Each character’s ability to move and attack is determined by the amount of Action Points (AP) they possess. With enough AP, characters can perform a charge attack, which is essentially a chain combo of normal attacks but certain sequences of normal attacks can allow a character to perform an additional attack.
A hold attack is the same as a charge attack except that the character will wait until another character attacks the same target to combine a chain combo. While sometimes it leads to overkill, bonus experience points are rewarded for your troubles. Timing is essential as the character that is performing a hold attack is attacked the combo will be broken. It is possible and also fun to set up large chain combos with multiple characters on multiple targets by utilising ranged attacks.
The main feature of Spectral Souls is the ability to play, shape and witness all sides of the conflict. This works for and against it. With the way the story is presented in Spectral Souls, not being able to see what the other armies were doing would leave you in the dark on the whole scope of the story. While it is compulsory to play as each army I have always found it discouraging to proactively fight against myself. On my initial play through I favoured the Neverworld Army and neglected the other armies, making them significantly under levelled once I had to play as them. Initially the conflict is between the Imperial Neverland Army and the Reformed Simba Empire Army but further into the game another group, joins the fray. While adding more to the story it also added more work into making them a formidable fighting force.
The story of Spectral Souls: Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires as a whole is a bit hard to follow with some of it not being properly explained. The game is the sequel to the Japanese only release Shinseiki Genso: Spectral Souls and it is referenced a number of times throughout the story. It also borrows a fair amount of Neverland lore from the Spectral Force series which follows the first and second Neverland Wars. You cannot find fault on this issue as only Spectral Force 3 and Spectral Force Genesis received an official English release. While the game tries its best to fill you in with a detailed chronology and regularly updated profile pages, a hero just joining your army without much explanation leaves them somewhat hollow.
Sadly Spectral Souls: Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires is hindered by a few noticeable technical flaws. When things get a little crowded and busy there is some slow down. These slow downs are most noticeable during battle animations, with some stuttering while the action is being performed. While load times are not bad, they do happen quite frequently. Data access can cause small hiccups during dialogue and menu navigation though these are relatively minor and noticeable at first, you will probably forget about them as time goes on.
Neverland is presented nicely with detailed sprites and environments. Camera controls are relatively easy to manage. The music lends itself fine to the feeling of war and while sound effects are fine there are a few questionable ones that stand out, they have the strangest sounding doors.
Spectral Souls: Resurrection of the Ethereal Empires offers plenty to do with multiple endings, new game plus and a post game challenge. It does have a bumpy introduction and admittedly will not be to every strategy role-playing fans taste. Those who take time to fully appreciate the scale of Neverland and enjoy some good old fashion combo serving with the right amount of strategic challenge will be in for a considerable amount of entertainment.
7.0 – Good. Entertaining but is held back by a couple of flaws. It will certainly capture its intended audience but it won’t appeal to everyone.