Spectrobes: Beyond the PortalsESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
System Link: Wireless Battle and Wireless Trade
Downloadable Content Support
Leaderboards: Online at DGamer
I had the chance to attend the Disney Interactive Studios Holiday Preview event in Toronto this past September. During this event my curiosity was peaked when I was introduced to a new DS release entitled Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals. At first, I thought the game was a Pokemon clone, however Beyond the Portals stands apart from such games with its rich science fiction story and gameplay features.
Beyond the Portals’ bright and gorgeous 3D environments make for a great visual experience. Each planet you visit is back-dropped by one of three planetary themes including jungle, ice and desert. The planets are detailed with many features native to each of the planetary theme. The jungle planets are full of rich and lush forests accented by ponds, and giant lily pads. The desert planets are full of sand dunes, huge gorges and natural rock formations. The ice planets are of course covered in ice and snow, but are built with ice slides, large mountains and surrounded by frigid waters.
Being a technology geek I really enjoyed the technical read out screens built into the game. The simply designed read out screens provide the game’s information in a clear and concise manner and adds to the sci-fi environment of Beyond the Portals.
All of the characters in the game such as Rallen, Jeena and your Spectrobes are exceptionally done without the smallest detail missing. When you change your equipment on Rallen it also changes his look with the new items. It is evident that the developers didn’t just use a generic model for the whole game. With the large database of Spectrobes I was genuinely surprised at how many different ones the development team created and how they are really unique right down to their colour and design.
The quality of the cut scenes throughout Beyond the Portals took me by surprise too. From the moment the game loads up you view a beautiful scene of Spectrobes showing their prowess and power as they do their best to show their most intimidating poses. Overall the developers have really outdone themselves with the visual aspects of the game.
The sounds and music of Beyond the Portals are very basic and are exactly what I would expect from a DS game. However, what this game does have is a large variety each. The background music varies greatly based on where you are in the game and what you are doing at the time. Expect different music when you are exploring hostile and non-hostile areas, as well as different music when you are battling Krawl with your various Spectrobes. The inside of your Space Cruiser has its own distinct music too.
The sound effects reminded me of some of the classic cartoons I watched when I was a child. The nostalgic sounds of your blaster’s backfire, the slashing of your blade as it cuts through Krawl, as well as the boom of your gloves as they stun your enemy. Even as Rallen walks around you hear the tap, tap, tap of his boots pounding on the ground.
During a Spectrobes battle you can also hear the unique battle sounds and other great sound effects of the game. These vary based on the Spectrobes you encounter, as well as the Spectrobes you are using with their distinct custom parts. Be ready for more nostalgic sounds as the clawing, biting, and projectiles fly during Spectrobe battles.
Overall, the sound and music are of decent quality and take themselves up a notch in my books with the huge quantity and variety of sounds available in the game.
The story continues from the first instalment of Spectrobes. Rallen and his partner Jeena of the Nanairo Planetary Patrol (NPP) investigate a distress call. They discover an escape pod where a man named Aldous has been in cryogenic sleep for the past decade. When he awakes he warns of a bloodthirsty group of creatures called the Krawl. It so happens that Rallen has a natural ability to control Spectrobes (prehistoric creatures that you must excavate to awaken) and eventually summons an Ultimate Form Spectrobe that he uses to defeat the incoming force of deadly Krawl. With no signs of the Krawl returning the NPP falls into a lull and is suddenly surprised by the appearance of mysterious portals, and a huge Krawl force led by the the even more mysterious High Krawl. It is up to you, with the aid of your Spectrobes and the many tools at you disposal, to defeat the Krawl and protect your home.
At first glance Beyond the Portals seems to be very simple in design, and very easy to play. However, as you progress through the game the complexity comes forth providing some hard work and some hard challenges for Rallen and your Spectrobes.
Combat takes place in real time in 3D environments of the Spectrobes Universe or inside a Krawl Vortex. A Krawl Vortex looks like a tornado and is shaded the colour associated with their specific properties which are Corona (Red), Flash (Blue) or Aurora (Green). Combat duty is split between Rallen and your collection of Spectrobes. Rallen battles Krawl Dust with his sword and blaster, where his gloves are used to stun the Krawl Dust – making them an easier target. As Rallen levels up he is able to purchase upgraded equipment to continue his battle against the Krawl Dust. Aside from levelling Rallen, I found no other benefits in battling the Krawl Dust and in most cases, it was much easier to avoid them and navigate Rallen to the Krawl Vortexes. The Spectrobes use their natural abilities combined with equipped custom parts to create a variety of offensive or defensive capabilities. Spectrobes are used to battle the different types of Krawl, and eventually the High Krawl.
The only problem I found with combat was the lack of control with the camera. You would lock on to a target to unleash your flurry of attacks, defeat the Krawl, then spend anywhere from 10-20 seconds attempting to adjust the camera so you could target another enemy. This could make for some really frustrating battles.
Beyond the Portals uses the stylus and touch screen as much as possible and this is really evident during the excavating mode. While exploring the various planets you always have a child Spectrobe in tow. The child Spectrobes have a unique ability to scan an area for fossils, minerals, cubes and mystery stones. After the child Spectrobe discovers an item you excavate the area using the proper tools. There are up to ten tools at your disposal, some of which have to be purchased as you progress through the game. These tools are used throughout the different environments you encounter such as rock, sand, water, lava, ice and mud. The three basic tools at your disposal are three drills: the common drill used to excavate through rock, the fire drill used to melt through ice, and the water drill used to drill through lava. The other tools range from a Piton which is used to quickly excavate a large area, a blower which is used to clear dust and debris, and recovery tools are used to repair damaged fossils.
With your tools at hand you are ready to excavate with your touch screen and stylus. More often or not your have to pound your way down through some rocks before reaching the area where the item you are excavating resides. When you reach that level you must select the proper tools to safely excavate the item from its surroundings. When you uncover 90% of the item you can pick it up. If you happen to uncover a fossil within a 60 second time limit, and not damage it, it will be marked with a crown. Crowned Spectrobes can evolve into Adult Form immediately without the aid of minerals.
The wide variety of Spectrobes in the game is amazing with the original 73 from the first game returning and 112 new Spectrobes being added. On top of the new Spectrobes there is also the introduction of a new type of Spectrobe, Dark Spectrobes. These are a much more powerful ‘cousin’ of the original Spectrobe.
Inside the cargo room of your Patrol Cruiser are five machines, with the Lab System and Emblem machine being available right away. There is also the Cyrus Express, Card Input Machine, and Cube Machine which become available later on.
The Lab System is the machine you will be using the most as its primary purpose is to Awake or Raise Spectrobes. To awaken a Spectrobe from its fossil form you slide it down a conveyor belt into the awakening chamber by sliding your stylus upwards. Once the fossil is in the chamber you must keep your voice constant for three seconds and voila you have a child Spectrobe. Keep in mind that the pitch of your voice determines the color of your Spectrobe. After you awaken your child Spectrobe you can use the Incubator to feed it minerals. When the child Spectrobe receives enough Minergy it will glow signifying that it is ready to evolve into its adult form. The Incubator can also be used to level adult Spectrobes with minerals, change your Spectrobes custom parts, and to test them in battle. The virtual battles take place against immobile Krawl so you can test out your Spectrobes strengths and weaknesses and learn how to use their attacks effectively.
The Emblem Machine keeps track of your accomplishments throughout the game. Fifty emblems can be earned and some will unlock as you progress through the game, where others are based on battle, excavation, and collecting Spectrobes. The Cyrus Express is a machine installed on your cruiser as you progress through the story. This machine provides you with an onboard store where you can sell minerals and buy new items and equipment.
A really innovative feature is the Card Input Machine. Although it is a machine found in your in-game cruiser, it actually uses real life items. You take code input cards, which are just plastic cards with a picture of a Spectrobe or a related item. There is also a series of seven numbered holes placed on the card. You lay the card on your DS touch screen and tap each hole in numerical order to gain the Spectrobe or item that is on the card. I had four of the cards included with my game and they allowed me to acquite some new Spectrobes with a lot of power, as well as some minerals to enhance my budding collection. This kind of interactivity is pretty cool and something that I did not expect.
The last machine on your cruiser is the Cube Machine. This analyzes cubes that hold information, secrets, and hints about the Spectrobes. Make sure to analyze each cube because the information will come in handy.
Unfortunately, I was unable to play or use the large assortment of wireless features available in Beyond the Portals. As your progress through the game DS Wireless play becomes available and features Wireless Battle and Wireless Trade. Wireless Trade allows you to trade your fossils and Spectrobes with other players. It also allows you to trade Spectrobes from the first Spectrobes instalment as well.
Another feature to open up as you play Beyond the Portals is Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection. When you reach this point four options are made available: Wi-Fi Battles, Wi-Fi Market, Wi-Fi Download, and Wi-Fi Upload. Wi-Fi Battles allows you to participate in a variety of battles against friends you have exchanged your friends code with. The Wi-Fi Market is a great place to purchase a Spectrobe you are looking for, or to sell off some excess Spectrobes to get some needed income. Wi-Fi Download is the place to look for downloadable content featuring new equipment, new items and new Spectrobes. Wi-Fi Upload on the other hand is used to upload your game stats and compare your stats to other player files on www.Spectrobes.com
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