Software isn’t exactly something 3DS is being overrun with at this point. With only a handful of titles left for the rest of this year, 3DS owners are looking for content to keep themselves busy. To a certain extent, we can turn to the eShop to pick up old experiences from Gameboy, Gameboy Color, and DSiWare that we may have missed. One of the most recent additions is Avenging Spirit, a port of a 1991 arcade game for the original Gameboy. Does the title still holds its own today, or is it something that should have been left in Jaleco’s vault?
The story in Avenging Spirit exists mainly to set up the gameplay. You are a dashing young man who gets shot trying to protect his girlfriend. After the girl is kidnapped, the main character sets off as a ghost to save her. Being a ghost, he can’t actually interact with the living world and can only exist for a certain period of time before his energy runs out and he dies, so he must possess those in the living world to do his dirty work. Essentially, the core mechanics of Avenging Spirit is possessing enemy units and using them to finish the level. Possessing different units will not only give you different attributes, like increased jump, speed, attack power and health, but it will also give the player a different type of attack; including close range melee attacks and fire breath, long range bullets and magic spells, and more unique moves like baseballs that ricochet, grenades you can lob, and heat seeking missiles.
Players have two energy bars. One bar is the host’s health, and the other is the ghost’s energy. When taking damage or flying around without possessing a unit, players lose energy. While the host health can run out and the player can still survive, when energy runs out, it’s game over. There are items placed about each level that restore both the player’s health and energy. The title has a focus on both combat and platforming, so using certain units over others make certain challenges in a stage much easier to handle. The levels are designed in a fashion that any unit can make it through no matter the situation, so you won’t get yourself stuck. Later on, the level designs can be confusing as levels wrap around themselves, but you usually can quickly tell whether or not you’re going in the right direction.
There are a couple of annoyances throughout the title. Enemies constantly re-spawn, even if they just slightly go off the screen. The controls feel a bit slow and clunky, although some of that is based off character attributes.
While the Gameboy itself couldn’t produce the bright colorful visuals of the arcade release of Avenging Spirit, at least from what I’ve seen of it, Jaleco did a great job of bringing over the visual style of the game. The oversized character sprites probably are the most notably impressive visual achievement of Avenging Spirit. Although it does push the Gameboy a little too hard. Don’t be too surprised to stumble upon some slowdown when three or more enemies run on screen at once, but it rarely gets in the way of gameplay. Unfortunately, it does mess with the upbeat soundtrack. The soundtrack is so fast paced that minor slowdown can be heard easily, even if the game appears to be running smoothly. The title also features some impressive cinematics at the beginning and end of the game as well some shorter scenes between each stage.
With only six stages, Avenging Spirit will be over before you know it. The Nintendo 3DS’ save states don’t exactly help the length of the game either, but even without it, it shouldn’t take you more than maybe two to three hours to complete. Possibly less depending on how good you are. The difficulty does definitely ramp up facing you with a challenge toward the end. There a couple of ways you can extend the experience. There are two different endings, a bad and good ending, as well as an Expert mode to increase the difficulty. Although Expert mode requires a cheat code to unlock. So, GameFAQs is your friend.
Avenging Spirit is an entertaining and fun 2D action platformer. Essentially, it’s Kirby before Kirby existed. While the Gameboy version doesn’t seem to flow as smoothly as the arcade release, it is still an impressive title. For $2.99, you can find more bang for buck elsewhere, especially on DSiWare. But if you were disappointed in the lack of Kirby’s absorbing powers in the original Gameboy release on the Virtual Console, Avenging Spirit has just what you need. Overall, the experience feels well worth price.
out of 10
- Kirby-like power absorption mechanics
- Visuals that capture the arcade version’s spirit
- Large variety of characters to possesses
- Impressive cinematics
- Controls feel a bit slow and cumbersome
- Minor slowdown that effects the upbeat soundtrack
- Some minor annoyances in design