In November of last year, Konami released their first Master of Spirits title on the Game Boy Advanceâ€”which was based on the anime series entitled Shaman King. Unfortunately, poor timing meant the game went largely unnoticed by the masses, while games like Half-Life 2 and Halo 2 predictably stole the sequel spotlight. With the recent Master of Spirits 2 release, Konami has decided to play it safe, releasing the game amid the usually quiet summer season. Evidently this has proven a much wiser choice, since Master of Spirits 2 has received wide media coverage and is quite popular with gamers as well.
Like the first Master of Spirits game, you play as Yoh Asakura, the main character from the established anime. After a recent unknown illness to the King of Spirits, who has gone completely silent, the Shaman Tournament has been suspended until further notice. When Yoh travels to a nearby village, he notices it is deserted. Suddenly Zeke appears and explains that his Spirit of Fire has devoured all the souls in the village and he plans to do the same with Yohâ€™s soulâ€”but oddly not until Yoh grows stronger. This is where Yohâ€™s adventure begins.
Clearly Master of Spirits 2 is built on the Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow engine. This can be seen as both a good and a bad attribute. The Castlevania games are excellent, and utilizing the engine means that Master of Spirits 2 will thrive via that which has already proven itself worthy. The bad side, however, is that consumers could easily be turned off by the obvious similarities with Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, because they purchased Master of Spirits 2 looking for an original title rather than an Aria of Sorrow reincarnation. Plus, changing levels is done via a large world map where paths are uncovered as the game unfoldsâ€”much like in Castlevania IIIâ€”which also stays within the defined Castlevania spirit.
Being a game based on a Shonen Jump manga, Master of Spirits 2 expects players to already have archived knowledge of Shonen Jump; indeed, there isnâ€™t any extensive historical background provided for the gameâ€™s characters, so if players havenâ€™t read the manga or watched the anime, they may well be in the dark on who is who, what is what, etc.
As the game progresses, Yoh collects spirits, in addition to the one he already has, which is called Amidamaru. These spirits can be taken from the several bosses encountered throughout the game or can be simply found scattered during levels. The specific powers of collected spirits range from simple mechanics like pushing boxes around, to the more substantial delivery of inflicting devastating blows against your foes. Using spirits, however, inevitably decreases your â€˜manaâ€™ pool, so players must choose wisely when it comes to their use.
The in-game sound and music have been taken directly from the Shaman King anime and, bearing in mind that everything duly emanates from a lowly GBA speaker, its all fairly well done. When using spirits, a short voice clip is played to further extend the feeling of being inside the anime series itself. The music in Master of Spirits 2 is extremely vivid and never grows dull.
The negative points found within Master of Spirits 2 mainly focus on the use of the license, which limits the target group of players to merely those whoâ€™ve already read the manga or watched the anime series. A little more background information on characters wouldâ€™ve made for a vastly more accessible game. Another point of detraction occurs through the often-repetitive level gameplay; most of the time you will be running and slashing your way through hordes of skeletons while wondering exactly what the actual point is. The use of spirits makes the gameplay a touch more enjoyable, but repetitive nonetheless.
In the end Master of Spirits 2 emerges as a partial success, and mainly because of the use of the proven Castlevania engine. If you missed the first Master of Spirits gameâ€”which most people didâ€”then you should definitely consider giving the sequel a try. Itâ€™s a fun, well-rounded adventure with enough replay value to keep you occupied for a good while.