Game Review: “Avenging Spirit” (Nintendo Switch)
Upon first hearing about Avenging Spirit, I immediately thought of an old GameCube game called Geist. Ever play that one? Well, the gist is, you play as a ghost who possesses enemies and then uses their individual abilities to progress. Definitely a similar concept to Avenging Spirit, but after playing through it, I am more reminded of the old SEGA Genesis game, Kid Chameleon. Ever play that one? It’s probably the most familiar of the three games I’ve mentioned so far, but then I realized something… I seem to really like the games where you play as a several different characters. Like Sengoku! Play that one?
In any case, Jaleco’s arcade game Avenging Spirit is coming this week to home consoles.* Despite my regular arcade crawling in the 90s, this is still the first time I’ve had the chance to play the game. It’s too bad, too, as Avenging Spirit very well may have been one that I would have dropped quite a few quarters into back in the day.
You play as a ghost whose spirit energy constantly drains until you possess one of the enemies. You then play as the possessed bad guy, using their specific power and abilities against every other baddie that comes your way. Naturally, each stage has a boss section where the formula changes up just a bit. You are no longer changed back into a ghost form when your host body dies, so whoever you end up reaching the end of the level with is who you are forced to use in the fight against the boss. Choose wisely!
One of the most fun aspects of Avenging Spirit is that there are quite a few different bad guys to experience, each one with their own unique skills and abilities. My favorites were the ninjas for their high jumping abilities, and the wizards with their magical firepower. However, even the least enjoyable characters were still somewhat fun, and you still get to learn a completely different skill set on the fly, which keeps the gameplay fresh.
For an arcade game from the “quarter cruncher” era, Avenging Spirit is not terribly hard, you can find yourself in some difficult spots. For instance, if you find your host body dies while too far from another enemy… to put it simply… you’re gonna have a bad time. Your ghost form is not very fast, and that spirit energy bar drops pretty quickly. Luckily, bad guys are not in short supply most of the time, so you may just find one of the secret characters if you explore some of the harder to reach areas with the ghost. There’s definitely a bit of strategy involved with intentionally “killing off” your most gracious of hosts in order to pick up a fresh new victim, one better equipped for the upcoming area.
Almost every area seems to have quite a few secrets to be found. Secret items, secret passages, secret characters… check, check, and check! Early in the game, you are also given a quest to be on the lookout for three keys throughout the game. If you manage to find all three, then it completely changes the end of the game. That’s a nice bit of replay value for a 90s arcade game.
The 2D sprite graphics in Avenging Spirit look smooth for their time, and the soundtrack works well enough for what it is, but I didn’t hear any tunes that stuck with me. At least it wasn’t jarring to the point of my wanting to turn it off. There are a few customization options available, but outside of the main game, there aren’t really any extras.
As I understand it, there is apparently a way to play a 2-player mode somehow, though I unfortunately (and perhaps embarrassingly) was not able to figure out how to play it. If I have a significant complaint about Avenging Spirit, it is that there could be more explanation for things like this. Similarly, it would be nice to know what each of the items in the game actually does. I know the bottle refills your spirit energy, but the hearts… I think those are just points. Not that you can’t have a good time playing without a user manual, but after enjoying Avenging Spirit so much, I was just hoping to find a gallery or something for a little bit more. KnowutImean?
Pro-tip! You can find a music test by using the dip switches! I love sound tests! And switches!
At only six stages long, Avenging Spirit may not be a sure bet for modern gamers who have moved on to 60+ hour adventures. However, if you are a retro gaming enthusiast or a retired arcade-crawler like me, then I definitely recommend checking out Avenging Spirit. It’s exactly the type of arcade game that you can enjoy going back to over and over just to play as the different character types. Go forth, spirit, and avenge!
Avenging Spirit is published by Ratalaika Games and will be available on 29 July for PS4, PS5, Xbone, SeXbox, and Nintendo Switch.
*Disclosure: A copy of Avenging Spirit was provided by Ratalaika Games to The Splintering for the purpose of this review.
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