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Friday, August 12, 2011

Review: Avenging Spirit (3DS Virtual Console)


Hosting retro downloads on a service like Virtual Console sometimes throws up a nice surprise; a game you hadn’t had a chance to play when it was new, and perhaps never even heard of. 

Avenging Spirit is one such pleasant surprise. Jaleco’s forgotten platform classic has more than a few resemblances to the Kirby games, only with some actual challenge thrown in. In fact, what Avenging Spirit pioneered doesn’t appear in games nearly as often as it should, and when it does (Square Enix’ woeful Mindjack) it doesn’t work nearly as elegantly as this.

This is a game about a ghost. He’s pretty pissed off (which explains the “Avenging” part of the title), so he goes on a rampage, possessing the bodies of the various goons around the game’s levels, and using them to off their mates. Much like Kirby’s “swallow and transform” ability, our little ghost takes on the abilities and weaponry of those people he possesses, which can range from standard guns right through to rocket launchers and baseballs.




Should the person the ghost possesses die, the ghost is expelled from the body, and has a limited time to find another host. If he’s unable to do that before his “spirit health” bar depletes, he dies (again, I guess). It’s the only way to get the “game over” screen in this game.

Other than the game’s bosses, anyone’s body is up for grabs, so it’s good fun to experiment with different approaches to the various levels. Some hosts have far better equipment and abilities than others – the vampire dude, for instance, is useless, with poor jumping ability and bats as weapons. It’s amusing when he “shoots” those bats though, because when he opens that cloak to fire it looks like he’s flashing the enemy to death.

 On the other hand, the baseball dude is awesome with good jumping ability and a weapon that can bounce around corners, rather than just fire in a straight line; this is especially useful for some bosses which themselves fire projectiles in a straight line.
Unlike Kirby games, Avenging Spirit can at times be quite difficult, especially if you have possessed the wrong body for the situation. The game’s still quite short and sweet (though there are some nice little secrets to find around the place), but the limited health bars and difficult enemy locations can often result in the “game over” screen.

This is probably the least well-known game on the Virtual Console to date, but it’s a hidden little gem. A cheap price (by virtual console standards), and some solid platforming action complement the reasonably unique body-possession gameplay gimmick. The result? One of the better downloads on the 3DS to date.




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Review: Avenging Spirit (3DS Virtual Console)
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