The eruption of indie studios has been a double-edged sword for the gaming industry as a whole.On the one hand, there are a great many poor quality titles flooding the market, making it harder and harder to find the real indie gems. Consequently, this increased level of competition forces quality-focused studios to innovate rather than rest on tried and true tactics. SpiritSphere is a fine example of this philosophy.
SpiritSphere is an easy game to explain to people. It’s essentially tennis being played by characters that control and resemble sprites from a Gameboy Legend of Zelda title. As a strong proponent of Link’s Awakening, I got immediate nostalgia pangs from the simple, squat character models. Also, sometimes they play Squash instead, which is weird, but I like it.One could be forgiven for labeling this as nothing more than an appeal to nostalgia, but SpirtSphere packs more than warm and fuzzy memories. The gameplay is simple, but solid. There are a total of seven characters, each with a mix of the three actions. There’s a fast attack, a charged attack that allows you to curve the titular Spirit Sphere, and a dash. Different arenas add additional quirks and different spheres add even more variation to a match, such as the ball shooting fireballs when struck or dropping money, which can be used to unlock new characters and spheres.The variation keeps matches interesting, even during the single player mode. The solo game is fun, but it tends to fluctuate in difficulty due to the number of variables and games alternating between tennis and squash. It’s all fun until you wind up with an unlucky pull and then things get frustratingly difficult. It’s nothing insurmountable, but the sudden, unpredictable spike can be pretty jarring.
The good news is that the real fun is in the local multiplayer. Playing with a friend minimizes the problems present in the solo campaign. Instead of dealing with tedious AI, games turn into tense standoffs and utter madness, especially with four characters on the board. It’s a shame that there is no online multiplayer planned at this time. An online mode would be a phenomenal addition to an already fun game, allowing the best modes to be viable for people who don’t always like the company.
At the end of the day, SpiritSphere is a fun, innovative little sports game. It effectively pays homage to the games from yesteryear while remaining its own game.