SpiritSphere DX (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 27.06.2018

Review for SpiritSphere DX on Nintendo Switch

Developed by Eendhoorn and published by Fabraz of Slime-san fame, SpiritSphere DX is a tennis-action hybrid that seems to be firmly rooted in a Game Boy Color style of aesthetic. Although retro themed indie titles are a dime a dozen nowadays, Fabraz has proven itself time and time again as a team capable of putting out an appropriately retro product. Even if it isn't the developer here, there's weight to it publishing Eendhoorn's title with an inherent implication that SpiritSphere DX (originally released on PC)) is more than just an attempt at playing at the nostalgia of the masses. Thankfully, playing just one match proves that this is very much the case.

What does it mean to be a tennis-action hybrid? For SpiritSphere DX, it means embedding an unprecedented level of chaos into the sport. Gameplay feels eerily similar to the likes of 2D Zelda, but this is a tennis game right down to the core; or, perhaps more accurately, a ping pong game.

There aren't any matches or sets to give off a proper tennis feel, but the small court sizes and short matches do lend themselves to an appropriately ping pong feel. As previously mentioned, matches are typically quick, short bursts, but they do have their own level of intensity to keep them engaging. Most matches will end as soon as someone scores three to five points, a feat that's not particularly difficult or time consuming, but there are several elements at play to either prolong a match or continuously turn the tide.

Screenshot for SpiritSphere DX on Nintendo Switch

The first, and most consistent, is the speed of the ball. Matches are played by knocking the titular Spirit Sphere back and forth, and each hit to it increases its speed greatly. With enough whacks, it will rocket its way back and forth, creating a truly hectic environment. The second is ball type. There are many different types of Spirit Spheres with their own unique effects. Depending on the sphere chosen, matches can inherently change form a simple ping pong bout to a desperate battle for survival. The fire sphere, for instance, shoots flames at an opponent whenever it's hit, meaning that players need to be mindful of where they are in relation to the ball while also staying fairly close to it so they can swing it back.

As perhaps expected, stages themselves act as the third factor. There aren't exactly stage hazards, but layouts vary quite a bit with their own unique gimmicks. One stage in particular requires standing on a switch to open a gate on the opposite side for the Spirit Sphere to slide into, while another has pillars of fire that pop in and out, potentially blocking a goal. Naturally, characters also play a role in how matches play out as everyone has their own unique play style with stats to boot. There are also items that randomly appear to add to the chaos, but skill can circumvent them at all turns.

While all characters play differently, the controls are just about the same for everybody. The d-pad moves, the left face button swings, the right can be charged for a heavy swing, down dodges, and up uses whatever item is equipped at the time. The mechanics are simply enough where just about anyone can pick up a controller and play, but anyone who takes their time to sit down and master the controls with inevitably find themselves dodging around the court and perfectly nailing the Spirit Sphere at their less adept opponents. Worth noting, there's also a curve feature at play where tugging at the analogue stick before a hit can change the direction of the Spirit Sphere, but this requires a decent amount of built up speed and precision to pull off.

Screenshot for SpiritSphere DX on Nintendo Switch

Despite an inherently multiplayer oriented style of design, there is enough single-player content to make SpiritSphere DX an engaging purchase for solo players. The campaign features a light story, but its multiple difficulties, genuine challenge, and ability to unlock new content either through simply playing it or gaining coins to spend at the Sphere Fountain. Whether they be new characters, stages, alternate costumes, or Spheres, unlockables are in plentiful supply and play a big role in giving the title some much needed longevity.

There are also a slew of mini-games to play through. Squash makes for a nice alternative to the typical tennis-like structure, target mode is a fun way of practising movement, and frisbee catch is just a nice, relaxing way to kill some time. Multiplayer itself brings out a few unique modes for large parties.

Boss mode is a fantastic addition that pits two players against someone controlling a boss, while Hand2Hand sees the Switch undocked and flipped vertically so two players can face each other. It's an incredibly creative use of the Nintendo Switch and, while it isn't ideal for high level play, it's a fun way of experimenting with what's possible with the system.

Screenshot for SpiritSphere DX on Nintendo Switch

Disappointingly, there's no online play whatsoever, which is a shame given how much good the core gameplay is. SpiritSphere DX lends itself to an online format and keeping it strictly local will surely hurt its lifetime in the long run. That said, it's not worth skipping just because it lacks online. It's certainly a fault, but whether played alone or with friends, this remains an incredibly enjoyable experience with enough going on mechanically to be engaging on a single-player level.

Although not developed by Fabraz, it's not hard to see why Fabraz would choose to publish SpiritSphere DX. Eendhoorn has done an excellent job at developing an enjoyable, almost addictive title. It doesn't get lost in paying homage to even really play to it. Its aesthetic is a strength independent of nostalgia, and its mechanics feature a low skill floor with a high skill ceiling, leading to immensely satisfying play. It's a title worthy of being on the Nintendo Switch.

Screenshot for SpiritSphere DX on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

From the tight controls to the charming aesthetic, there's very little holding SpiritSphere DX back from being one of the best multiplayer titles on Nintendo Switch. The lack of online play is bound to disappoint most, but that's only because the core gameplay is just so strong. Easy enough to pick up, but difficulty to master, SpiritSphere's skill ceiling is through the roof, harbouring the potential for some genuinely impressive play styles. On top of that, it's not as if there isn't enough single-player content to keep players active. Between the campaign, target mode, and the slew of unlockables, it's a title designed around holding one's attention for as long as possible. SpiritSphere DX is a must buy for anyone craving local multiplayer on their Switch.

Developer

Eendhoorn Games

Publisher

Fabraz

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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