Spore Hero Arena doesn't quite share the same premise as its bigger and more dominant brother, but it does retain key franchise features, as well as introduce new ones. The key component of Spore - the ability to customise your creature species - is alive and well in Hero Arena, except that the range of parts and colours requires time to unlock, and you'll only be able to take control of one creature. Still, there is a decent amount of variety available at the beginning and, through a very helpful tutorial, you'll be rocketing through space in no time.
Rocketing through space, I hear you say in puzzlement? Why yes, as that is the main plot premise of this game. The creature you create, be it a hideous monstrosity that mortal men should not lay eyes on or a Pikachu clone, is destined (like every other character in every other game...funny, that) to become the galactic fighting champion of, erm, fighting. To accomplish such a feat, you need to guide him/her/it around the many planets of the solar system, collecting blue meteorite fragments, in order to earn the right to challenge for the red medals of each, after which you can take on the top-ranking fighters in the Arena. Phew, easy right?
To explore these planets, you'll be guiding your creation around via an isometric 3D view, which the DS seems well-suited to doing, except it might just be a bit too zoomed in here. There is a map on the top screen so you can find your way around each themed world, but you'll find yourself bumping into things often, thankfully with little consequence on your heath meter. The touch screen is your guiding tool here, and bar a few occasional off-center blips, movement is fluid and responsive. Touching objects, such as pieces of food, or native world-inhabitants, allows you to interact with them, setting up challenges to earn the aforementioned blue meteorite pieces. It's these challenges that upgrade Spore Hero Arena from 'partially enjoyable exploration toy', to 'partially enjoyable exploration toy with some scrapping thrown in for good measure'.
Y'see, not unlike the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up game, Hero Arena rips a few pages out of the Smash Brothers rulebook in regards to fighting. Touch control is still your main moving tool in the arena, but the d-pad (or A, B, X and Y buttons if you're a lefty) lets you bite, spit or claw with whatever mouth and arms you've given your creature, as well as a shield button to weaken enemy attacks. The health meter used in the field is in effect here too, alongside a special attack meter. Attacks drain the health meter as you'd expect, but instead of making the creature lose a life in the event of it being drained, all it does is determine how far you can be knocked back. Just like a strange hybrid of sumo wrestling and Smash Bros., the only way you can win or lose a standard match is with a ring-out. As such, even with varying set challenges (limited lives, stronger enemies, etc.) and three pre-set special attacks like flamethrower or slow-down, combat gets old quite quickly, especially since the enemy AI often gangs up on you.
There is little else to do aside from travel to new planets after finding batteries, fighting opponents, and collecting medals. There are a number of worlds that will take some time to beat, but apart from finding and earning new parts for your creation, there is minimal incentive, aside from online and local multiplayer. Spore Hero Arena does a decent job of playing to its host's strengths, but doesn't offer a truly compelling product when all is said and done.