As characters do damage they fill up a Friendship Gauge, which can be spent to call on support attacks from nearby characters and sometimes even a full-team attack or two. Using your Friendship Gauge will make or break most fights. There are still pages of obscure statistics if you'd like to look through them, but they just don't have as much of an effect on fights as Friendship does.
Between fights, you'll equip your group with the best equipment your blacksmith has to offer, shaping what skills and strengths they have. A couple of the characters are worth keeping around for their unique and powerful abilities alone, like your healer friend Diaz, who can harness a powerful Earth Guardian spell when he stands on special tiles. Most characters, however, aren't that different from others that share their job type, and gain abilities based on what they're wearing.
The menu for the blacksmith requires you to scroll through all the equipment you've unlocked to see what's new, but it isn't until late in the game all the scrolling becomes an annoyance. The biggest problem is that equipment can only be forged after you've found the materials to create it. The materials seem to appear randomly on the battlefield, and with no way to predict or search our specific items, you might want a new set of shiny bone armor and have to settle for a lackluster shell shield.
With 40 characters, 150 missions and (eventually) a sprawling list of items, Spectral Force 3 is huge. Unfortunately, a large portion of the content doesn't ever feel like it has a concrete purpose for being in the game. Collecting each character is fun, but not as fulfilling when you realize that you'll be leaving almost all of them by the wayside. After you destroy a couple factions, you'll start to notice that many of the missions are very similar - maybe the Undead and Chivalrous Knights aren't that different after all.
But buried underneath the sometimes slopped-on content is fairly competent strategy game. It's challenging enough for serious gamers, but forgiving enough that you can go ahead a use your favorite Sorceress even if a goblin Warrior would be stronger. For gamers who want to pretend that their two favorite Spearmen really are special even if it wouldn't make a difference if they traded equipment, we can definitely recommend Spectral Force 3.
Jul 30, 2008