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Yooka What? Rareware returns with Soma Spirits!

  • zDS
  • 04/19/2017 09:51 PM
Soma Spirits is a small-ish turn based RPG filled to the brim with heart, soul, and all sorts of synonyms for charm. All custom assets by a game designer and his composer. The whole experience was a light-hearted twist on the genre as a whole with a bucket of worthy influences that shine through something that is ultimately the developer's alone. Inspiring, motivating, and overall warm and cozy... Let's review this thing!

This was a long time coming from me. I had played most of the original Soma Spirits before life happened and halted my playthrough. Then Rebalance came out. So I had actually played through most the game twice. You don't see me complaining though. It was my thrill and pleasure to do so.

(This review is going to focus on Normal mode for Rebalance.)

Soma is a world split in half by joy and sorrow. Step into the shoes of Heart and Soul: the guardians of their respective halves of the world and try to solve various dilemmas for those who inhabit the land. Everything about this game is so god darn likable. It's an awesome quirky hybrid of N64 Rareware and the Mother series. You see smiley faces or sad faces on just about everything depending on the world you're in and that reminds me of old Nintendo magic (Mario World and whatnot). The enemy designs remind me something out of Kirby games. All in all, Soma Spirits is none of the games I mentioned. It is its own thing that gives you familiar warm feelings of a considerable amount of past greats.

Traverse between two worlds to solve simple puzzles at a blink of an eye, it's hard to imagine this is even made in RPG Maker at times with how smooth it all is with dynamic music shifts. Much like the developer's previous title Brave Hero Yuusha, the levels are designed with nothing but care and with a certain kindness toward the player that rewards instead of punishes. You can save anywhere and you never feel starved for healing and the battles are reasonably paced.

The World of Joy is immensely positive where everything is smiling and just about everything and everyone is happy. The music is cheery and something like you would hear in Banjo Kazooie. The World of Sorrow is the opposite. Everyone is miserable, cynical, frowning, and the music is kinda like a mix between Brave Hero Yuusha and VVVVVV. The music of each world sounds so vastly different yet they are like different personalities of one another. If you are in the World of Joy for 30 seconds and switch to the World of Sorrow, the song for the World of Sorrow will also be at the 30 second mark. It's very innovative.

Generally you need to switch between the worlds to solve simple puzzles. Sometimes the path is blocked in the World of Joy so you need to enter the World of Sorrow and press a switch to impact both worlds. The worlds impact one another. Sometimes the worlds share a chest with different results and you can only choose one. Decision making is an important theme throughout the game.

The dungeons always felt the right length and never overstayed their welcome. There are no random encounters. You have the option to dodge all, though sometimes red colored foes may be near impossible to dodge. It was a bit annoying to have enemies come back right away if you switch worlds but I understand why it was that way. It's a mild inconvenience at most.

The battles are traditional JRPG like Dragon Quest with the fun twist of a duo who is affected by which world you currently reside in. If you are in the World of Joy, Heart will have access to his main spells while Soul will only have access to his Support skills. Vice versa for when you reside in the World of Sorrow. The battles themselves are relatively simple that can be vanquished with some good ol' cooperation exploits from the duo. Such as, granting one another buffs that allow powerful follow up attacks.

The battling becomes more complex as you proceed, something I felt the first version lacked a bit. The game all in all was easy yet challenging enough to be fun and satisfying. To be honest, the enemies are so charming that the game could have gotten away with a much worse battle system. No one tell the developer that though.

The battle backgrounds and monster designs are where the art talent shine. I have nothing much to say about them other than how great I think they are.

The tileset art, however, is somewhat inexperienced. Yet for some reason that adds to the overall experience. The game's style is blocky like a NES game yet covered in detail and shading that fits more for SNES. It's a good mix of the two.

There is one thing I want to see in the future from the developer and that's a more organic approach to the maps. Example: you see a tree and you can't walk behind it. Sometimes the game felt restrictive in the sense I didn't believe I was blocked off other than because the developer wanted me to be.

The different locations of Soma Spirits all have a story arc to them that require a difficult decision of either taking someone's happiness or sadness so they can move on to a different aspect of their life. The choices you make have a great impact on the outcome of the game. The game focuses on difficult decisions the whole family could enjoy rather than something to tear one's heart out. I respect this approach as it is not one I'd normally expect from an indie developer with freedom to do what they please. It just shows to me that the kindness the game emits is genuine.

There tends to be no correct choice, yet there is also no wrong choice. Sometimes you may have to beat the maturity into the foe, yet I always felt like it worked out in the end for me. I did play it rather balanced as I felt that was right for the world of Soma and something it needed.

The scenarios feel like they come from everyday problems people tend to have. Sometimes in life I feel like I have two ways to go about things and often ponder long and hard which way is correct. I myself am a positive person who has bouts of negativity due to self esteem issues. The whole concept of the game's story is real and something genuine to express. Sometimes it's okay to be positive yet there is danger to being too positive. Going through life in black and white vision makes one more vulnerable to mistakes rather than one who sees through a grayed vision.

Without giving away any spoilers, the story and choices paid off brilliantly in the True Ending. It was almost like the vision of that end was what gave the developer the tools to make each arc what it was. I predicted what would happen yet I also did not. The story is not about predictability though, it is about genuine emotions and the importance of seeing both sides of the world.

I said in my review of Brave Hero Yuusha that it lacked replayability. The developers listened and made Soma Spirits extremely replayable. I'm excited to try out drastically different choices in the future.

The game has two very distinct styles of music, like I had mentioned earlier in this review. It was a risky decision as not everyone will be happy with such drastic shifts in the styles. I for one, appreciated it immensely. Music in a video game is of utmost importance to me. The composer did a wonderful job in Brave Hero Yuusha and I have to say he did an even more accomplished job this time in Soma Spirits.

The instrument quality of the World of Joy is a bit wonky. Sometimes the instruments are super nice. Other times they sound a bit sharp and misplaced. Sometimes the songs had moments where it sounded too much like a homage to Banjo Kazooie. With that said, the melodies are all top notch. The battle theme for World of Joy was honestly stuck in my head often after my first attempt of playing the game for months. I don't have much to say about the World of Sorrow music other than how much I like the songs.

Overall, the soundtrack just worked so well together. The areas, battles, and story parts had such fine touches to how a song can add to a video game experience. If there is a Soma Spirits 2 or even a game that has dynamic music again, I would want to see the song pairs to sound more like one another. (The Forest song in World of Joy sounds like a whole different song from the one in World of Sorrow.) Perhaps there can be some work on making the sound effects a bit softer on one's ears as well haha.

The developer and composer have proven time and time again that they are talents. Brave Hero Yuusha was probably my favorite RPG Maker experience and Soma Spirits is even more realized. I highly recommend purchasing and playing. Friendly to those inexperienced with the genre, yet enough depth to satisfy a veteran of it. I feel like a major battle was won with this release. Perhaps the shift of RPG Maker stigma will change in the next couple of years. Soma Spirits Rebalance deserves success. So go play it!

Some minor spoilers:


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Awesome review! I'm glad you really like the music transitions, because I felt particularly good about figuring out how to "save" the music when switching worlds, haha.

I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Haha, I was​ mostly just glad to get the style close enough to B-K that people could tell what I was doing; I was asked at the outset to write "something that sounds like Banjo-Kazooie" so I guess knowing that I got too close to my mark isn't so bad even though it just means I was imitating someone else's style; can definitely work on instrument quality though... my budget forces me to be experimental sometimes.
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