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Spirit Hunters preview: Addictive ghost hunting on 3DS

Who you gonna call? Ghost bu.... er, Spirit Hunters!

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There are eight options on the menu screen, and only one of them involves any spirit hunting. You can snap a new license photo and pore over badges, rearrange your attacks in an inventory, consult the store and brush up on spirit biographies. What's missing is the meat. Hell, Pokémon Black/White 2 packs an alternative reality catching game as a bit on the side; here it's the main attraction. Additionally, the ghosts themselves aren't nearly as imaginative as Ken Sugimori's work, all variants on floating legless humanoids rendered in rather unflattering polygonal models. The concept art is gorgeous, so why not use it? (We'd suggest memory constraints for the eShop.)

THAT'S THE SPIRIT

Though Spirit Hunters invites the comparison with Pokémon - you catch and battle numerous cutesy monsters, record their data and, if you're made of money, buy two versions of the same game - it would be cruel to pit them in the same league. One is a world-conquering franchise; the other a downloadable curio. They do, however, share one key feature, and that's value. With ghosts from 16 families and six elemental types, all with their own habitats to sniff out, the hunt is just as thrilling as the chase.

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As a bonus, you can save match-ups and revisit them later, or share them with your mates with a download code. These repeat performances won't reward with any XP -
for that you'll need to take on prescribed challenges that become available every tenth level. Ultra-rare, ultra-tough ghosts will meet those who stick around. There's one who's a dead ringer for Mike Tyson. Whether Spirit Hunters as a franchise will stick around itself, only time will tell. Lack of polish aside, everything's in place for it to catch on - the collectible critters, the version-specific content, the smart approach to augmented reality. A November release will let budding ghostbusters get in the spirit.

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