'Til (six levels after) death do us part.
If Avenging Spirit has taught me anything, it’s that I’ve been taking the wrong approach to my throwback arcade game collection. I’ve generally gone for nostalgia, buying games I loved in the past. That often leads to disappointment, as the games I enjoyed in my teens haven’t carried well into my…not teens.
Of Avenging Spirit, however, I had no knowledge before starting this review. The game was originally released to arcades in the ’90s, then ported to Nintendo GameBoy and iOS. I finally caught up to it on the Nintendo Switch, and I’m happy I did.
This 2D action adventure begins when you die and your girlfriend is kidnapped. Nothing to be done about that, right? Wrong. Her dad resurrects you as a ghost so you can hunt down the mobsters who caused all of this and free the lady. Why doesn’t dad just do this himself? Because it’s the ghost powers that matter here.
Your spirit body isn’t much use on its own, so you have to inhabit other people in order to play the game. You select one of four host bodies at the start, but you’ll be able to possess other bodies throughout the game.
Take them over and you get their powers.
You then have two life bars to manage: one for your ghost and one for your possessed body. The former depletes while you’re in ghost form, so you’ll need to stay in possession of an enemy in order to keep things moving along.
The wide variety of enemies to possess keeps things interesting as you work your way through the game’s six levels. As with all arcade games, Avenging Spirit isn’t terribly long. That’s fine, however, because the possession hook isn’t enough to carry the player through a prolonged adventure. And beyond that, Avenging Spirit is pretty much what you’d expect from a game of this era.
The platforming does stay interesting thanks to both horizontal and vertical travel. It’s surprising how refreshing changing up directions can be, as you’re otherwise relying on scenery and enemy variety to keep things compelling. Avenging Spirit does give you a lot to look at as it moves along, but it’s the gameplay change-ups that’ll keep you going.
The graphics hold up pretty well, too. As with most 2D, sprite-based platformers, the game’s visuals are colorful, charming, and fun to look at. Even if you’ve never played this game before, players familiar with its era will feel welcome within its environment. The same goes for the controls, which take no time to get used to. That’s not to say they don’t feel clunky at times, however. You’ll never die from not hitting the right button combo, but not hitting it at the right moment could be a thing.
Avenging Spirit has a few other features going for it, too, including a bunch of display options to help capture that ’90s arcade feel. Most of these work pretty well in both docked and handheld mode, either of which are perfectly suitable for the game. There’s also a two-player mode which allows for local co-op, greatly increasing the game’s longevity. Multiple endings may do so, as well, if you’re not happy with the first one you get. These compensate for the lack of other modern features, such as online leaderboards.
If I’d played Avenging Spirit before, I’m not sure I would’ve dipped once more into the well. It’s a fine game, but probably not one that’s worth reliving. That said, I enjoyed my first time through it. And at only $5.99, it’s easy to recommend it for fans of classic action platformers.
Review: Avenging Spirit (Nintendo Switch)
Avenging Spirit is a lesser-known ’90s arcade game with a unique “possession” angle that helps distinguish it from the excess of retro platformers available on the Switch. It’s worth a playthrough, especially if you’re unfamiliar with its charms.