What do you get when you mix the visual and thematic trappings of The Legend of Zelda, the fighting style personality of Street Fighter II and the customization options of Super Smash Bros.? Apparently tennis, as it so happens.
SpiritSphere DX, developed by Eendhoorn and published by Fabraz, unequivocally wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but at no point does that come to define SpiritSphere DX. It takes those homages and uses them as seasoning that makes for its own, unique dish. It’s simple yet elaborate, the type of thing that’s easy to get into but unveils a certain depth as you keep playing.
Each game is played with a character on either the top or bottom of the screen, who are tasked with sliding a sphere (which actually feels very much like table hockey) into their opponent’s goal while defending their own. The layers keep piling up as you go. Each character has a standard attack with which you can control the direction it goes, and a special attack that you must charge but adds spin and a dash for those moments where you need to make a quick save. They’re all pretty easy to pick up on, and each character you play has their own variation with which you can tune the difficulty or set up a challenge for yourself.
The game goes one deeper by providing you with power-ups you can nab through regular play. There are also coins, but we’ll get to those in a moment. You’ll grab items that can do things like send bombs to the opposite field, which gives the game a nice sense of randomness that can even up matches against stronger opponents. Which brings us to the next layer, the varied stages and the obstacles within. Each stage is unique in shape and has things like weeds to block your net or pillars of fire the sphere will bounce off.
SpiritSphere DX is at its best as a multiplayer game. There is a single-player campaign in which you take a selected character up against a gauntlet of ten stages (again not unlike Street Fighter II), but the AI is random, there isn’t much story beyond the witty banter between opponents before matches and there’s a boss battle that feels unfair at times. The reason you’d want to delve into this mode is because you’ll amass coins you can use to unlock new characters, new skins and variants on the sphere that change up the gameplay dramatically.
The more choices, the merrier, as these options shine in multiplayer mode. SpiritSphere DX works well on Switch because the opportunities to play with others are plentiful. There is no online play, but this is the type of experience that is best had in the company of friends and family. Between characters, power-ups, stages and spheres you have a plethora of things to do that keep the game fresh. My preferred method of play is the Head2Head mode, which has you and another player holding the Switch with Joy-Cons attached in a sort of cocktail table manner that for whatever reason is more fun than it has any right to be.
SpiritSphere DX is the type of game I’m glad I can access at any given moment because its pick-up-play style is perfect for everything from road trips to decompressing for a few minutes and yet still feeling a sense of accomplishment from nabbing coins to unlock new ways to play. SpiritSphere DX is the best table hockey, uh, Zelda-styled, ah, competitive game I’ve seen in a very long time.
SpiritSphere DX is available for exclusively for Switch.
Disclosure statement: Review code for SpiritSphere DX was provided by Fabraz. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.