As a gamer I’m not a huge fan of mobile gaming. Granted, I have a few games on my phone that I’ve downloaded for those times when I’m without my 3DS on my daily commute, but a week ago I found myself laying in bed sick with my phone charging on my dresser next to me. With not much else to do but convalesce I decided to peruse the Google Play Store’s free games to pass the time with a mindless puzzle game or two.
What I didn’t expect to find was a game like Zynga’s Ayakashi: Ghost Guild. Quite frankly, I couldn’t tell you why I decided to download it. There were two short reviews for the game that didn’t tell me much about it – maybe it was the name that drew me in, I don’t know. Regardless, after figuring that I’d just uninstall it if it sucked, Ayakashi found its way onto my phone.
At its core, Ayakashi is a card-based RPG, without most of the work that an RPG requires. You’re a ghost agent, a human with the ability to converse with spirits that the average person can’t interact with. There are three categories of ghosts: phantoms (ghosts with vengeful spirits), divina (gods and heroes), and anima (embodiments of objects and weapons), and they each hold strengths and weaknesses over each other.
At the beginning of the game you’re told by your ghostly companion, Mira (an anima of an ancient mirror of an old family lineage), to choose which of the three categories your first “daemon” (aka your first card – think Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh!) will be. This daemon will be the leader of your deck. By going through the game’s story, you will continuously find new cards to add to your deck by “cleansing” various areas throughout Tokyo that are being harassed by angry, restless spirits.
When I say that Ayakashi requires less work than a typical console RPG, I say this because the sole action required for getting through the game’s storyline is by pressing the “investigate” button on your screen when you’re cleansing Tokyo of its rampaging ghosts. Your character has an HP bar, an XP bar, and a bar that represents the percentage of cleansing still required in an area before you can proceed. This is where things started to get a little frustrating for me. Every time you hit “investigate,” a bit of your HP is drained; the further into the story’s chapters that you progress through, the more HP investigation requires. Investigating earns you XP, and when you fill your XP bar you level up, but the farther you get into the story the slower you find yourself trudging along because it takes more and more XP to level up, but your HP is draining faster, and clearing areas takes a longer time.
HP is restored in real-time, so the greater your health the longer you have to wait to continue on in the game, unless of course you want to succumb to the hope of all developers of free-to-play games and pay for gold coins to buy health restorative items. Buying gold coins will also allow you to purchase the ability to summon rare daemons that you can’t come across in the game’s story mode – needless to say I couldn’t tell you how the purchasing process goes.
Fusing your cards levels them up and increases their attack and defense, and some cards “transmigrate,” or evolve, once leveled up high enough. If you find more than one of the same card while investigating (and believe me, you’ll be finding a million of the same handful of cards) you can fuse them together to level them up, or if you find magatama cards specific to either phantoms, divinas, or animas, you can fuse those together as well. Every day between 11:30 and 1:30 the game gives you one free summon, which randomly generates a daemon for you to add to your collection, occasionally producing a rare card if you’re lucky.
Another feature of Ayakashi is the battle system. Players can choose to engage in battles with each other to take special in-game items from each other, and you can recruit crewmates to back you up in battles. What sucks is that anyone at any time who happens to stumble across you can battle your for your items, but you don’t actually engage in a live battle with them – there’s a feed at the bottom of your page that lets you know that your character was challenged to a battle however long ago, and whether or not you lost and had one of your items stolen from you, with you having been completely unaware of and uninvolved in the battle at all.
Ayakashi has promise. It reminds me somewhat of Phoenix Wright in that the game’s action is told entirely through text and changing still drawings of the characters, but it has nowhere near the level of involvement as the Phoenix Wright series. What it suffers from are the typical downfalls of free-to-play games, like long waits to continue playing unless you want to buy items to restore health, and missing out on rare daemons unless you want to pay for gold coins to summon them. Even when you’re given a chance at the end of every chapter to capture the rare ghost in the area you’ve been cleansing, generally the ghost will get away – but just put in your credit card info and you can buy a cabal chain, an item that guarantees capturing that ghost! But if you choose not to, be prepared to settle for the same five or so daemon cards that pop up endlessly during your investigations that really suck and that you’ll get sick of seeing by the first couple of chapters.
Ayakashi is very pretty to look at (gorgeous, detailed art that reminded me of Muramasa: The Demon Blade) and listen to (the limited soundtrack is actually quite good), and has some fairly deep RPG elements that surprised me for a free-to-play mobile game. This one won’t get uninstalled from my phone, but it does leave something to be desired in terms of keeping you interested and not reminding you constantly that you could be having more fun if you were willing to pay for in-game items that should be free.