Licensed games are always a mixed bag. Sometimes it works out, other times it is a complete disaster. More often than not, it is a complete disaster.
Critically speaking, Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective was such a tragedy. But as critics are wont to do, they’re exaggerating. If you’ve ever wanted to play a Yu Yu Hakusho video game, then Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective, based on the hit manga and anime, might just be what you need.
Released in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance, Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective is a strange yet oddly compelling title that received little love upon its release but is now worthy of consideration. Mainly because everything retro is hot right now, but also because there are a few solid mechanics going on here that are pretty cool.
It is an action-adventure title and the plot focuses on the Yu Yu Hakusho storyline arc of the same name. The player is put in control of one of six characters from the eponymous series to complete storyline scenarios. It follows the storyline of the titular series, so there may not be many revelations for those that have followed it closely. But for those of us unfamiliar with Yu Yu Hakusho, the story is pretty solid from an outsider’s perspective.
Yusuke Urameshi is a 14-year old with a bad attitude. One day he sacrifices himself saving another child and is given a second chance at life by the Grim Reaper but as a “spirit detective,” or someone who investigates the appearances of demons and the like on Earth.
The game’s main venue is a maze-like series of halls that the player can roam through freely. Armed with a compass and objectives, the player makes their way through these labyrinthine corridors engaging in both melee attacks as well as spiritual abilities, this game’s form of magic.
While some stages require one particular character be used, the later part of the game truly opens up and allows more of the roster to become viable. The player can level their characters by placing them through more and more combat, of course.
Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective was a commercial success for Atari although it is difficult to see why. Even by modern standards the game is rough, but then again this is the era of the indie game.
The graphics are serviceable. Of particular note are the character models. Hit detection remains a huge issue throughout the game and makes it unnecessarily difficult and frustrating. The music and sound aren’t doing the experience any favors but there’s always the mute button. Probably best for fans of the anime and manga series, Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective is nonetheless a unique take of the action-adventure concept for the GBA.
While not executed to quite the level you would expect of a licensed title from a popular series, Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective makes up for it in heart. Not the best game, but far from the worst game ever made (as some called it upon release).