Title: God of War: Ghost of Sparta
Developer: Santa Monica Studios
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 1.1 GB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
Many of Sony Computer Entertainment’s ongoing first-party franchises are developed on Western shores. There are a lot of Sony franchises out there in general that are still exclusive to Sony, but how many of those franchises are still going? Legend of Dragoon has yet to see a sequel. It’s been almost a decade since there has been a new PaRappa the Rapper game released, and Syphon Filter hasn’t gotten any new games since the PSP generation.
Among the franchises that are still getting games, and are still exclusive to Sony platforms, are Western-developed franchises. God of War. Invizimals. LittleBigPlanet. Uncharted. The list goes on, but almost all of these are Western-developed, the most popular and abundant in games being the God of War and Uncharted franchises. Nathan Drake and Kratos are practically the new mascots of the PlayStation world.
With God of War, the PS Vita comes to mine because Vita and PSTV owners can play most of the games of the franchise on the Vita. In fact, if you count PlayStation Now rentals for Ascension, the only game the Vita cannot play is God of War III, which will slowly be discounted via Remote Play. By itself and without streaming, though, the Vita can play God of War, God of War II, Chains of Olympus, and another game. The final God of War game available on the Vita that I have not reviewed yet. Diving into the PSP library, here is my official review of God of War: Ghost of Sparta.
It will be difficult to give a lot of story details without giving you spoilers for the other games in the series, but I’ll do my best. Ghost of Sparta takes place between the events of God of War and God of War II. In this timeframe, Kratos receives a vision and sets off on his own quest to find a family member he had believed to be lost many years before, letting nothing stand in his way of his search, be it the Gods of Olympus or the beasts of the Atlantic seas.
The story of Ghost of Sparta is important to the series, as you’ll see a lot of different aspects and elements that link it with God of War I, II, and III, as well as seeing more backstory behind Kratos and his own family. While this is important for the continuity, the story doesn’t stand on its own quite as well as the other games in the series. There is no imminent world-saving mission at hand. It is simply Kratos seeking his brother from the clutches of a domain that even the Gods will not enter. It’s a decent story, but not nearly as epic as the other games of the series, Chains of Olympus included.
Another thing to note is that it is part of the continuity. I highly suggest you play at least the first God of War before touching this title, as the intro and other segments of the game show end-game spoilers for the first game.
Like the other entries of the series, Ghost of Sparta is an action game with mild puzzle elements. As you play through the game, you will be fighting your way through hordes of enemies as well as solving small puzzles and platforming to get to the next area and continue the story. This formula is the same formula that’s been in the series since the very first game on the PS2.
The game progresses like one long mission, where you move from one area to the next and everything is connected, as opposed to going on missions in other action games. It’s not what I would call an open world, as progression is fairly linear in nature, but everything is connected.
Getting from one area to the other is a matter of puzzle solving as well as fighting enemies and bosses. There are many rooms where the exits will be blocked off until you defeat all of the enemies in the area, be it a group of small enemies or mini-bosses like a Cyclops or Minotaur. You will also have rooms where you have to climb platforms or solve puzzles to open the new area. The game isn’t heavy on puzzle elements, so most of the puzzles will be a matter of moving platforms to jump to a ledge or moving a block or body onto a switch to keep a door open for you to pass through.
Combat, itself, is what will be keeping most of your time. As in the other games of the series, you have the chained blades on Kratos’ arms to deal combos with, as well as being able to do grabbing attacks. You will also learn a few magic spells as you progress through the game as well as finding a new set of weapons called the Arms of Sparta. These are inter-changeable with the blade and can be used as your main weapon.
The other part of combat to be considered are quick time events. Every boss and mini-boss will have quick-time events to further the fight or end the fight. These will be cinematic events with button prompts to damage the enemy and release orbs for health, magic, and experience. While the mini-boss events are not required, the events for bosses are.
The game has RPG elements in there as well, in the form of upgrades. You can collect red orbs as you play through the game from enemies, bosses, and treasure chests. These orbs are used to unlock extra content for the game, but is primarily used to upgrade your equipment and magic. Upgrades can give you new attacks as well as more damage from what you’re upgrading. Red Orbs are plentiful as well, so you shouldn’t have problems upgrading everything to its max level before you reach the final boss of the game.
All in all, Ghost of Sparta does a nice job at retaining the franchise’s formula, but is a very short game. Veterans of the series can finish the game in about 4 hours, give or take. This is roughly half the length of the original God of War. It’s a fun experience, but it’s a very short-lived one, even with the New Game + options and extra game modes towards the end for unlocking costumes and concept art.
Controls for Ghost of Sparta are something interesting. If you own a Japanese PS Vita, you will notice that the controls will be a little different than normal games. Ghost of Sparta is one of the PSP games that will automatically switch over to the Japanese default control scheme. So, you’ll be using Circle in menus to select an option and X to cancel it. This does not affect gameplay, but just menus.
As you play through the game, you will be using the Left Analog Stick to move and the D-Pad to use magic and switch weapons. Since the camera automatically moves for you, there are no camera controls to move to the Right Analog Stick. The two triggers are used for blocking as well as dodging. The face buttons do pretty much everything else. X is used to jump and Square is used for light attacks. Triangle is used for heavy attacks and circle is used to interact with objects as well as grabbing/throwing enemies.
For the most part, it’s the same basic control scheme used for the rest of the series. The main difference is using the Triggers and Left Stick to dodge instead of using the Right Stick, like in God of War Collection. Once you get used to that, it’s pretty easy to play around with.
The presentation is the part of the game that made it shine on the PSP, but also is something to be addressed on the Vita. When you’re playing Ghost of Sparta on the PS Vita and PlayStation TV, you’ll notice that there are a lot of jagged edges. The game is still just as detailed as it was before, but there are a lot more jagged edges with it stretched out on the Vita’s screen. It’s not to a horrendous point, but it’s very noticeable.
Another thing to note about the presentation is slowdown. While this generally doesn’t happen in Chains of Olympus, I found several areas in Ghost of Sparta where the frame-rate would drop for a few seconds and the game would run slower. This isn’t as severe as this same issue is in God of War Collection, but it happened several times as I played through the game. It is an annoyance, especially when you’re in the middle of a fight.