Teal Deer : $350 FINE. DON'T AWOO.
Oh boy, reviewing one of my own games here. I'm not sure I can give a completely objective overview of this one, but its been 6+ months since its release, and so far the only commentary I've gotten has been fairly positive. I should note that this game was made for a very specific audience, and not the OHR community itself, so most of the game's references and content will probably go right over your head. On the other hand, if you're a big Timestream Saga fan, or have been involved with any of the myriad stories and tabletop nights with my closer friends, this game's probably right up your alley.
I should also preface this by saying that this game walks right up to the line of lewdness standards most OHR games have and then proceeds to beat those standards with an aluminum bat. I've made a rule of not actually showing anything, but if you're the sort of person who giggles uncontrollably at the mention of large breasts, then OH BOY DO WE HAVE A SHOW FOR YOU.
So the game's story opens up with Hati the girl-wolf babysitting her younger half-brother Kotaru, and playing some familiar sounding video games with him. Hati's mother comes in and says that Hati can either take her brother trick-or-treating, or she can clean up the mess she made in the bathroom earlier. They go around the neighborhood a bit, see her adoptive "uncle" and friends taking a nap after a rambunctious party, visit her boyfriend and family, and finally stop off at her aunts's house to load up on sugary sweets because they're giving out the good stuff. Not just the full size snickers, we're talking whole BAGS. But Kotaru gets scared off by an overly-enthusiastic manservant (with a chainsaw), and manages to stumble into a summoning circle where he's magically spirited away. Hati's aunts say they could get him back - but it would either take too long OR be irresponsibly dangerous, but if Hati herself underwent some rapid training to become a summoner then she could simply whisk him back herself. And so, in the words of Phoenix - you play as a furry who spends 90% of your time in a room indirectly traumatizing a younger furry.
There's some indirect and direct subtext here about how Hati's part of a community/family that is openly supportive and accepting of their members. It's also a LARGE family at that - Hati has no less than four younger siblings/half-siblings, and a few older brothers and sisters too. The family tree's got to be more tangled up than the Lannisters and Starks, but that might be to Hati's advantage here. Once Kotaru goes missing, her aunts are there the whole game supporting her emotionally and materially - with advice when she needs it, and beneficial items to help her in her training.
So Hati has (2) different ways to summon beings to her - one in the form of semi-random encounters, and the other in the form of allies (more on them later). The regular encounters are fought in the form of a menu, the player simply selects the rank/difficulty of what monsters they'd like to fight, and then a wave of monsters will appear to challenge the player. Defeating them rewards the player with items, experience, and currency which the player can turn in at a nearby shop for additional resources. After so many waves of enemies, the player will be tested against a boss battle to checkpoint the player's strength and skill before allowing them to proceed to higher difficulties of enemies. After so long, the final boss is available to fight, and beating him frees Kotaru back into Hati's care. Simple enough, right?
You might have noticed there's no mention of dungeons at all here. No spooky crypts, no haunted houses, no hellish firescapes to traverse and explore. No hidden treasure chests. No annoying fetch-quests where you have to backtrack to previous areas and talk to oddly specific NPCs to get some reward. In fact, this is an RPG that's cut ALL of that out just to focus solely on the battles and strategy. So, how do THOSE work?
Spooks and Summons is a spiritual successor to War on Christmas and No More Villains, in that each "hero" has a particular role they specialize in during battle. They generally fall into one of six roles - physical attacker, elemental magic user, healer, rogue, party buffer, and enemy debuffer. There's a tiny bit of overlap in between the individual heroes's skills, especially at higher levels, but for the most part each character is fairly proficient at what they're designed to do. While War on Xmas and Villains has a pretty narrow range of equipment selections to gear your units up with, Spooks is perfectly happy to let the player turn their party healer into a sword-using warrior if they really want to.
Hati herself is playable as well, and represents the "seventh" hero type/role - that of the party generalist. She's got a range of abilities that let her partially fill in missing gaps in your party composition, though she's not always the optimal healer/mage/support you'll need. That being said, if for whatever reason the game just won't give you a particular ally you want, Hati can fill their shoes just fine.
The summonable heroes/allies/spooks are all somewhat RANDOMLY rewarded to the player, using a system similar to Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. Furry and anime fans rejoice, for there is an animate magical girl sequence EVERY time you summon a new spook to join your ranks. Effectively, you'll use a summoning ticket for a chance to pull a random spook, and they'll be added to your party roster for the player to customize their own party members to their liking. In addition to Hati herself, there's a total of 25 unique spooks with different movesets and stats to compliment their potential roles in your party roster. Stronger copies of early level spooks usually come with higher maximum statistics and an expanded spell selection, so there's some direct upgrades for the player to use when their initial party members' utility starts to wear down and the stronger enemies start overpowering them. Old spooks you wish to retire (to make room for new ones) can be dismissed back into the aether by consulting the same tome that most of the game's interactive menus are accessed from.
True to the summoner theme, Hati even manages to conjure up a few Eidolons/Spirit doubles during the course of the adventure ("Eidolon" being taken literally as an alternate self here). Mostly they're variants of Hati's character in other media - one from a Werewolf: The Apocalypse tabletop session, another being the character Night from Vikings of Midgard. So THAT'S where Night went halfway through the game. The last Eidolon is a big BIG shout out to Timestream Saga fans too, and is the cutoff point for when the game suddenly takes a pretty big turn from being a mildly serious but still humorous game to suddenly taking itself too seriously.
The final chapter falls into two parts - defeat some superbosses for some badly needed gear, and then a two-part FINAL battle that's arguably tougher than Xmas and Villains' final battles. Two of the groups of superbosses are references to either other familiar OHR game characters, or Spooks and Summons's patrons and supporters, who had their characters likenesses placed into the game as a giant thank-you. Those two MIGHT be the hardest fights in the entire game, mainly on account of the enemies having various moves that boost eachothers' effectiveness much like the player's party.
The final battle on the other hand? Good luck! You'll have to deal with a party-wide nuke that also inflicts random status ailments, a party-wide MP drain attack to deplete your spellpower, and a self-cleanse that clears the boss of any debuffs you've managed to throw its way. There's a very important secret here, the final theme of the game is that at no point is the player/Hati ever truly alone, in the sense that they can call on spooks to support them, and even Hati's sorceress aunts will even give her items and advice to help her out along the journey. Yes, you could try to speedrun the game in just under two hours and beat every boss without summoning a single ally - EXCEPT for the final battle. It's beatable with patience, even with a sub-optimal party, but it isn't designed to be beaten ALONE.
Best end credits sequence I've made yet.
Every day's a sale. Every sale a win.