When I was recapping issues of Nintendo Power prior to the release of the SNES, I did a Quality Control review of Willow for the NES, a game which took the action RPG elements of the Legend of Zelda, and combined them with a level & EXP system, like the Y’s games. I thought it was pretty decent. Now that Nintendo Power has brought us to the 16-bit generation, and presented a 16-bit Zelda-alike, I figure it’s time to revisit the genre to see how it’s progressed in this generation.
The forces of the Freilian Empire has imprisoned all of their own people in a dark realm, under the control of the dark lord Deathtoll (called Dark Gaia in the Japanese version). The King and Queen having done this to get control of Deathtoll’s great power. However, the Master (Gaia in the Japanese version), takes pity on the people of the world, sending the player character to free them from their imprisonment, and defeat Dark Gaia.
The controls are pretty solid, and most of the puzzles in the game aren’t too obtuse. Additionally, as you go through the dungeons and clear monster lairs (Gauntlet-style monster generators), your successes will have a visible effect on the world around you. Literally – some switches unlock pathways through the dungeon. Others free townspeople and thus the towns you pass through will grow to their former glory as you clear dungeons.
I said most of the puzzles aren’t too obtuse. Some, however, are pretty darn obtuse. There were several occasions where I got stuck based on not knowing where to go. Fortunately, in this age of the internet we access to GameFAQs, as opposed to waiting for advice on where to go in an issue of Nintendo Power Magazine.
The game is actually pretty linear. One of the high points of the Zelda games is the degree of exploration involved in the games, and the fact that you physically travel from place to place – going through everywhere in between. With Soul Blazer, aside from a town and its connected dungeon, when you move on to the next area, you’re essentially teleporting there. This takes away the sense of place that most other CRPGs have (even Willow). Even while Arcana was essentially one dungeon crawl after another, the game still did a good job of getting across that you were traveling across these great distances, and how you were traveling across those distances. Instead, here you step into a temple and are teleported to a temple in the next area. It provides a degree of disconnect that I don’t think was needed, and I think which was only done so you they could set up a series of dungeons in disparate environments – the Water Dungeon, the Forest Dungeon, the Cave Dungeon, etc.
Despite the faults I mentioned, this is an enjoyable RPG with some serious character to it. I’d recommend trying to add this game to your SNES library if you have a SNES or a SNES-alike.