Being a huge Final Fantasy and JRPG fan I was always trying to find similar games on whatever system possible. A friend of mine insisted a while back that Terranigma is the best RPG on the SNES, even better than Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI (III). Well… I couldn’t believe that, at least not before I tried the game. So I tried it! And played it! In both English and Japanese, and now I am finally reviewing it 🙂
Terranigma (Tenchi Souzou, 天地創造,The Creation of Heaven and Earth) developed by the beloved designers of Quintet (Soul Blazer, Act Raiser and more) is not a pure JRPG. It shares all the similar traits of leveling up, using magic, having a nice storyline, going through dungeons and a world map etc. but it is actually a action-RPG more similar to perhaps Secret of Mana. What this means is that there are no random battles and you just meet your enemies in the regular overworld and start to hack them (similar to Zelda, I guess).
You play as Ark, a jerk who is known around town for being a jerk. But what is more interesting than that jerk, is the town he lives in. It is on a sky continent, separated from a world down below that is in ruins. Yes, the world below has become an uninhabitable wasteland for some reason and because of a series of events unfolding in the first village it is up to you to rebuild the world below (for reasons you will see why when and if you actually play the game). You revive the continents in mystical towers found around the first village, and then finally descent to the wasteland where you have to fight monsters, and fix stuff so life can thrive once again. Once life has been restored you have to help humanity grow by doing various main and side quests. The storyline gets a bit stale until towards the end where you are greeted by a fun plot twist and the story gets thrown at you all at once, which is great. At that time Ark is not really a jerk anymore. He grows up probably because he encounters many very serious, meaningful situations while saving the planet, some very touching and other very cruel situations that really make you think. What is interesting is that this planet and world map is shaped like earth so you travel to China, America, Scandinavia and all over! Maybe we were supposed to be like “Oh my God, it was Earth all along!” and experience a Planet of the Apes kind of thing but it’s revealed at the beginning of the game and is to me just a novelty factor except for you won’t get lost (if you know very basic geography, which you should). The dialogue in the game is pretty good and deep.
Right, so the gameplay is an action-RPG setting similar to Zelda or Secret of Mana complete with magic, equipping weapons and armors, items like antidote, potion and that kind of stuff we all know. Arks wields spears and he has some moves like charging attack, jumping charge, regular thrusts and a barrage of quick thrusts by spamming the attack button. Ark runs, jumps and swims in addition so we get quite the set of moves that does not leave you asking for more. The magic system is kind of unbalanced, and most of the time you will be better of just using your spear instead of pausing the game to scroll through your spells and then use it just to be disappointed (in most cases). The most helpful spell is probably the self-healing spell which can keep you going through tough places if you can’t get to an inn and save your game. I have heard many opinions about the magic system, most actually say it is completely useless but I would not go as far as that. Magic can definitely be useful if you know what you are doing, but the spear might be more time-effective.You collect magirocks found throughout the game and they decide the capacity of spells you can have at one time. I have seen many that say the magirocks are one use only, but this is just wrong, you just have to buy the spells back from shops and refill the rocks. Regardless of all that, Ark controls very nicely and the game feels very tight with no complaints about the physics, controls or anything like that. Terranigma has good game feel and the gameplay gets very addictive. All boss battles feel great, and just general fighting in Terranigma is very fun, and definitely more fun than in Secret of Mana and maybe even A Link to the Past. The level design is pretty good.
The only real faults I can find with the gameplay is that sometimes it can be confusing knowing where to go next. Sometimes it is just a matter of talking to someone in order to trigger an event so you can move forward in the game, and that to me is just a giant waste of time. I just looked up where to go or what to do in those situations if I had wasted too much time doing nothing. I am a grown man, I don’t want to waste my time like that. 1 or 2 situations were partly because i was playing the game in Japanese and my Japanese is, while very good it is not near native speaking level like my English. So yeah, if you are like me don’t be afraid to look that stuff up cause it might ruin the experience for you cause the game is plenty long just by itself.
Ark is the only playable character in the game. You meet many characters along the way but most of them are pretty forgettable, some are just annoying. I never really connected to Ark as a character. Terranigma to me is more about the big picture story and less about character development. Ark is almost like the nameless hero from Dragon Quest that never talks, a character that is supposed to be you in a lot of ways. I treated Ark that way, and I could not care less about his little love story in the game. Maybe it would have been better to go with the nameless hero route instead of half-assing some character development. This is kind of a bummer but it does not ruin the game by any means.
Actually, one more fault that should be mentioned is that is very easy to be over or underleveled in Terranigma. If you spend some time grinding then you might get overleveled and the game will end up being way too easy, or too hard if you go too fast, ignoring enemies. This is often just a question of just 2 levels and the difficulty level of the game changes completely if you are overleveled. Fighting in Terranigma is very fun so it is very easy to forget in the action that you accidentally just grinded way too much. So just try to find a nice balance and the game will be more enjoyable.
The game’s graphics are very good, which is to be expected since it comes out at the end of the SNES lifespan and the music is very good too, with many nice tunes. The music does not quite reach the levels of Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger in my opinion, and to be honest after all these faults I have mentioned, Terranigma ultmately falls a bit short when trying to reach the same level of masterpiece that FFVI and Chrono Trigger are.Terranigma is still a very good game that I recommend to all JRPG/action-RPG fans out there looking for something nostalgic. The storyline gets very interesting, the gameplay is addictive and just the feeling of your objective, of slowly reviving the planet feels great and accomplishing. A lot of people might have missed this one since it never got officially released in the US, but it was released in Europe which is very rare, and a bit strange but make sure to pick up this one if you can! It might be difficult to get an English PAL version, but I am sure you will find a way to play it 😉 You won’t regret it!
Lasting appeal 8,5
Is it fun? 8,5
Overall 8,5 a very good game!
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