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Reviewed by Eric Dantes Terranigma (Tenchi Souzou in Japan) is a game that grabs you right from the get-go, with a captivating intro sequence that seems at first to bear little in common with the game itself. It's strange and atmospheric, and definitely a step up from Enix's previous work. Once you start playing and immerse yourself into the game world, you're bound to notice that this is one of those titles which has managed to leave you spellbound. The element of greatness, as such, lies within its heart. And perhaps this review will help you understand why. What makes Terranigma so great? It's all the little details, really. The graphics, storyline, plot twists, music, the protagonist and his friends, all combine to make something which is much more than the sum of its component parts.

Graphics: 8 out of 10

Detailed, vibrant, even functional. Just a little, teensy-weensy bit more work on 'em and they would have been perfect. But what we're left with on the screen isn't ugly by any means. To illustrate, the hometown where Ark starts in has its nice, RPGish little buildings and RPGish little people. The difference here is that there are little translucent spheres of rainbow light floating about in the air, a graphical oddity that goes by the name of 'Crystal Blue.' Ver' nice, and ver' original, too. Some places do come out as rather spare or wanting. The first few dungeons (the five towers) aren't half as captivating as some of the later areas in the game. But this is forgivable, since the towers are basically the 'getting-to-know-you' period. The desert settings are, unfortunately, as dry and dreary as the real thing. This is an accomplishment for the developers, but deserts aren't the most interesting places to see, in my opinion. And yes, the environs aren't rendered with as much detail as, say, Seiken Densetsu 3. But the detail's pretty darn close. Character art includes plenty of variation this time around: the people in Neo Tokyo even look Japanese, and there's a nice amalgamation of white and black people in America. Definitely a plus point, considering Terranigma's all-white predecessors. All in all, despite the five towers in the beginning and a few uninspired places in miscellaneous areas, this one's easy on the eyes.

Music and Sound: 9.6 out of 10

Sound effects have never really been the SNES's forte, and Terranigma doesn't break new ground in sound effects for the 16-bit console. All the effects are appropriate, though that 'klunk' sound that triggers whenever Ark bumps into something tends to get tiresome after a while. The spear sounds, explosions, et all are fine. Not exceptional, but good. 'So why the high score, anyway?' you might ask. Quite simply, it's the music which makes the game. You know you're in for something good when you hear the first minute of the title screen music. The Crysta (Hometown) theme is what you hear on starting up a fresh game, and it's quite pleasant to listen to; but the variations on it in later tracks are what make it achingly beautiful. Once you recover from that, there's the Dark Side/Light Side field music, each employing wonderful use of instruments. Very nicely done pieces, those two. You'll probably find yourself listening to them many times (um, not just because they're the /field/ themes, y'understand.) Again, the music for the towers fails to evoke any sort of emotion, which seemed rather disturbing in the beginning. Don't let this tick you off; keep playing and the music gets much, much better. None of the music is truly awful - a few may show a profound lack of inspiration, but they're eclipsed by the rest. Many tracks are standouts, each show casing the versatility of the composers. The music genres here differ wildly, with one track having a twangy 'amerikun' guitar lead, and another going full latino/mardi gras style, and yet another one going all out on fast 'n heavy percussion (which plays once you get to Zoo; kind of has a Soulblazer-esque quality to it). The music fits in with the game so well, you won't ever feel that it's inappropriate for the particular region you're going through. Some of it is gob-smackingly beautiful, intricate, and evocative, like 'Light and Darkness'(the opening track), 'Elle', 'Evergreen', and the aforementioned field themes - and those were the merely /good/ tracks. The heart of Terranigma lies in its last two tunes, each embodying absolute excellence. In the final few minutes of the game, the heart-wrenchingly happy/sad variation of Crysta's theme which streams into your ears makes you wish this game had never ended. And, bolstering that feeling, the music which accompanies the ending credits is no less poignant. Both must be experienced, but only after finishing the game.

Game Challenge: 8.9 out of 10

Yeouch. This game had a few tough critters along the way. Beaten to a pulp, naturally, since that's every boss's inevitable fate. But, some were far too painful. Which is what normally happens in just about every RPG anyway. However, the most notable pains-in-the-butt were the wolves in the forest, about halfway through the game. Sure, sure, it would of been easier if I had more experience, but these buggers were P-a-i-n-f-u-l with a capital P. They become slightly easier to handle later on, with level increases, but frustrating initially, nonetheless. And the puzzles. Well, many required some leaps of intuition, and one or two few left me saying 'Guh?' Now, I'm not an easily puzzled person, having played tons of adventure/RPG games before, but one minor area involving water and rocks just... really, really riled me! It probably won't feel the same for most of you folks out there, but that particular puzzle was doggone annoying. As for the rest, they're only mildly brain-numbing to us adventure geeks. If you're one of the type that gets migraines from RPG puzzles, make sure you have an extra-large bottle of aspirin by your side for this one. Or a walkthrough. Oh, and the final boss, that's an interesting fight. Gets easier once you know the trick behind it(actually, that's a terrible understatement. You probably won't finish the game without knowing the trick behind the last boss). As big and tough a lug as you'd expect, Dark Gaia is satisfyingly - not impossibly - difficult.

Game Play-Fun: 9.5 out of 10

Ah, the fun factor. Nothing beats sailing to Polynese and taking a nap out in the sun, only to have the message 'Ark was crisply toasted! Macho appeal up by 10!' appear after it. Aside from the jokes, gameplay dynamics here are fluid and easy to master. Ark's spear attacks are varied, and mastering them allows you to dish out maximum damage to the game's critters. It's a bit like Legend of Zelda, and a bit like Seiken Densetsu, with none of that nasty point and coin-collecting business in Soul Blazer and Gaia. The /real/ fun, actually, arrives after resurrecting the continents and all life on earth. Traveling around the globe, meeting new people, and helping cities flourish into bustling technological metropolises is strangely satisfying. Terranigma has shades of the 'sim' feeling that's been around since Enix's Soul Blazer and Actraiser. Your traipses around the seven continents will lead you to Wilbur Wright, Graham Bell, and Chris Columbus(the sailor, not that Home Alone fellow), among others. Each of them will literally change the world, and you somehow end up helping them along the way. Yah, 'somehow.' You're Ark, by the way, yet another mischievous adolescent boy with messy hair and the future-of-the-earth-as-we-know-it in his hands. Cliched and trite, perhaps, but the strange thing is, Ark's one of the most memorable protagonists I've ever come across - and he's immensely likable, too! Ark isn't the silent hero type: he talks to everything and everybody, and that includes himself. This, of course, leads to several bits of text about life, death, morals, and whatnot. And yep, that love thing is somewhere in there, too. I guess these bits come under fun, since I certainly can't take them all too seriously. So, there you have it - plenty of fun, all around. (Yeah, with that annoyingly tantalizing gypsy back-massage included. Now if Nintendo had thrown its moral stance over the side, there'd probably have been a lot more than just that massage... and perhaps a little bit more fun, too. Oh well.)


Personalized rating: 7.314 followed by a bajillion zeros and a ONE out of 10 Eh, what's this supposed to mean? That I like the frustration of not being able to do more than -massage- a gypsy's back? No sirree, that's not the way it's s'posed to be. Um. Anyway, the whole massage thing aside, Terranigma is rather challenging. But that's quite different from outright frustration. There are some places which offer your hands a good workout from all that jumping, stabbing, and dodging(and massaging). And then there are some places where you have no idea what to do whatsoever, and furthermore, those #%$@! enemies reappear every time you return to an area. Then, it gets frustrating. Sound familiar? It's the same formula that the FF's, Zelda, Chrono Trigger, and just about every other SNES RPG out there follow. Granted, you get plenty of experience that way, but it's still pretty painful. Walkthroughs seem rather tempting then. Oft times, you'll discover that the way out of Froobyuggy's Cave/Dungeon/Den is so blatantly uninuitive, that you'll get that walkthrough for the rest of the way 'just in case this happens again...' Needless to say, your game is ruined from then on. As for the puzzles, those have already been dealt with somewhere up there. They aren't too bad in their entirety. Terranigma's share of frustrations include Bloody Mary, one of a few awfully irritating bosses, some awfully /irritating/ enemies, and some awfully irritating plot holes. The first two are entirely forgivable. The last one is not. Get this: According to the game's sequence of events, Christopher Columbus, Wilbur Wright, and Graham Bell all lived at the same epoch in history. Neo Tokyo acquires neon lights and television a mere hour after electricity is discovered - either that, or sailing to it from the Americas takes around half a century. Another blatant logic gap regarding your orientation - light or dark - is confounded even further in the end. And the list goes on. This is in no way helped by a so-so English translation. However, the principal story - the friends Ark relates with personally, his emotional landscape (life, love, loss), and his final destiny - all that is concrete and believable within an RPG context. And that part of the storyline, in the end, is the only one that counts. (But a nicer translation wouldn't hurt, really...)

Replayability: 8.5 out of 10

Sure, it's pretty replayable. Especially after you discover that you haven't really used all that magirock. The little town-building subquests are pretty hard to finish through one play, so you'll probably want to help a bit more with that Tourism board later on. And besides, the game doesn't wear itself too thin even after it's over, unlike some RPGs. Yeah, you'll probably find yourself replaying this game just to find out what the heck was going on in the first place. Or at least, to find more plot holes. At any rate, replay value here is quite high. And despite what I just said, the key parts of the storyline are relatively easy to follow, except for the odd bit of metaphysics scattered here and there. The story concludes in a very, very... oh, shucks, find out for yourself! It's a very touching conclusion, is all I'm going to say.

Game Value: ? out of 10

I recommend this title to anyone who has a life. How you get it isn't of any concern. Playing it to the finish is the thing. Terranigma's relative unavailability in the US is a shame, but that's not too big a problem now. You American guys can go to Australia or Europe or somewhere (maybe even Canada) and get it. Of course, other avenues are open. It's your choice.

Overall: 9.3 out of 10

So you skipped to the end, huh? Tsk. What I've been trying to say, in the year it took to type out this review, is this: Terranigma - buy it, steal it, rent it, even exxxxxx it (that's the E word there), but don't emasculate it. It's a pleasantly original little RPG that deserves everyone's attention for its enjoyment factor alone, despite a clutch of (relatively) minor story flaws. (Note that it's a freakin' /BIG/ little RPG; expect a few weeks of play without a walkthrough) So. There you have it. Terranigma, sequel to Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia. Great game. Now go play it.

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