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
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.
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.