Soulblazer started it all, and did so in fine fashion. That game was simplistic — even by action-RPG standards — but boasted a touching, charming philosophy involving saving souls (of trees, cats and humans alike) so that they could aid you on your quest to stop the greed-blinded king who traded their souls away for good coin in the first place. Enix/Quintet tried to go a whole lot deeper with their Illusion of Gaia, Soulblazer’s follow-up, and the results varied. The charm was still there shining brightly enough, but the attempt at increasing the game’s scope mostly just muddied the mix.
And finally, there is Terranigma, which tries to go even deeper still with its ponderous story featuring reviving continents and such, but Quintet has finally gone so deep as to have buried their game playing audience in heaps of suffocating apathy. Similarly, you could think of Illusion of Gaia’s very unofficial sequel as a sluggish action game buried under heaps of overly dramatic muck.
Terranigma is a bore. There are no two ways about it. Any typically cutesy charm, any simple fun, have been undermined by the title’s illusions of grandeur — it spends so much time trying to manifest a slow build that it just feels slow. Who wants to spend their first two hours or so with an action-RPG slashing at potato bugs and little plants? We are continually assured that greatness is on its way, but the lead up is so tedious that we soon become indifferent as to the possibility of its arrival.
On the bright side, Terranigma boasts a crisp graphic appeal, with tunes alternating between melancholic and majestic. Certainly scenes depicting world restoration when holding hands with the well composed score can give you tiny shivers and suggest that the promise of greatness is not an empty one — but when the uninteresting gameplay rears its head again, you’ll be plunged newly into tedious slashing and leaping about and you’ll want it all to end as soon as possible.
Why does a game with such a pretty pedigree fail so miserably? It’s almost as if there is about two hours of great gaming here, indeed a single chapter’s worth, and that Quintet saw fit to stretch that ill-advisedly out, portioning out the good stuff so stingily, so reluctantly, that the good stuff doesn’t even seem good. A critical eye will still discern the quality elements, but the average gamer likely won’t bother to delve that deep or be that positive. If that’s you, you’re more likely to pick up the game expecting excellence, only to receive instead a sort of weak, watered down, would-be masterwork that will elicit commentary like ”when does it get good, it all seems so promising”. And then you’ll pick up something else, something more worthy of your time. Something like Soulblazer.