Monday, June 8, 2009


Since the weather was bad, I decided to spent large parts of the weekend with this pearl in the pinnacle of 16-Bit RPG gaming. It's actually the third part of a trilogy, the other parts being Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia, but Terranigma really stands out here and those games don't have much to do with each other after all. It also only was released in Japan and Europe, not in the US, which is why this game is pretty unknown, though its unmistrusted greatness. It's an Action RPG and my very favorite one, it easily beats Mystic Quest and Secret of Mana for me. Actually, I stumbled upon this game, when I tried to get into Secret of Mana, but I didn't like the combat system too much there. Unlike in its predecessor Mystic Quest, which I have heavily featured on this blog a year ago, you always have to load up your weapon to deal some damage to your enemies, which gets really annoying after a while, especially if the enemies constantly dodge your attacks. And if you try to hit them Zelda style, you do nearly no damage at all. In Terranigma it's the exact opposite, the faster you fight, the more damage you do - that's how I like it, so I stuck with this game. And it turned out to be absolutely amazing, the story was really great, the graphics were awesome for 16-Bit standards and the soundtrack... uh, I love the soundtrack of this game, it really hits the nail and knows how the get the right emotions out of you.

The story of the game is pretty complex and very open to interpretation. It deals with the Gaia philosophy and the idea of having a underworld and an overworld, where light and darkness, good and evil are in balance. You start in a village in the middle of the underworld, where you open the Pandora's Box (which then becomes your menu), which freezes all the people in your village. To rescue them, you have to visit five towers in the underworld and defeat their guardians. This has the "side effect" of resurrecting all the continents on the overworld and the elder of the village then tells you to go there and resurrect its life. This is the first chapter of four, called "The Outset". In the second chapter of the game, "Resurrection of the World", you will ascend to Earth and revive all the lifeforms, including plants, animals and finally the humans. The third chapter, "Resurrection of the Genius", is the most interesting one, because you will spend most of the time with advancing mankind. With simple trading quests you will help expanding villages all over the world, which is a lot of fun. However, the third chapter ends with a surprising storytwist and you will die, only to be resurrected in the fourth and final chapter, "Resurrection of the Hero", where you will return to the underworld to face those, who used you for evil. I can only scratch the surface here, but you have to play the game at least twice and deal with some of the philosophy to fully get the story, the entire ending even is left open to your own interpretation. The game is rich of references to real events and persons and it takes place on the entire actual world, so you travel through America, Europe, Australia and so on. The world is shown as a big sphere and you can travel entirely over it by foot, birds, boat and even plane. If you hit a special location, like a village or a dungeon for example, it will go to the "action screen", where you can perform combat and other actions. It works basically like in Zelda II with the difference, that you travel over an entire planet. And even through the inside of an entire planet, the underworld with its crystal forests and lava lakes appears to be mapped on the inside of a sphere, which looks really cool.

Gameplay. Let's start with the combat system. You always fight with a spear, but you perform different moves, depending on if you're running or jumping or both while attacking. There's also a fast rushing attack, which I call the Minigun of all melee attacks and you can block projectiles. That's it, sounds simple, but it is a LOT of fun to fight in this game. You can also use magic rings to fight, but trust me, you won't. The combat system is as simple as addicting and keeps you getting back to the game. There are 25 different weapons and 25 different armors in the game, which is a lot. You probably won't use or even get half of them and there's limited space for 16 items in both categories. Four of them are reserved for the special weapons, so you have 12 slots to keep items as you please. Coincidentally enough there are next to the strongest normal weapon and armor exactly 11 weapons and armors with special abilities (such like elemental weapons or poison protecting armors), so it's not hard to choose which items to trash and which to keep. Some of the elemental weapons even may come in handy later, even if they are much weaker than your current weapon, because they can do more damage to certain enemies, if they are weak to the corresponding element. Like I said, there are also magic items. They are produced from so called Magirocks and you can collect up to 96 of them. While collecting the crystals is a very enjoyable sidequest, the magic items are totally useless, except for the BonePin, which teleports you to the start of a dungeon. If you use a magic item, you will get the Magirocks used to create it back, so the number of Magirocks determines the maximum of magic items you can carry at the same time, and not the maximum of magic items you can get during the entire game, like I first thought, which is why I never used them in the first place, because I didn't want to waste them.

But if you level up, you will always be strong enough. The game has a simple experience and leveling system. Let's say it in a way, that this game can be very hard or very easy simply depending on if you level up from time to time or not. You don't have to kill boars for days like in other RPGs, sometimes 10 minutes of slashing strong enemies is more than enough to reach a high level, so you can beat the upcoming boss with one hit. While, if you run through the game like it's Zelda and don't level up on purpose at all, some of the bosses, like Bloody Mary for example, will simply kick your ass into another dimension and you will need like all healing potions you can get to beat the fight. But it's not hard or annoying to get to a strong level fast, if you know the right locations to do so. Ten minutes here, ten minutes there and you're on the right level. When I played through the game this weekend, I killed 90% of the bosses in the game with one hit. But when I first played this game, some bosses were nearly impossible to beat for me, because I didn't care about leveling and couldn't do enough damage. You can reach up to level 50, but I never surpassed level 40, because leveling up after level 37 really is a pain in the ass, because the gaps between the levels become astronomical. But level 37 is enough to beat the final boss like in 4 or 5 hits, so this should do it. If you reach level 50, there's probably nothing in the game, which can stop you.

Well, the first chapter is pure dungeon crawling in the underworld. You have five dungeons in the form of the towers here and your first boss in the fifth tower. There are also two optional minidungeons, where you can resurrect the small islands Polynesia and Mu in the Pacific Ocean, where Mu is named after a hypothetical continent. While Polynesia isn't of any use, you can find one of the four special weapons in Mu, so make sure to revive this lost land (I forgot it the first time I played this game and then got angry). However, the entire first chapter looks totally "off" in the game, except for the combat it isn't like anything else in the rest of the game. And when you return here in the final chapter, it always feels like ages ago, even though you only have played the game for 11 hours or so. The second chapter then is about reviving the world, here you get four nature themed dungeons and completing them helps to bring back plants, birds and the wind, the rest of the animals and finally the humans. You start at the Amazonas, which is still a deserted wasteland and your journey ends in Tibet, where you resurrect mankind. The third chapter, which is about the mankind and advancing its technology, then ironically starts with a zombie town. Then you end up in a middle aged Europe, where you help to end the tyranny of the monarchies here. Then with the help of Columbus you will find the "new world" (which isn't really new to you, because you've been there before), where you will help the humans by creating new inventions like the airplane. With that one you finally arrive at Mosque and Siberia, which were isolated from the rest of the world before, where some mad scientist, Beruga, has invented huge robots and other technology, that goes even beyond our present. His goal is immortality for selected humans, but for that the rest of mankind has to die. Now comes the evil twist and I will put this in a spoiler box:

This is it. I just can recommend this game to anyone, who hasn't played it already. The story is appealing, the combat system is a lot of fun and the soundtrack is pure epic. Great Action RPG, if not the best Action RPG (there aren't too many, Secret of Mana probably is the only big "rival" here). I could get more into detail here, this article was a mere overview. But consider my recommendation, if you somehow can get your hands on this game, play it.

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