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by Kris Wolfe
In light of everyone else writing in about their favorite game and what made it so kickass, I thought I'd do the same with one of my favorite games, which not enough people have heard of or played.
It's called Terranigma, and it really whips the donkey's ass.
I have no idea if you like Action RPGs or not, but if you do, you should play this happy-happy lucky-lucky monkey-monkey (if you figure out that quote, you rule) RPG. Sadly only available for emulation (make SURE transparencies are enabled or about 1/4 of the pretty graphics don't work), this game just kicks ass.
A. Since it's an action RPG, you can jump. ^_^ There's lots of physical puzzles, as in any action RPG (you know, push blocks, manipulate buttons, throw pots, and so on) but no really annoyingly difficult jumping to do (a la Xenogears and, to a certain extent, BFMusashi). You can do various kinds of attacks with your weapon (which is some kind of long staff). You can do a boring old attack, a jumping attack, a running attack, a running jumping attack, a fast attack, or just block. Someone wondered why RPG characters can't swim? After getting an item (much like in SNES Zelda) your main character Ark can swim and even dive underwater. He also climbs vines (and later, after finding claws, rock walls), runs, and leaps tall buildings in a single bound. You have magic, but only a limited amount through the game. That would be sorta annoying (kinda like the limited weaponry and spells of early SaGa games, where you could only use your sword 50 times or something; VERY annoying), except that throughout the whole game I never used magic and had no problems. Magic's not necessary in this game if you're at all competent at fighting, with the exception of the one boss who's weak to it.
B. You do reconstruction activities. (Granted, you do them before the end of the game.) As someone said recently, it seems hokey for the world to magically improve just because you beat the bad guy. In this game you are the creator of your world (more or less) and you can improve it. Basically you get the chance to modernize the world (all except Neo-Tokyo, which, of course, is already modern). A village in Michigan burns down? Find rich sponsers to build it again or it'll never come back. Want an airplane? You'll have to help build the plane and plan the airstrip. You have to discover electricity, bring down the price of metal (so you can build the plane), and help find out how the telephone works. Help people with their love lives or to reconcile them with death. Not every mini-story ends happily (the mermaid comes to mind) but that isn't a bad thing. Talk to Christopher Columbus and visit Tibet. You alone can make Australia a tourist attraction instead of a little town out on an island someplace. Only with your effort do towns get bigger, with new shops, new inhabitants, television, and a better standard of living; if you don't help, the towns never grow and you feel like a gimp because everyone in the world is still living in tiny impoverished villages and it's your fault. Of course, these are all side quests, and involve finding an item on one continent or talking to someone in one city and then going somewhere else to use the item or information, and they mostly aren't necessary to beat the game. (Except getting the airplane, naturally.) The second half of the game is about half plot and half side-quest plots, which are lots of fun but don't really move your game along. On the other hand, it's really neat to see the things that you do actually affect the world around you.
C. The story, while not all that deep (it ain't no FF6-8 or CT) is interesting, and the end was unexpected for me, at least. (Imagine, if you will, something along the lines of the more depressing outcome of having evil twins.) Actually, the game is divided into 4 parts, the first two of which appear to have almost no plot at all; they're just fun romps where you beat the crap out of monsters and talk to plants and animals. When the story starts, parts of it are just silly, but parts are quite haunting; and of course some parts are just damn weird. (Like when you have the dream in the Inca cavern... Or you visit the graveyard at the end of the world...) At the end, things don't turn out QUITE the way you'd want, which in one way is a little saddening, but in another way, kind of refreshing. I think the real fun of the story in this game is that you play it instead of having it told to you. You create the world, and you give it life, so the things that happen in it feel like they really belong to you. It's sort of hard to explain this sensation, but the feeling of the game is very... subtle. As for bad guys... admittedly the (real) villian's motivations can be a bit difficult to understand if you haven't played the other two games in this series. Some of the other villains are misdirected, tragic, or insane; some are just pawns; some are really just evil bastards you get to beat the crap out of. The final villian is a mystery.
D. Speaking of series: Terranigma is the last game in a trilogy. Soulblazer (a somewhat poor SNES game with horrible graphics), Illusion of Gaia (a decent SNES game with really good graphics and music) and then Terranigma (a kickass SNES game with kickass graphics and music). The first two games aren't as fun (especially soulblazer) but if you want to know what's up with the last villain it's useful to play them (though not necessary). Illusion of Gaia is sort of subtle and haunting too, somewhat in the same way as Terranigma, especially when you're alone, but there were far more characters in that game and, in addition, it had a much more convoluted (read: extremely strange) and character-based story. In both Terranigma and Illusion of Gaia, the music at some parts is incredibly beautiful and sad. I really wish I could find the Terranigma OST (I know it exists!) but alas, it's out of print. ~_~ (Of course, the best video game music ever is Soukaigi, by Secret of Mana's composer.. I'm serious! You FF devotees have no idea what you're missing! REAL instruments! Vocals! Kickass composing! It ROCKS!)
E. The game does have it's low points. The translation of the game is humourously bad, full of spelling errors and people referring to themselves in third person. ("Dam! I wish I could help you, Ark!") I guess it came out in Europe this way. Ugh. Secondly, the game only has one main character, which some may see as both a strength and a weakness. You don't really get to know him; he's more or less enigmatic till the end; but the game is more concerned with finishing the story rather than exposing his character flaws. There are other characters in the game, some annoying (Meilin), some funny (Yomi), some tragic (Fyla) and some just... weird (Perel) but you only get to play as Ark, and you never get to spend any time in the heads of other characters (like you did in the character-story-heavy Illusion of Gaia). An annoying thing is you can't sell old stuff; you just keep it forever or drop it, it doesn't matter which (though some armors and weapons have special attributes). Yet another low point is that you have to buy your magic and there's only a finite amount to get; but as I said before, you never need to use it, so it doesn't matter.
Lastly on the low points, and this might bother some people, the game is easy. Really, really easy. Well, actually, I like easy games, but I guess it depends on the sort of player you are. If you build levels like crazy (by running in and out of rooms) you'll find the game is pretty easy to beat. If you have enough patience, you can get to level 55 or something in just the first room of the first dungeon (you'd have to have a LOT of patience). On the other hand, you can make the game much, much, much harder by not leveling up much and trusting on your jumping and blocking and dodging to keep you alive. The game's puzzles aren't really that hard either; you might or might not see the answer right away, but some thought, some experimentation, and some logic will usually solve the puzzle in a short time. (Except for the part where you avoid guards. It's tough and incredibly frustrating and makes you want to scream and kick things.) The game is absolutely RIFE with hidden areas, hidden items, pointless things to do, and easter eggs. In one part you can talk to all the game designers (and smell their dirty socks). You can buy a wide variety of things to eat and drink (the sprite animation for this is really cute) even though you certainly don't need to eat or drink; you can get a tan, rescue a chicken from a ghost, or increase your sex appeal.
It just sort of depends on what you like; I'm a big fan of SoM, CT, FF6-8, FFT, Wild ARMs, Shining Force, Phantasy Star, etc. so I like everything. I'd say this game is actually similar to Secret of Mana in that there's not really tons of character development, but you love Ark anyway; there's great music, fun and great-looking worlds to explore, it's all in real-time, no random encounters, attack when you want (or run away), you carry your items around with you and use them whenever the hell you feel like it, and there are various kinds of moves you can do.
It's unfortunate that you can only play this game in English on an emulator (unless you live in Europe); make sure you have a sidewinder or some other game pad, because playing with a keyboard is insanely annoying.
To find out more about this awesome game, see some screenshots, a walkthrough if you think you REALLY need it or you want to maximize your towns, some cute graphics, fanfic, great fanart, and a section devoted to silly screencaps and spelling errors, go to Snape's Terranigma Page, which is really ruley. (No, it's not my page; it's just really cool.) URL: http://members.xoom.com/Snape/terranigma.htm
Travel the world! Meet old dead famous people! Invent canned sardines! Play Terranigma!
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