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Soul Blazer - Retroview

Killing monsters, saving the girl, resurrecting the world... all in a day's work

By: Nick Ferriola


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 8
   Plot 9
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 3
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

Varies

 
Overall
6
Criteria

Soul Blazer
 

   The first game in the Soul Blazer series (the others being Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma) is an action RPG much in the same vein as Zelda with some notable differences. To start with, the mission assigned to you at the outset is a unique one: Revive the world, and stop the evil "Deathtoll" from entering this world. Throughout the story you encounter the typical array of NPC's both minor and major, acquiring new weapons armor, and important items, and magical spells to help you on your quest.

   The battle system is extremely simple. You pretty much just hit enemies with your sword repeatedly until the enemy dies. Since your sword also has an arc in its swing, and most enemies can only attack in 4 directions it can be very easy at most times to simply avoid being hit altogether. Also, while there were plenty of attack spells they were largely unnecessary, and few of them were ever necessary or useful. It also turns out that because spells are fired from a blue sphere that rotates around you constantly, it is often very inconvenient to aim. Not to say the magic is totally useless, but i wouldn't expect a player to peruse his magical arsenal nearly as much as his sword.

   The interface in Soul Blazer works very well for what it is. The interface is smooth, and it takes almost no time to get used to. Since almost the entire interface is battle related, I refer you to the battle system for better details. A convenient little feature in the controls is using the R button to draw items to you, which can save you a lot of trouble if you kill enemies far away with magic. The only real flaw in the controls is that the start button only stops the game. I found this a bit inconvenient in that I believe it should bring up a menu screen, but a minor complaint nonetheless.


The master's groovy pad
The master's groovy pad  

   For the time when this game was made the music of Soul Blazer was absolutely excellent. I actually would find myself humming some of the tunes from this game even when not playing. The tunes are well made, with good application. The sounds, while not as good as the music, certainly fit the actions they are trying to convey.

   Although the story and concept are very original, the style of the game isn't so. It seems very much like all the other action RPG's of the time: like Zelda, and Secret of Mana. I do have to say the magic system is intuitive, and original, but as stated previously...not really in a good way.

   I'll give points for some of the originality in it there. While normally in such a game your goal is to save the world from being decimated, in this one your goal is to save a world that has already been decimated. It is your job as a servant of "The Master" to set things on Earth right. While this IS a derivation on the saving the world vein, it is still a very different take on it. A few key NPC's fit into the story such as Dr. Leo, the clichéd scientist being forced to do evil, his daughter Lisa, and several other kings and chieftains.

   Localization is very well done. The story makes perfect sense, as even a child could understand it. If you don't mind a few changes from the original, namely "The Master" from God the American version shouldn't bother anyone in terms of changes or mistranslations.


Ghosts...I hate ghosts!
Ghosts...I hate ghosts!  

   Unfortunately, there's almost no replay value to Soul Blazer. The game has very few extra secrets to find, and you can always go back to get them later, and for some you even have to go back. Also, the fact that there is only one ending limits the possibility of changing the outcome. The only real replay to be found in Soul Blazer is that it is genuinely fun to play. A gamer that's played a game or two in the action RPG genre should be able to beat Soul Blazer in ten or less hours, though someone who enjoys leveling their character up ad nauseum can really add to that considering the levels seem scaled to the areas you are in. In other words don't expect to be level thirty after the first dungeon unless you have a few extra years to waste playing a game.

For the time the graphics were really excellent. The character models were well made, though many NPC sprites were reused quite a bit. The graphics of many of the spell effects were nice, as were enemy sprites. The biggest visual problem is that in a given area you can run into several areas that really look the same, for example in the first dungeon its mostly a repetitive cave layout that you will probably be sick of looking at after the first 5 minutes or so, and on top of that you will be seeing the same exact enemies over and over until you get to the next dungeon. While many games employ this, it really can be grating when you see the same uninteresting puddle of slime attack you a hundred times.

Nevertheless, the game was much too easy. None of the regular enemies should really provide much in terms of challenge, and while a few of the bosses were challenging, they were all bound by patterns that were very easy to get used to. A younger gamer might find more of a challenge, though the graphics might turn them away.

Soul Blazer is a very enjoyable game, with an original concept, that I recommend to anyone who enjoys RPG's. If you see a copy used, grab it!




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