Review: Terranigma (SNES)

Does the final release in Enix's Gaia Trilogy hold up?

It was during the 16-bit era that the action-style role-playing game began to take off. Instead of using the turn-based battle system found in most traditional RPGs, many developers were putting the player more in control of the actual battles in an attempt to broaden the appeal of the genre. The release of Soul Blazer from RPG pioneer Enix was one of the first action RPG releases to really catch on with role-playing game fans, and it took the sword-swinging action of the Zelda series and built a more traditional RPG experience around it. The result was one of the most engaging action RPGs of the time period and one that would end up spawning two more release, forming what became known as the "Gaia Trilogy". Terranigma was the third and final release of the trilogy and has become one of the most beloved Super Nintendo RPGs the world over, even in the US where the game never saw a release.

Unlike most other action RPGs that involve the main character swinging a sword, Ark, your character in Terranigma makes use of a spear or rod-style weapon. By pressing the action button, Ark will stab with his weapon. If you continue pressing the button in rapid succession, Ark will even perform multiple stabs that do greater damage. You can even use the run button to do a running stab move that will also inflict quite a bit more damage than a regular attack. This move will come in particularly handy when you have to face off against one of the game's many bosses.

Ark also has the use of magical spells via the use of various Rings. Much like the weapons and armor you can find and purchase throughout the game, Rings can be bought with special jewels called Magirocks that you'll find throughout your journey. These Ring attacks can unleash powerful spells that will be extremely useful against the stronger enemies in the game. You can also level your character up, in typical RPG fashion, by defeating enemies in battle, therefore increasing your attack and defensive power. It's this careful combination of weapons, armor, and skill level that determines how successful you are in battle.

The play control in Terranigma is intuitive and easy to pick up. Even performing the special attacks will feel almost second nature after a while. Pulling up the menus is also quite easy and can be executed even mid-battle if necessary. The game also provides plenty of clues as to what you're supposed to do next, so there's never that frustration of getting stuck in one place for any extended period of time. As long as you level your character up and outfit him with better weapons and armor, the game should have a very smooth and gradual increase in difficulty.

The visuals in Terranigma should look quite familiar to those who've played previous Gaia releases, as they all have that trademark graphical style to them. There are tons of Mode-7 effects strung throughout the game, one of which you'll get to experience first-hand when you acquire the use of the airplane. There's also a very unique special effect used on the world map that gives off a very realistic look of distance as the surface area gets father away into the distance. Another thing Terranigma is not short on is variety. Every area you visit will look completely different than the previous one and it's not just a case of the developer mixing up the color scheme, as each area has its own distinct look and style. The game also features some absolutely amazing bosses, many with the type of detail that goes beyond anything seen in the first two Gaia releases. You'll find yourself looking forward to the next area you'll visit if only to see what visual treat you're in for next.

The Super Nintendo console was known for featuring some impressive music and sound effects, and the musical score in Terranigma is certainly no exception. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more emotionally-charged or moving musical composition than the one found in Terranigma. Chrono Trigger might be the Super Nintendo RPG soundtrack most gamers point to as being the best the console has to offer, but Terranigma isn't far behind. Everything from the soothing soft melodies to the more up-tempo tracks you'll hear during boss fights, there's honestly not a bad track in the entire game. There's a reason the Terranigma soundtrack is one of the most popular among collectors and one play of Terranigma will let you know exactly why. It's hands down one of the greatest RPG musical scores to come out of the 16-bit era.

Conclusion

There are honestly very few role-playing game experiences quite as enjoyable or engrossing as the one found in Terranigma. Not only is the quest absolutely epic in size, but the way the storyline continues to evolve and unfold makes it feel more like a movie than a video game at times. Terranigma does for action RPGs what games like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger did for the more traditional RPG market. And while it might not have the brand recognition of the aforementioned titles, it's one of those RPGs that once you play it, you'll never forget the experience. It's also the kind of game that will remind you why you love RPGs in the first place and one you'll find yourself coming back to time and time again. Terranigma is among the finest action role-playing titles ever crafted, possibly even the finest, and a game that absolutely no RPG fan should miss.

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