Terranigma is a SNES title that holds a special place in the heart of many an RPG fan, which is remarkable when you consider that it was only released in Japan and Europe, and bypassed North America entirely. Part of Quintet's loose RPG trilogy (which also includes Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia), Terranigma has become a cult classic in modern times – so much so that fans are currently petitioning Square Enix for some form of re-release on modern systems.
Manga artist Kamui Fujiwara – author of Dragon Quest: Emblem of Roto the genius behind Terranigma’s character design – has recently been participating in the “Hero Resurrection Festival” (or “Heroes Easter”), an online event held every year by Terranigma fans on Twitter. He has been tweeting a new artwork every day to promote the Terranigma-themed art exhibition he will hold from 3rd to 13th of September at ACG_Labo. For the occasion, Miyoko Takaoka (maiden name Kobayashi, Terranigma's composer) is also creating a brand-new song.
Prior to these events taking place, Italian game developer and Terranigma super-fan @b_layDEV was fortunate enough to speak with Fujiwara-san about the game, and you can find the exclusive interview below.
Do you remember how did you get firstly approached to work on Terranigma?
Fujiwara: Terranigma was distributed by ENIX (now Square Enix). At the time, ENIX was publishing the manga (Dragon Quest) “Emblem of Roto”, so it was easy for Quintet to contact me for the job. It wasn't a job I wanted, but I enjoyed working on it. Above all, I love action RPGs.
Which guidelines did you follow when creating the art for the game?
Following after Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia, we had Terranigma as "a third game”. I was told they wanted a change from the previous two games' visuals, so there were no particular restrictions on the character design. In fact, I had a lot of freedom [in] how I designed the characters. I was free to design anything I wanted.
Which Terranigma character do you like the most? How did you come up with its design?
I didn’t have any particular preference about the characters. I designed them before I played the game. It's only when you play the game that you get emotionally involved with the characters. After playing the game, I liked Meilin a lot. I think the complex way she expresses her emotions is really good. The main character was the only one I had to redraw many times, but the rest of the characters were done rather smoothly.
How much were you involved with the game mechanics and story development?
I wasn't able to work on the game for very long because I was working on a manga series. I was involved from the early stages. Overall, I provided the visuals that served as the framework of the project. After the release of the game, my [design note] material for Terranigma was published at the end of the illustration book Dragon Quest Retsuden: Roto no Monshō - Kamui Fujiwara Illustration Collection II.
Did you get to try and play the game a lot before its official release? If yes, do you know about any major content that got cut out during the development from the initial planning to the final game?
I played the game once before it was released. It was almost finished, but there was still a debug mode, so I remember being able to warp around and explore different locations (through the closet at the beginning of the game).
There’s data in the game that hints towards a third battle phase for the final boss (Dark Gaia). Did you know about it?
Not sure, I don’t know.
[Later, Mr. Fujiwara was able to recover and publish the original (lost) Design Note of the game. In this document, we can see some never-seen-before sketches showing some discarded ideas for the final boss fight. You can also notice how one Dark Gaia discarded form got recycled to create another boss in the final release (Stormkeeper).
We translated the notes from the sketches: the first one says that in that battle phase, Dark Gaia was supposed to be an overlay of three identical sprites of the boss, with three different % of transparency. Each pair of arms moves/attacks independently.
The second one says that, if you tried to go behind the boss, he would have smashed the columns.]
Collectors are looking for the early version (beta) of Terranigma. Do you think is still possible to find it somewhere?
I think I have it. I don't know if it’s still functional though.
[At a later time, we examined Mr. Fujiwara’s copy of the game and we were able to confirm that it’s not the infamous beta version of the game. Instead, we discovered it’s an unpublished pre-release version of the game, almost 1:1 of the final release, besides 4 bytes. The sticker on the cartridge says “513027 No. 180”, with “180” probably being the build number. The team kept publishing beta footages till 8th September (Family Computer Magazine Sep. 8, 1995 No.18) so, probably, the cartridge is dated after that.
When we said to Mr. Fujiwara that his copy wasn’t the beta, he replied with something very inspiring:
I’m sorry to hear that. But I'm glad I found out about it. It means the quest is not over, right? It's nice to be able to keep moving forward.
We also found out that Family Computer Magazine published a monthly preview about the game starting June 1995 till November 1995. Those magazines are now collectors material. This way we were able to track down the source of the beta photos that have been circulating around the Web in the latest years: those are taken from Family Computer Magazine June 2, 1995 No.11, the beta footages known to date. Mr. Fujiwara says the beta is still out there waiting to be found.]
Are you still in touch with any members of the original team at Quintet?
I don't know about Quintet, but I contacted the scenario writer and the composer (from the game) once on Twitter. I don't know about the director, Mr. Tomoyoshi Miyazaki, because he seems to have disappeared. Probably, the reason why the game has not been remade nor got subsequently sold is because Mr. Miyazaki cannot be contacted.
Were you somehow involved as a supervisor for the manga and novel art production?
I provided my [design note] material to the person who drew the manga. For the novel, I provided the illustrations. I remember that the cover of the book of [Dragon Quest] “Emblem of Roto” was horizontal, so I “dared” to use a horizontal illustration for the novel.
People are trying to gather every Terranigma-related item to preserve it. In your last tweet, we can see Ark with blue hair from a page named “secret Collection No. III”. Can you tell me more about this document?
That’s a printing layout for a trading card I’ve recently made for myself. It was not commercially available at the time [of the game release].
It was not commercially available at the moment and it will not be in the future. It’s named “No. III”, but it’s actually one of 48 cards. The content on the cards are designs from my previous works. The reason why I named it “Secret" is because it’s not going to be a [public] artbook.
Do you own any unpublished Terranigma art or content?
Of course there are still some sketches and some unpublished content. Also, due to the loss of the original manuscript, some of the illustrations (sketches and finished ones, etc.) have been lost.
Would you like to work on a Terranigma remake/reboot? What would you change about Ark's design? How would you draw him nowadays?
Of course, I am in favour of remaking the game. I think that with today's technology, [Ark’s] hair could be represented with its original blue colour, and I would like to do that. Blue is a symbol, it’s the colour of the Earth incarnation.
Last question. Is there anything else you would like to say and share for all the Terranigma fans around the world?
It’s a game that has been loved for such a long time. I'm sure it will be revived at some point, as I'm sure that many other people think it will. If a remake does happen, I'd like to hear Ark speak to the fans, not me. "I've kept you waiting! You've waited long enough!” I'm looking forward to any new take [on Terranigma] that will lead to new emotions.
Nice. Sounds Cool!
I said it on the last article about this game...but I want this on Switch so bad.
How interesting. This game is an all time great for me. Delicious memories
I played Terranigma for the first time very recently. I thought it was very intriguing, and I really enjoyed the game overall, though I was extremely disappointed that the magic spell system was so badly implemented. You can't even use spells versus the boss fights!
I didn't like soul blazer, but Terranigma and Illusion of Gaia are great games.
Terranigma, Chrono Trigger, EarthBound. Can anyone name more SNES games with Storyline Epicness Level 100?
@EarthboundBenjy There are a lot of blue crystals everywhere, but they never respawn. Most of the time it's easy enough to beat every boss without magic, but it can be very helpful nonetheless.
Edit: deleted incorrect information.
Terranigma would also strongly benefit from a re-translation.
A lot players never understand how the magirock system works, they aren't permanently consumed when you use them to make rings and pins, they change back to magirock after you use them.
This is also why a lot of players struggle when they get the boss featured in this article's headline image, they go the whole game without using the rings and find themselves not high enough level to deal damage without them.
You are not correct. The Magirocks just add to your magic capacity. Yes they are limited collectibles in the same way that Zelda Heart Pieces are - each extra rock is a capacity upgrade. Not a limited one-time resource. Once you use a spell, the rocks it cost to make the spell are returned to your inventory.
I understand how the Magirock system works entirely. What I meant is that, quite literally, if you try to use magic during most boss fights, you get the message "Cannot use Magirock here!". Only a very few bosses actually let you use magic, with Bloody Mary being the most prominent example.
The huge security robot towards the end of the game is an example of a boss I would have loved to have been able to use my spells on, yet the game simply didn't let me. So instead I just had to do regular attacks.
Heck, even the final boss of the game doesn't let you use spells! I think that's just plain ridiculous.
Out of context subtitle is out of context.
They need to give the entire Quintet Trilogy a collection just like the Mana and Saga collections from Squaresoft.
Well, I don't mind repeating myself on this site. It's about time Enix games got some love. All Sony fans seem to care about is the square stuff. Grrr.
definitely would buy the hell out of a Collection of mana style collection of these games.
especially considering how hard they can be to come by, having them tied to the NSO subscription wouldn't be the same
This was such a masterpiece in storytelling, gameplay, characters and music...! I would love to see some solid re-publishing of this. No fancy 3d graphics, no dialogs..just this but legally available to get on switch. Luckily, I still own the original cartridge and packing!!
Still hard to believe US didn't get this one. Localisation was a real struggle back in the day.
I only sampled this game through emulation but I would love to play a proper translation since it never came to NA. I keep hoping...
Nothing in this world really dies, as long as we talk about it.
Thanks b-lay, for giving voice to this game and to all the fans who are waiting for a sensational return ...
When we said to Mr. Fujiwara that his copy wasn’t the beta, he replied with something very inspiring:
“I’m sorry to hear that. But I'm glad I found out about it. It means the quest is not over, right? It's nice to be able to keep moving forward.”
The existing English version IS in fact a proper translation. Terranigma was officially translated into English, French and German and Spanish for the European market.
Yes, the game's awkward fixed-width font and occasional typos are not the result of a sloppy fan-translation, but rather the work of the official 90s localisation team at Enix.
I bought Terranigma and Lufia 2 for $20 brand new when I was about 12. It was crazy, in Australia they were $120 each and a few weeks later there was a pamphlet with them for 2 for $20. I guessed from the names and cover art that they were jrpgs and bought them with my own 12 year old money. I was so happy when I found out they were rpgs, I must have played this game and Lufia 2 for a couple of hundred hours. That spooky town in Terranigma or the 99 floor dungeon in Lufia 2 were the best parts
@EarthboundBenjy Good to know, thank you, I wondered.
Want a Gaia trilogy on Switch so bad. Also, bring me EVO Search for Eden while you're at it please.
@b-lay Right, the subtitle relates to the search for the beta, not a push for the game to be ported like the title suggests. It's not a huge deal, but it could mislead one to think that Fujiwara is somehow involved in getting these games ported or hunting towards a future project when he's not. It's just a bit click baity.
@Deliesh He has been working for Square Enix since the 90s. He's actively trying to convince Square to get the game ported. He and one of the original composer backed the petition you can find here: http://chng.it/JWQVdWzf
More info here: https://firesanctuary.com/terranigma/
So they need to find the director? How do they do that?
Fujiwara wants to see Ark do Pit’s “Sorry to keep you waiting!” at E3 2022, and dang it, so do I.
I have a copy of this, it's a great game! Don't know why the trilogy have never been re-released. It deserves to be combined and remembered.
A new Release, yes, why not.
A Remake, no, please not.
I finally got around to playing Terranigma (real cart/real snes/crt) this year and loved it. I actually bought it in 2002. My backlog is beyond insane!
Those people who are worried about the magirock. For the most part just treat them as a collectable thing and that's it. They are great to search out and collect.
The magic though, just forget about it. Apart from healing yourself during the Queen fight (toughest boss in the game) magic is 100% not needed to beat the game.
As far as I know I think one or two of the magirock are unobtainable. Programming/game design errors there. So if the game was remade I am sure that would be fixed. But if it's a straight port, it's good information to know. There is no prizes for collecting them though.
The other issue the game has is you can not hold one of each weapon/armour in the game. Not enough stash space. You can't delete the important ones but the others you can and have to, if the stash is full. This needs a fix for a remastered version of the game, because you can not sell anything in the game and earning each weapon/armour once and having them all there to choose from would make a nice addition. Adds nothing to the game from a practical sense, but it's just nice for completionists.
Everything else about the game is 100% amazing and that is why it is my favourite SNES game ever. I am Australian and thus did own it on cart back in the day. I did sell all my SNES games many years later. No regrets though
Also as an aside my username here is in part based off this game. The Ark part is after the Ark from Terranigma.
@the8thark Ark is also my fave character name for games.
Terranigma is a masterpiece. I would love to see it resurrected.
@EarthboundBenjy My mistake. It's been some time. However, forgetting how the (rather simple) magic system worked doesn't deduct from the amazing experience I had with the game in 1996.
Here's an old note of my TOP 10 from 1996. Keep in mind it's all games I played in that year, 3 months before the N64 came out.
1. EarthBound (SNES)
2. Chrono Trigger (SNES)
3. Terranigma (SNES)
4. Harvest Moon (SNES)
5. Super Mario RPG (SNES)
6. Kirby's Fun Pak (SNES)
7. Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES)
8. Killer Instinct (SNES)
9. DOOM (SNES)
10. Ultimate Mortal Kombat III (SNES)
I always wondered why here in the States, it was left out. This series is fascinating, never played, but heard about it in gaming magazines. Definitely a missed opportunity. But to hear the artist / character designer/ visual director wants to bring the series back. Totally would love to see it happen.
Bummer about the game director, shame they disappeared. Hopefully a reunion is possible.
If classics can return, it would be awesome to see.
I bought Terranigma from a friend for £7 (with manual but no box) around the time the N64 was released in the UK. It was Mario 64 that immediately wowed me (more than any game ever has), but it's Terranigma that became my favourite game of all-time.
Mario 64 isn't far behind either - what a few months it was playing those two games!
Colour me greedy, but I'd like the whole trilogy "resurrected", not just Terranigma.
@SKTTR belated reply courtesy of NL holiday repost, but Tales of Phantasia, Star Ocean and Mystic Ark are just as epic in my book.
It’d be nice to play this one day.
@nhSnork I'll second that. Come on Square Enix, give us SoulBlazer, Illusion of Time/Gaia and Terranigma!
This needs to come back.
And so does Suikoden... That's a nother issue with konami not developing Games anymore though..
It always feels like Square-Enix has no memory of acquiring any Enix properties besides Dragon Quest. Come on, lets get this back, along with Mischief Makers and Rakugaki Showtime!
They recently released a new ActRaiser, so shrug I guess there's that
@Arckadius If only there was a way to play it for free on a computer...
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