SNES – Terranigma Review

Revive the World in Terranigma for the SNES.

Note 1: This game was played on the Analogue Super NT.  It was connected to a 39-inch HD-tv through an HDMI cable.

Note 2: This game is an SNES reproduction; the game was translated into English, but never officially released in North America.

Note 3: This will be a ‘mini’ review of Terranigma.  There are absolutely more informative websites on the internet with info on this game.  However, this is one gamer’s experience with Terranigma.  I completed the game in around 20 hours.

Note 4: The name of this game is quite intriguing; I look at the two words – Terra – land or earth (I always think of ‘Tara,’ or the land owned by the O’Hara’s in Gone with the Wind) and ‘Enigma,’ as the proper spelling would be – a puzzle or a riddle or a mystery – and find this an amazing and extremely appropriate title for this game, even if it’s one that, I wonder, left and leaves gamers in the past, present, and future wondering, “Wait, what?” One of the best video game names, if not the best, that I’ve ever read or seen.

If you’re not playing SNES games on the Analogue Super NT in (non-emulated) HD, well, I would recommend it!

Genre: Action-adventure RPG

Players: 1

Brief History: Terranigma, or Tenchi Sozo (The Creation of Heaven and Earth) was originally released in Japan in 1995.  The game is part of the Soul Blazer Trilogy, with Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia preceding Terranigma, both of which received a U.S. release.  The former two games are not a pre-requisite to enjoying Terranigma.

As you revive the World (Planet Earth), you’ll traverse it by ship, by plane, and even by seagull!

Very Brief Story Synopsis : The main character in Terranigma is Ark (you can change his name).  After opening a mysterious (and forbidden) box in a locked room in your village, you must undertake the task of RESURRECTING THE WORLD, which, at the beginning of the game, doesn’t appear to actually exist beyond your underground village.     Throughout the course of the game, you will revive plants, animals, and ultimately, the human race, which will consequently “develop” or “evolve” as a civilization.  It’s a neat idea, and one I had not seen in an SNES game before.

The game, despite it’s sometimes aloof and comical protagonist, has a serious story.

Very Brief Gameplay Synopsis: You control Ark throughout the adventure.  Ark attacks almost exclusively with a spear, and as you play, you’ll find or buy spear upgrades to strengthen your attack.  You have a variety of spear attacks, such as dash attacks and jumping attacks.  One unique addition to this game that I don’t recall seeing before, is the ability to BLOCK. By pressing button R, you can use a shield to block most projectile attacks – it’s quite useful against most enemies, including bosses, and one of my favorite features of the game!

The other “weapon” you have in the game is your magic.  As you play, you’ll often find “Magirocks” that, when in town shops, can be (combined with a few gold pieces) traded for “rings” that cast different spells.  Also, in the “magic” department, you can also buy, find, or are given “Pins” that serve purposes like taking you back to the entrance of a dungeon or castle.  Honestly, during my entire playthrough, I probably used the magic system 5 times; it just isn’t needed – almost at all.  As long as you leveled up and strengthend Ark, there was no need for anything except your current spear/rod/stabbing device on regular enemies or bosses, and the Pins went equally unused.

You’ll acquire Armor and Weapons as the game progresses – it’s a simple and effective process to know if they’re needed, as an arrow will pop up to show you if something is worth equipping.

Saving: During your playthrough, you can save the game at open books, initially located in the wilderness as you resurrect the world, and subsequently located in Inns as humans come into the picture.  There are often times when finding a save book is sorely needed, yet finding one is difficult.  Rarely, if ever, was a save book found in a dungeon/castle/hostile environment, so save when you can!

Leveling Up: Strengthening Ark is quite easy; every enemy you defeat gives you experience points (EXP), and you shouldn’t face too many deaths in the game if you spend a bit of time grinding on the constantly re-spawing enemies.  A few of the bosses are tough if you haven’t gained significant levels.  *Regular enemies will also often drop gold, which you can use in shops for Armor and health items.

Level up Ark, and nothing presents any real danger to you, even the final boss!

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: I was expecting great things from Terranigma after reading other information on the Internet – and therein lies the danger, I suppose, in letting others influence you (the same way I’m doing, ironically and hypocritically, of course!).  However, I can only say Terranigma was “pretty good.”  It was fun most of the time, but there were points where I simply had no clue where to go next or how to advance – not uncommon with SNES RPGs, but other games in the genre provide better clarity and better pacing than this one.

   Additionally, the last 3rd of the game REALLY slowed down – too much.  Without spoiling too much, it was fun reviving plants and animals, but by the time the human race was revived, the game became bogged down in mundane fetch quests and the dungeon exploring and boss fighting lessened significantly.  Had the back end of the game tightened up in it’s crescendo towards the climax rather than stalling, I might have enjoyed it more.

   That said, the story IS amazing.  The resurrection of the world?  Crazy, and awesome.  The story in the final events (in spite of the human civilization fetch quests preceding them) is enrapturing, bizarre, and ambiguous to an extent, leaving you thinking about what the whole game meant, almost like a novel – I haven’t encountered this too often in video games, and only ever in a handful of RPGs.  *As a side note, I’m not sure how well the whole “resurrection of the world/being a god” would have gone over had this game been released in the U.S. (also, there are some things that wouldn’t have gone over well with Nintendo of America, including an image of a crucified Jesus in a church and a smoking merchant – but that makes playing it, as a U.S. player, more fun).  

   There are some beautiful images of the evolving world and some excellent musical tracks, and those really added to the experience.  

    All things considered, I had, as mentioned, a “pretty good” time with Terranigma.  Was it a Chrono Trigger (if you’re familiar with that excellent SNES game)? No, definitely not.  Better than Illusion of Gaia or Secret of Evermore?  Yes, a bit, probably.  As good as A Link to the Past or Secret of Mana?  No, but close. 

Letter Grade: B 

Final version of Dark Gaia – BLOCK his major attack in order to take less damage, and back up so he’ll come in close so you can attack his stomach.