: Soul Blazer
: June 1991 (February 1988 JPN)
- Action (top-down)
- Standalone (or The Quintet World)
The first game in what many fans consider a Trilogy, Soul Blazer actually seems to have more in common with ActRaiser than Illusion of Gaia (Time in PAL regions). Soul Blazer offers just a bit more character development than ActRaiser, which is why I considered it an RPG and ActRaiser was cut (though given an in-depth article
). Instead of controlling the Master himself, we take on the role of his servant to save the world from a great evil.
|Action-RPGs are always so much shorter than the standard fare|
Trouble arose from the Freil Empire. King Magridd was obsessed with increasing his riches. One day he overheard of a great inventor named Dr. Leo. With Dr. Leo's help through indentured servitude, a machine that opened a portal to the world of evil was created. Magridd made a pact with the king of evil, Deathtoll. For every living thing sent to Deathtoll, he gave in return a bit of gold. Magridd accepted. Soon there was nothing left in the world.
I named the servant Opidius, and began his journey in Green Valley after a short tutorial section. The game consists of six areas. The general story is the same in each; all living things have been trapped away inside monster lairs connected to the world of evil located in hazardous fields. Each area has a town section that's rebuilt by destroying all enemies that spawn from a monster lair and sealing it away. Sealing a monster lair can also change the field to open new areas or reveal something hidden (treasure, jewels, or more lairs). The fields are accessible from town in some way, and to facilitate quick travel, each area has three teleporter pads.
|Magic costs gold GEMs dropped by monsters and found in treasure chests|
Releasing the town slowly unlocks NPCs and buildings that house them. NPCs can be people, plants, animals, or in one area, even animated objects like drawers, doors, and dolls. Speaking to those in town grant items that enable further progress in the field. A dream rod found in the first field is used throughout the game to enter the dreams of those sleeping. The dream world often reflects the real one, and can unlock sections in the field when revisited.
|I opened the passage to the left in Lisa's dream, which allowed me to get the paintbrush in the living world|
Levels increase HP, and while damage is derived from weapons, there's a minimum level to use each one. Armor isn't restricted in this way. Items can provide additional boosts, or healing from a medical herb, but items are passively used, which means having the medical herb at the ready to heal excludes the use of bracelets for attack or defense boosts. Magic is really powerful, but limited due to the GEM system. It's always cast from the glowing magician spirit circling the character throughout the game.
|All bosses are immune to magic|
Combat is fairly simplistic with only a basic sword swing plus an additional thrusting technique that holds the sword out dealing a minimum amount of damage. While the sword is held out, the character movement is changed to strafing, locking the character facing a single direction. This is helpful for both dealing damage with the sword and sending the fireball into the right direction. Dying is really only a threat during boss battles, but with losing all GEMs as the only drawback it's not much of a setback.
|Once the first area is completed, the player is able to move between areas, and we see the floating palace used to teleport within the areas|
After rebuilding Green Valley, I moved on to Green Wood. In this area we learn that not only have living things been trapped, but many have died in an effort to fight off the evil monsters. Turbo, once the faithful pet of Dr. Leo and his daughter Lisa, perished along with Monmo and another mole that went to save her. The field in this location is a swamp punctuated by three temples: water, fire, and light. To proceed, I had to find Turbo's grave to obtain proof I was a friend of the forest before the rafts in the swamp would ferry me to the boss. All the NPCs here are animals and trees that live in the forest.
|I don't think I ever solved this hint, but I thought I tried to talk to all the rafts|
Each area culminates in a boss battle. Green Wood had three statue heads representing the three temples. After a boss is defeated, sealing the boss enemy lair releases an important NPC. Speaking with them rewards a colored stone. Collecting all six unlocks the way to the world of evil where we face off against Deathtoll. The next area was a water palace called St. Elles with islands and underwater sections that required bubble armor to traverse. Each area has an NPC spirit (except the fourth area) that provide additional effects like increasing visibility or adding protection.
|The game has a number items that have limited use over the game, like the thunder ring used in only one area to clear a single lair full of invulnerable monsters|
The story has a big theme surrounding reincarnation. Many of the animals had past lives as humans that died in tragic accidents. The next area is called Laynole, and was home to gnomish NPCs that lived their entire life cycle within a year. For pets, and to ride, they tame snails. One of the items for the area is called mushroom shoes, which have snail goo to make them sticky for the icy areas. Some of these solutions seem rather forced, I have to admit. The boss here was a Naga or Merman with a trident.
|Wise words are sprinkled about the game, or maybe this is just an excuse not to get the player stuck in a dream loop|
The next area is Dr. Leo's lab, or an old residence of his, probably both. All of the animals there remember him fondly, and speak of a time when his whole family lived there. Early on I found the Zentatsu sword that finally allowed me to defeated metal and heavily armored enemies. There were a few lairs with those sorts of monsters in the first three areas, so I took a short trip back for them. My sword still whiffed through the light spirits in the light temple. I'd have to wait for the spirit sword located in Magridd's castle.
|Two of the fields are miniature towns with some invisible enemies|
The other fields are in the basements filled with Dr. Leo's mechanic inventions gone rogue. There are some hot areas that I needed to cross with the ice armor. Often I'd forget to switch back to a more recent armor and die as a result of taking extreme damage. Weapons and armor often have additional effects, like cutting magic cost in half or the luck sword that increases the chance of getting large GEMs. Defeating the boss here released Lisa's doll, Marie.
|The boss was one of the hardest with random movements and attack patterns coupled with an elusive hit box|
I haven't talked about a lot of solutions for progressing in the game because most are covered elsewhere in greater detail, and actually aren't too difficult. One of the most annoying ones I experienced as a kid was in this final area though. Once you clear the dungeon field, a guard blocks access to the west tower, the next area. There's a guard standing on a pass card while attending a concert, but the harpist there has a broken string. The only related clue is another bard on the other side of town who makes reference to a friend he had that always talked about his lucky string. The last time the bard saw his friend, he was being taken to a torture room for trying to free Dr. Leo.
|I just happened to walk over this skeleton for really no reason, but this is easily missed|
There are a lot of little lock and key solutions like this, but none where the key was so secretly hidden. I pressed on, reviving the town that brought about the world's imprisonment. Finally, I unlocked Dr. Leo next to the airship that brought him; however, the queen had other ideas for Dr. Leo, and wouldn't let him leave. They had already retrieved Lisa from Green Valley as a bargaining chip. Dr. Leo saw no other way out, and went back to the queen.
|No one quite knows where he got the explosives|
Another RNG based boss made for an annoying battle, but his attacks are easy to dodge and there were safe attack spots. King Magridd was released by sealing the boss lair. He regretted his actions deeply, apologized for the way the queen acted, and provided the final stone. With all six stones I gained access to the world of evil. Deathtoll was sealed away within though, and I needed the magic of the phoenix to gain access. To get it I had to find the red-hot stick (3rd area), mirror (2nd area), and ball (world of evil). Returning these to the king of Leynole awarded the phoenix magic and revealed the castle where Deathtoll resided.
|Compared to other bosses, Deathtoll is epic without a health bar showing, but a bit easier than most|
After Deathtoll fell, the spirits of the sky that accompanied our hero decided to stay behind to seal the portal from within the world of evil to make it harder to open. Upon my return, the master proclaimed I had saved all creatures. He then entreated me to return to the people I had rescued to say my farewells. King Magridd suggested that he'd build statues of the hero and Dr. Leo in a new town using his ill-gotten gains. Marie, the doll, spoke of how tools want to be useful, but when used in the wrong way they feel the pain inflicted. The snail Nome missed Dr. Leo.
|Lue the dolphin had some good news|
Turbo's spirit told us that he and Dr. Leo would rest well after the honest life they lived. Finally, Lisa was sleeping. In her dream she asked us to return to her some day. She didn't care if I was an angel or a human, even though I clearly chose to tell her I wasn't human when she asked during the game. In any case, I have to promise her.
|What's the purpose of even waiting for this input?|
The hero returned to heaven, but couldn't get over his feelings. A year passed by, and he still yearned for Lisa. Giving up his memories, he returned to Earth as a human. Lisa found him, but without his memories he didn't recognize her. Even though I told her I remembered, she either didn't believe me, or the question was worded in a way that I gave an unintentional truthful answer. I'm actually not even sure why the hero and Lisa grew so close, they barely interacted.
|I selected Yes for "yes, I remember you," but she sure didn't take it that way|
- For being so simplistic, combat is a blast. Taking out enemies with some quick magic is satisfying, and the sword has a wide damaging arc that still hits even when it may not look like it should connect. It's a very satisfying experience, although not a very strategic one.
|Lisa stares into the sunset, blinding herself for life|
- It is possible to grind levels for additional health, but not really necessary. There's no customization. I think they missed a big chance to have equipment represented on the player's sprite. At least the controls are on point.
|All these different pieces of equipment, and the hero always looks the same|
- There are main and side quests that offer some variety. The rewards for the side quests aren't exceptional, but they're there. In fact one collection quest to find all 8 emblems of the master was so obscure that I only managed the three most obvious. The puzzles are built well into the world, but only single solution exists to progress, which can lead to some frustrating situations.
|That sounds like a nice reward, until I realized that it wouldn't be possible until nearly the end of the game|
- I think I've gone over the lack of influence enough. I question the reveal that the character isn't human as the response from Lisa was quite muted. The story touches upon various aspects of life and moral living without being preachy. All pieces of equipment and items have a bit of description to go along with them as well. I grew up with this game though, so I'm a bit biased, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story.
|This blank space is unusual, and makes me wonder if someone was removed from the credits|
- There are a good number of unique items to find, but nothing worthwhile to collect, except the master's emblems. This gives the treasure seeker something to dig into. Everything else (all armor, swords, and magic) is found through clearing all monster lairs. There's no economy to speak of and no stores. Medical herbs are given away. The item menu has a nice layout, but some key items are used and leave blank spaces.
|My inventory at the end; unlike the equipment menu, the gaps here are not nearly as nice|
- At this point I'm not sure I'll find a musical score or graphics that aren't at least endearing to the game. I'm not really a good judge for that kind of thing. The music here is fantastic, and I adore this kind of sprite work. The world is a bit limiting, but there are secrets to find everywhere. The whole feel just works.
|I'd have included more of the credits, but the spacing makes it so they span 25 screenshots|
Overall I can't sing the praises of this game enough. It's just brilliant. Although it didn't rate the best as an RPG, it's the highest rated action-RPG so far. I know I didn't go into a lot of detail about the dialogue, or how the story progresses, but that was partially intentional. Go play it if you haven't. It's easily completed over a weekend. Once again, highly recommended for everyone.
|Oh, and this guy, great job|
Next up is Ultima: Warriors of Destiny for the NES. I've heard it's a terrible port, but hopefully the underlying game is still well preserved. But first, we need to review the year ahead. That's right, we've passed another year of gaming, and are embarking on the year 1993. The number of games continues to grow, and I'm currently looking at including 20 full games to play, with 5 cuts.
|Expect more great games from this publisher|
A favorite of mine as well!ReplyDelete
I played it over Christmas for the first time in many years, and found that the music, graphics, and overall vibe were just as I remembered them.
This definitely holds up after all these years. Some games are more difficult than I recall, and I wonder how I ever beat it as a kid. This wasn't one of those.Delete