Soul Blazer
  • Genre:
    • Action RPG
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Quintet
  • Publisher:
    • Enix
  • Released:
    • JP 01/31/1992
    • US 11/27/1992
    • UK 01/27/1994
Score: 80%

This review was published on 10/16/2015.

Soul Blazer, originally titled Soul Blader in Japan, is an overhead action role-playing game developed by Quintet and published by Enix for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom. It was released in Japan on January 31, 1992, North America on November 27, 1992, and Europe on January 27, 1994. The game is conceptually similar to a previous Super Nintendo title that was also developed by Quintet and published by Enix called ActRaiser. Quintet later went on to develop two more Super Nintendo titles by the names of Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma, which are both loosely related to this game. The three games are now often regarded as a trilogy, even though they don't contain many direct references to each other. These three games are also regarded as SNES classics, known far and wide by retro gamers everywhere. Soul Blazer may not be that impressive visually, but the game play is good and that's what truly matters in life.

Image

There once was a prosperous nation known as the Freil Empire, which, despite its name, wasn't frail. This empire was ruled by the powerful King Magridd, who was thought to be a fair and kind ruler by many of his people. Some, however, felt like his heart was ruled by greed; they were right. One day, Magridd eavesdropped on two guards that were talking about a renowned inventor named Dr. Leo. After hearing this, Magridd spent countless sleepless nights pondering how he could use the genius of this inventor to make him even wealthier. Eventually, he came up with an idea. Magridd captured Dr. Leo and forced him to create a machine that could summon Deathtoll, the King of Evil. When the machine was completed, Magridd called Deathtoll and made a deal with him to trade souls for gold. Soon, all living things in the world were captured and taken to Deathtoll, where their souls were imprisoned. Magridd even sold his own people out. God, referred to as The Master in the North American and European versions of the game, saw this and decided to send an angel to restore Earth back to normal. This is where the story truly begins.

Image

You're the sole blazer in Soul Blazer. That is, you take control of the angelic being sent by God to save the world, who assumes the shape of a human warrior armed with a sharp and pointy sword. The controls are fairly simple; you walk around, and you swing your sword. Unfortunately, you can't walk in diagonals, which sometimes makes getting around and avoiding enemies a little frustrating. Thankfully, the game is structured in such a way so as to not necessitate diagonal movement, making this not a big deal. It's also possible to use the shoulder buttons to hold out your sword and strafe from side to side, injuring foes that touch your blade. Doing this also causes items dropped by monsters to be pulled towards you. This is a strange maneuver, but it's pretty useful against some enemies and bosses. The controls are precise, and their innate simplicity makes it very easy to dive right into the game with little experience. The only troublesome thing is that you have next to no invincibility time upon being harmed, so your health drains insanely fast. That can make the game harder than it should be, but it's ultimately not too bad.

Image

Killing monsters nets you experience points, which increase your level when you get enough. Levels boost your various statistical attributes, such as hit points, attack strength, and defensive power. To further augment your capabilities, you're able to equip gear. Equipment is strictly found inside treasure chests or obtained from special events, so you'll never need to buy them. Sometimes equipment will have additional passive effects, like certain swords being able to kill special enemies that are normally invulnerable, or certain armors letting you safely walk over hazards like fire and spikes. This is highly simplified, however, as there are only three slots for equipment: one for swords, another for armor, and a third for accessories or items. Each sword has a minimum level requirement in order to utilize it, though. This becomes an issue later on, as certain swords are required to beat the game. That means you may be forced to grind, and as we all know, grinding sucks. The RPG mechanics add a nice sense of progression to the game without overcomplicating things, but the mandatory grinding has the potential to sour the experience.

Image

Magic is just about the only other thing you can do besides repeated sword swings and cardinal foot movement. Early on in your adventure, you acquire a ball of light that circles around your character constantly, and this orb allows you to cast spells. Throughout your journey, you will occasionally find spells within treasure chests or whatever, and these can be equipped from the menu screen. Only one spell can be equipped at a time, and casting magic will cost you gems, which most monsters drop upon their demise. It's a pretty straightforward system that's super easy to get the hang of. You start off with a basic fireball spell and then move on to other stuff, like whirlwind magic and even electrical landmines. Alas, the vast majority of spells in this game are mostly useless, so you're better off sticking with your sword unless you need extra range. The fact that almost every boss is immune to magic doesn't help matters, either. Aiming some of the spells is also annoying, since they shoot out of the ball of light and you have no control over its rotation. Despite that, magic is still fun to use, even if it isn't terribly useful.

Image

As mentioned earlier, the game starts off in a barren world completely devoid of all living creatures, both human and otherwise. To fix that, you brave the deep depths of dangerous dungeons to kill monsters and free the souls that Deathtoll has confiscated. Specifically, you must destroy things called Monster Lairs, which are portals that teleport monsters into the area. This is similar to the Monster Lairs in ActRaiser. While it may appear that the lairs house unlimited monsters, they actually only contain a finite amount. In order to actually demolish a lair, you must vanquish all the monsters within it. Upon being destroyed, Monster Lairs will turn into switches that you can then activate by stepping on them. Pressing these switches will usually release souls, but some will reveal treasure chests or unlock the path forward. Additionally, releasing souls recovers a tiny bit of your life. Conveniently, you can check how many Monster Lairs are remaining in the current area by pressing start. It's not absolutely necessary to abolish them all, but doing so will always benefit you. This activity can get repetitive, though, especially since there's not much else to do in dungeons besides kill monsters. Still, the act of slaying countless beasts is enjoyable in itself.

Image

Every town has exactly one dungeon in it, and freeing souls from that dungeon will repopulate the respective town with life and even reconstruct people's homes. This is all done automatically, meaning the only thing you have to worry about is destroying every Monster Lair you come across. You can visit each town to check on its progress throughout the game. In fact, you'll usually be forced to visit each town multiple times to advance the story and to occasionally collect prizes from the villagers. It's also in the towns where you'll be able to interact with the townspeople to refill on helpful consumable items like medical herbs or do side quests. The most satisfying part of the game is watching the towns grow through your heroic actions; it's a highly rewarding experience. Being able to converse with the townsfolk, animals, and even plants you've saved makes the whole adventure feel more worthwhile. Plus, getting free stuff is cool.

Image

Your base of operations is a shrine in the heavens where you can fully replenish your health for free, talk to God to save your game, teleport to important places by stepping on the appropriate floor panels, and moving to different towns. Each town will have a blue floor panel or door that will take you to this location, making it easily accessible. There's also a teleport panel at the middle and end of every dungeon that does the same. After beating the main boss monster troubling a town, you'll be able to move to another geographical area using the map screen, which is basically just a pretty menu for selecting other areas. The nice thing is that you'll always be able to revisit previous areas no matter what, and doing so is convenient due to the map screen. This allows you to go back and get any optional goodies you might have missed, including unfinished side quests. That makes the game rather flexible, and that's always appreciated.

Image

Blazing souls is a good way to have a good time. Soul Blazer is a robust experience that blends simple action with basic RPG elements to form a cocktail of content. The graphics are bland and there is some repetitiveness, but the game makes up for that with good music and the freeing souls thing. Having a town be constructed and populated via your deeds in the dungeons is the main appeal to the game. Sure, it doesn't change much from a game play perspective, but the positive effect it has on you psychologically is somewhat profound. It makes you feel like an actual hero as opposed to a mere video game player. Allowing players to witness a town's development as a result of their actions is a great way to reward them for playing the game. If that sounds cool to you, then Soul Blazer will be your jam.

Word Count: 1,645

Tweet