Rudra no Hihou (ルドラの秘宝), released 4/5/1996, developed and published by Square
This is the last RPG developed by Square for the Super Famicom (they published at least one more but it wasn’t developed by them). The title means something like “Secret treasure(s?) of Rudra” — Rudra is a Hindu god associated with Shiva.
The basic setup for the story is that through the history of the world, different races have been in control of the world — Danans, Merfolk, Reptiles, Giants, and finally humans. Every 4000 years a race is nearly wiped out and the new one takes control. The game begins 15 days before the end of the 4000 year time period for humans.
The effect this has on the story is that the entire game takes place in 15 days, although the progression of the days is controlled by story progression rather than the actual time you take. You have control over three parties led by Shion, Surlent, and Liza, which all take place at the same time. Having multiple parties is not a new thing, but what is unique (I think?) to this game is that whenever you load your save, you can choose any of the three stories. So you can play the game in a number of ways; you could complete each scenario independently, you could play one day of each character, or any other combination. I started out playing Shion’s scenario but around day 5 I decided to switch to playing day by day. This can get confusing, though, trying to remember where you are in the story or what you are supposed to do next.
Another big feature of this game is the spell system, which takes place through “kotodama”. You can create spells by simply entering any combination of up to 6 katakana. Any combination of symbols will create a spell, but guessing randomly will most likely give you a spell that is weak and overcosted.
Instead, you can learn the “real” spells by a variety of means. Sometimes people will simply write them for you. Bartenders’ drinks give clues, and you can find some clues in chests. If an enemy uses a spell you can then write that spell yourself. Some of the spells are created from suffixes or prefixes — Shion begins the game with “igu” (a fire spell) and “iguna” (a hit-all fire spell), so you can immediately see that the “na” suffix will allow you to target all characters.
This also means that if you have already played the game or use a guide, you can begin the game with very powerful spells. But even if you are not cheating, playing multiple character’s paths can let you learn spells in all 3 paths, and if you are struggling against a boss in one path you might be able to learn a spell in another path that will help.
I’d be interested to know how this was dealt with by Aeon Genesis in making the translation patch. From what I can see in the English walkthroughs, the mantras in the fan translation are not all simple transliterations of the Japanese terms. Some of them are, but others are not; it seems like it would have required fairly extensive hacking to get this to work but maybe it’s not as hard as I think.
Other than that the system is fairly normal. One minor aspect is that you can control the order your party will act, by pressing triangle and then moving the white circles around. Another aspect that I find rather annoying is that virtually all equipment has an elemental property. This becomes annoying when you are in boss fights because you may suddenly find that all your good armor has weakness to the boss’ spells and then you have to either switch to inferior stuff or take everything off. I can understand that it perhaps adds some strategic choice to equipment but it just feels fiddly and time-consuming.
Unfortunately I’m not done with the game yet so in this post I’m just going to cover the beginning of each scenario to introduce it, and then I will do more spoilery stuff in the next post.
Shion is a soldier from Cryunne Castle, who spends the first few days participating in a fighting tournament during the day. During the evening/night he is investigating cultists who are sacrificing children to Rudra, who is supposedly going to end the world (I don’t believe that the characters are initially aware of the “15 days until the 4000 year time ends”).
Shion pursues the cultists to the Giant Tower; he wants to get something called a Jade from the “Lago stone”. There is also a giant trapped in the stone, and another giant called Surt who is there — in the process of fighting Surt, Shion slices off his arm, and the jade from the lago stone goes into Shion’s eye. Surt runs away, killing two of Shion’s friends in the process. Back at the Giant Tower, Shion gets another giant (Ture) to join his team, and he also has a woman named Foxy.
During the first few days, Shion sees things that are happening due to other stories. The world has very polluted seas and air, but on day 2 the air is suddenly purified. On Day 4, after finishing the final valiant competition, Shion ascends to the top of the tower and meets with the Chancellor, who tells him to continue to pursue the Rudra Cult and destroy it. Of course Shion is also looking for revenge against Surt, and he is also told at this point about the “12 days to destruction thing”. As if this weren’t enough, the place they are standing suddenly lifts into the sky! This was the point where I decided I wanted to play the other scenarios to see what was happening there.
Next on the list is Surlent.
Surlent is working with Dr. Muench, who discovered the Lago Stone of the Giants on the tower, and has also found the Lago Stone of the Reptiles in ruins (these stones preserve the previous civilizations, or at least a piece of them). He wants Surlent to borrow the Holy Grail from a manor to the west, but thieves steal it before he can bring it back.
Surlent goes back to his master Solon to find out if any other items can be used like the Grail; Solon had initially sent Surlent out to learn more about the Lago Stones. Solon does know of some more items and so Surlent goes out, seeing the purification of the air along the way. Surlent journeys further to find more about the Lago Stones and these items, and ends up going to the underworld itself…
The third character is Riza (or Liza).
Riza is a young woman from the town of Karn, who already has a jade on her forehead. She is going out to search for her mother, who went out on a journey many years ago to try to purify the air, but never returned. Her grandfather suggests starting in the City of Babel, which has the only clean air in the world. There she meets Garlyle, who joins to help deal with the issue in town — it turns out a rich man there has imprisoned these butterfly spirits to clean the air, and once we release them the air is purified (this is what the other two characters saw). After this, Riza sets out for the Eastern continent to pursue another lead; apparently a scientists named Dr. Muench knew her.
As you can see, the stories have their own elements but also intertwine. It’s a fairly complicated story (at least in presentation); I doubt that I will fully describe it in the next post. Not only is it long and complex but due to the covid and vacation I’ve been playing this game for almost a month, some of it sick, and I’m not sure I’m up to writing a post of the length necessary to describe it — most likely next week’s post will just be a general review of the game after I’ve completed it.