As I said last time, I am just going to give a general review here of the game rather than going through the entire story. Unfortunately I think my view of the game was somewhat colored by how long it took to play it and the circumstances I was playing it in, but overall I would say it’s one of the better Super Famicom RPGs.
One thing I wish I had done differently is not try to play each storyline day by day; I found it too hard to keep track of the stories as well as remembering where I was supposed to go next (this is a flaw of the game I will discuss below). I would recommend that if you try this, as much as you can stick to one story at a time — only switch to another one if you are totally stuck and want to try the other ones to learn new mantras or just take a break.
I’m going to revive my old review categories that I used in the early days of the blog.
This is a strong point of the game; the story is detailed and interesting, and they do a good job of having each of the three stories have a self-contained arc and resolution while still tying in with the other stories and the final ending.
Perhaps the main complaint here would be that the sub-characters in each story are not always fleshed out very well; some of them basically seem to just exist to fill out the party.
The world is a cyberpunk-ish setting mixed with fantasy, something that was pretty normal for RPGs at this time (including Square’s recent Bahamut Lagoon release, Chrono Trigger, FF6, etc.) There is also an underworld and sky world.
When I came up with this category it was meant to indicate how smoothly the game plays. Things that hurt this category are excessive backtracking, very high encounter rates, sudden jumps in difficulty that can only be overcome with grinding, and such.
A lot of the difficulty and smoothness of the game depends on your mantras. You can definitely end up in places where the mantras you have simply are not sufficient to deal with the enemies, and I did find that the game needed a fair amount of grinding.
One big issue I did have was the complexity of travelling the world along with the amount of backtracking you have to do. There is no in-game world map (as far as I know), nor are there any town warp spells or airships/etc. It can often be complicated to get from one place to another — it’s not uncommon later in the game for the method to get from point A to point B to involve warping to the underworld and taking another warp, exiting the building and going to another place, then using that warp 3 times to reach a place, then leave that place and go east to your destination. This is another reason I suggest playing each story in turn; I think it may be easier to keep track of where you’ve been and how to get back.
The mantra system is of course the big distinguishing feature of the game. It is well done in the sense that you can gather mantras from all over the place, including seeing enemies casting them. You can also guess some mantras. One annoyance were the chests in the dungeon that give you a mantra with one symbol missing. I’m not sure what the intent of these chests was; in some cases they are English loan words you can fill in but a lot of the times you would just have to randomly guess, which doesn’t have a very high rate of success.
I was not a big fan of the elemental system; in the end it seemed more cumbersome than fun. As I said in the first post, virtually every piece of equipment has an elemental property, and you can see at the bottom of the equip screen what elements your character is currently favoring. The problem is that unless you’re using a walkthrough there’s no way to know what the best element will be for upcoming dungeons. You might spend all your money on the strongest armor in the equipment shop only to find that most of the enemies and the boss of the next section use the elements that armor is weak to. It means you have to carry lots of equipment and buy most of what’s in the shop if you want the best results. I suppose it does increase the tactical choices and I can see some people liking this aspect of the game a fair amount.
The ability to choose the order your party moves in is a nice touch and one I wish was offered in more games.
Side Quests/Optional Content
There are a few genuine side quests, but there are also plenty of times when you can ignore what you are supposed to do next and instead visit other areas or towns to find treasure/items/etc.
By this time, major developers like Square are no longer struggling to present a useable interface to the player…I would have liked to see the actual stat difference when buying something in a shop rather than just an arrow pointing up or down, but that’s a small thing.
The graphics are what you expect from a late-era SNES game, and are a definite high point. The music was fine but did not leave any lingering impression.
Next up will be Mahoujin Guruguru 2 — I expressed some doubt about whether it would be an RPG or not but unlike the first game it is a full-fledged RPG.