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Terranigma – SNES

Terranigma – SNES

Australian Box Art

Australian Box Art

Terra-bly Good

Platform: SNES

Developer: Quintet

Publisher: Enix (JA), Nintendo (PAL)

Release Date: October 20th 1995 (JA), December 19th 1996 (PAL)

Genre: Action RPG

Nerd Rating: Ehhh… 7 out of 10? Yeah, I’ll go with that.

Reviewed by Student 20

So, you’ve just finished Secret of Mana, and you’re thinking to yourself, “student 20? I’d really like to play a very similar game with a completely different and stranger plot, wouldn’t you? Yes I would, other student 20. Yes I would.

That reminds me – I need to take my medication. Be right back.

That’s better. As I was saying, if you did in fact have those thoughts, you probably reached for Secret of Evermore if you grew up in North America. If you grew up Japan, Europe, or Australia, though, you might have reached for something else. Something called Terranigma.

The year was 1994. Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise was the year’s #1 single, I joined the Army, and Toy Story was a box office smash. Meanwhile, a development company called Quintet brought out the third game in their much-loved Gaia series in Japan. What’s the Gaia series, you ask? Well, it’s a series of Quintet games loosely connected by themes and the word Gaia. That’s about it, really.

Don't judge us, Millennials. You'll have Beiber Fever to be embarrassed about.

Don’t judge us, Millennials. You’ll have Beiber Fever to be embarrassed about.

A year later (which was 1996, where  was the #1 single was The Macarena, I joined Operation Joint Endeavor, and Independence Day was #1 at the box office, for reasons I still don’t understand), it was released in a multi-language cart in Europe and Australia, but not in North America. This would also be the only part of that series that never got a U.S. release. The other titles (Soulblazer, Illusion of Gaia, and The Granstream Saga) would all be brought to North America. Which is too bad, really, because it’s a good game.

The game puts us in the role of Arc, who’s kind of a jerk. When the game opens, he’s apparently smashed pumpkins and torn up tapestries, and has to go apologize for his dickish behavior. The sincerity of the apology is kind of left to the player through dialog choices. In any case, some typical RPG stuff goes on until you manage to turn everyone in your village to ice, and must set on what sounds like a pretty bog-standard quest to save them: climb to the top of five towers. Right… so, we’ll just step outside and…

Technically, based on the scrolling, you're inside a doughnut. But, whatever.

Technically, based on the scrolling, you’re inside a doughnut. But, whatever. Mmmmmm… doughnut…

Woah. That’s different. So, in Terranigma, you find yourself on the inside of a sphere, in what constitutes the underworld usually saved for the latter parts of other games. Well, okay, that’s kinda cool. You proceed to climb to the top of each tower. Each time you complete one of these towers, a map appears and a continent is revived – and the map looks kinda… familiar.

Huh. Is that... Yeah. Yeah, that's earth all right.

Huh. Is that… Yeah. Yeah, that’s our Earth all right.

Then, after climbing to the top of five towers, you begin the actual quest of the game: to revive all life on the surface of the Earth (yes, THAT Earth). So… no pressure.

The gameplay is good. The combat takes a bit of getting used to, but anyone who has played Secret of Mana will find the controls to be both comfortable and familiar. You fight monsters and level up as you go, getting more and more powerful in the same fashion as many other RPGs. New weapons and armor appear, but you can’t sell the old ones, and there’s absolutely no reason to every used something other than your best armor… so the old weapons and armor sit on a display stand in the game’s unusual menu system.

See, to get at your equipment, you have to crawl into a small box. Bigger on the inside than the out, you store a lot of important things in this box. It’s an interesting idea, and does a decent job of bringing the menu into the game, rather than keeping it a meta device needed for game play. That having been said, it is rather silly to watch Arc repeatedly crawl into a box. But rather silly is well within the theme of the game. For instance:

WANTED: One  hero to revive all life on Earth. A complete lack of dignity is a must.

WANTED: One hero to revive all life on Earth. A complete lack of dignity is a must.

Another aspect of the game that’s a bit unusual is the magic system. During the game, you can purchase Rings which contain magic. These rings cost you both money and Magirocks, which you have to find out in the world. While there’s a fair amount of gold to be found out there, Magirocks are fairly scarce, and can’t be purchased.

Did I mention that the menu system is weird? It's like the one in Fable 3, except without sucking.

Did I mention that the menu system is weird? It’s like the one in Fable 3, except without sucking.

This makes using magic an exercise in resource management. Do I use my Flame Ring here? The Wind Pin is going to cost me 4 Magirocks – can I really afford that? This would be more interesting if the magic was a bit more useful than it actually is. Don’t get me wrong, it can come in handy… but it’s often unusable in boss battles, and who’s going to waste such a limited resource on run-of-the-mill enemies? Not this guy.

So, the interface is interesting, the story is fun, and so are the characters. The combat is fluid and a bit too easy. Many of the challenges in the game come from mazes and puzzle solving instead of combat, though, so that helps. Visually, it’s colorful and appealing, with a style very reminiscent of Secret of Mana, as I may have implied.

In the final analysis, it’s a bit too easy for my tastes, with only a few bosses putting up any real challenge. A better magic system or more varied combat would have helped out a lot, but it’s a fun diversion of you can get your hands on it. It’s far from perfect, but it stands out as the best in the Gaia series, and it’s got some fun game play and an overall interesting setup. So play it if you get the change. Getting your hands on an original cartridge might be tough, but it also might be worth it. Or, you could just use an emulator, but that’s on you 😉

Written by Nerd Bacon

Nerd Bacon


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  1. student 20 says:

    It’s a pretty good game. It’s got a sense of humor and stuff. It’s not up to Secret of Mana standards, but I’d say it’s at least at Secret of Evermore levels.

    If your rom is freezing, you could try a different emulator. I use Snes9x about 90% of the time, but some games just play better on ZSNES. Kind of like how I use Nestopia for NES games unless I’m alsu using LUA scripting, then FCEUX becomes my go-to (there’s a Metroid hack I’m slowly working my way through that requires LUA scripting to add a map to a game that desperately needs one lol).

    And, yeah, the Des Moines thing surprised me, too lol. So there’s what, three of us? We should all go for a beer or something 🙂

  2. I’ve always heard about this game but never got to play it.. I have a rom version, but for some reason it keeps freezing. Great soundtrack though!
    Also, there is someone else besides me in Des Moines!!??


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