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Review – Soul Blazer (SNES)

On a bit of a whim, I decided to pick up and play through Soul Blazer for the SNES. I know I have heard of this game previously ages ago, probably in Nintendo Power, I’m surprised I never tried it in the past honestly. Anyway, it turns out it’s a bit of a hidden gem of a game. It kind of feels like if Gauntlet and Zelda had a baby, though it’s better than Gauntlet, not as good as Zelda.

You play as this sort of spiritual angel entity, come to the world to save it from destruction, except the destruction has basically already happened. There are 7 stages, and each stage works the same basic way. You arrive into a barren area, then travel through one or more dungeon areas connected to the main hub. As you progress, you defeat enemy spawners by killing the enemies each one spawns, which allows you to free the souls of creatures, people, and related objects in each zone. Basically, once finished with an area, you’ll have constructed a little town.

This also occasionally means returning to the town to do little additional mini missions to unlock new abilities or weapons or armor in order to proceed. It’s a neat system. Sometimes you even have to return to previous areas to unlock new things. In fact it’s a bit required because you can’t complete the game without at least going back and unlocking the Phoenix spell.

An airship with an ignition, what will they think of next???

Along the way you also unlock more and more of the story. Most of the plot revolves around leader characters who knew of this character Dr. Leo, who was forced to develop a portal to the world of evil which is why the world has been wiped out. Or something along those lines. There are even a few twists along the way near the end that aren’t quite as expected.

New unlocks aren’t even necessarily straight upgrades either. Though they are an upgrade in base defense or offense, they often contain unique additional special abilities. Like wearing the bubble armor to navigate under water, or the Ice armor to navigate over certain hot spot floors (which even return in a later stage).

Finally, a shopkeeper in an RPG who APPRECIATES THE EFFORT.

Though this does lead to one of, if not my chief complaint on the game. You essentially have 4 equitable slots, sword, shield, magic and item. You can only have one active item at a time. This almost feels like a way for the designers to remove the ability to become a bit OP. Not all items are useful, but for example, you can carry one (freely replenished) medical herb, which will revive you upon death (once). Or a strange pot that lets you keep your magic points between deaths. Or other items like bracelets that let you take half damage or not spend magic, or do double damage. It kind of feels like, at the minimum, the herb and strange pot should just work automatically, since they are consumable items. The pots can’t even be obtained outside of regular game play, you just find them in chests.

I mean, I get that complaining about a 30 year old game is kind of pointless and all, but it’s worth mentioning. The game itself is still a lot of fun and it’s an interesting gameplay loop.

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