A shrine
One of the Master's shrines

   Early on in the life of the SNES, a flurry of games were released at once to give the new console credibility in the gaming community. Most of the attention was on the new, bigger sequels to already existing series, such as Zelda 3, Super Mario World, and Final Fantasy II US. Given the selling power of those names, it's no wonder that many gamers missed this little gem called Soul Blazer. As it turns out, more people played the sequel (Illusion of Gaia) than played the original. In fact, many gamers didn't even know IoG was a sequel at all! Most of those who did happen to come across Soul Blazer, however, have remained fond of it ever since.

   Soul Blazer's plot has to do with an inventor named Dr. Leo, who was forced by his king to create a device that would summon the demon lord Deathtoll. When Deathtoll appeared, he took over the world, sealing the souls of people, animals, and even plants inside the lairs of monsters until the land was barren and lifeless. You play the part of a messenger sent down from the sky by "the Master" to destroy the monster lairs and free the souls of all living things so that the land can be rebuilt.

  A shrine
The Mermaid Queen sits on her throne

   Naturally, since you're a divine being, you can speak to all the living things you set free on your quest, which in turn give you hints, items, and other necessities. Some of them are also from the sky, like your character, and will join you to give you special powers. Although the notion of speaking with birds, tulips, and dolphins may sound cheesy, somehow it avoids being overly cute.

   Spiritual and philosopical elements are intertwined with the plot as well. On your journey you'll meet a tree that envies the birds for being able to fly and see the land, a boy who was lost at sea and reincarnated as a dolphin, and a race of people who have a lifespan of one year but refuse to complain about their short lives, choosing instead to enjoy every second.

The bridge guard
Some guard he is...

   Also adding to the charm is the translation. It's solid, if a bit flat, but sort of bizarre in areas. The dog in Greenwood that offers to read you the menu at the restaurant, for example, makes a very strange joke completely out of the blue. In a way, the stiff translation adds an old-fashioned atmosphere to the world, as do the simple but sweet melodies and harmonies that make up the soundtrack. (Why is it that no one's made midis of this game's music, anyway?)

  The coral reef
Walking along the coral reef

   The gameplay itself resembles the NES classic Crystalis, with a 3/4 overhead view and a quick little character wielding a sword. As long as you pay attention to the monsters' patterns of attack, they aren't too difficult. The golden gems used to cast spells are plentiful, so you're rarely in danger of running out. The satisfaction gamers receive from Soul Blazer comes not from defeating strong enemies, but from watching an empty field become a thriving community as the souls of the living things return to their proper places.

Lisa wakes up

   Not that that's all there is to the game. Dr. Leo is still missing, and early on, his daughter Lisa asks you to find him. As you play, you unravel the mystery little by little, revealing a story of corruption and greed beneath the basic plot, all wrapped up in a sequence that isn't quite the stereotypical happy ending.

   And don't forget secrets; by pressing the start button in an area infested with monsters, you can see how many monster lairs are left, and there usually seem to be a couple left even when you think an area is clear. This can be very handy -- or very annoying. Some of the monster lairs are incredibly hard to find without searching, leaving you wondering what you missed. In addition, some areas can't be fully cleared until after you've already moved on to another area. To do the subquest about the Master's eight emblems, you have to do some serious backtracking.

Moving on the world map

   Soul Blazer is pretty short and easy by today's gaming standards, but those who have played it still treasure it, judging by how hard it is to actually find a working copy nowadays. If you're an action RPG fan who never saw Soul Blazer the first time around or are feeling nostalgic for the good old days of 16-bit console games, give it a shot. It may not offer you a lot of challenge, but it's still a satisfying way to spend a weekend.

Retrospective by Andrea Hartmann.
Soul Blazer
Developer Quintet
Publisher Enix
Genre Action RPG
Medium Cartridge
Platform SNES
Released 1992
Walkthrough and more
18 screen shots