Saturday, September 1, 2012

Impressions: Tenchi Sōzō (SFC)

Received: July 18th, 2012 / Written: August 30th-September 1st, 2012
Tenchi Sōzō (AKA Terranigma)
Year: 1995 | Developer: Quintet | Publisher: Enix | [ O ]

6/6/14 Update: Click here to read my current thoughts on this awesome game!  =D
Blogger's Note:
After I beat this game last month, I started writing a rough draft expressing my thoughts and feelings on my experience with it and saved it on my flashdrive.  I spent about two weeks working on it, and it was going to be split into two parts because I wrote like twenty-plus paragraphs on it; medium-sized, mind you (most aspects were written in a few paragraphs as opposed to one long one).  I felt like I did a really decent job on it, and I liked how it turned out (it was almost done, and I only just had to make a few adjustments).  Sadly, my flashdrive malfunctioned when I inserted it one time, so I couldn't access my files, and in turn I lost my rough draft.  It's my fault, because I never thought of creating a copy of it; and I really wanted to share my thoughts on my blog with everyone once I finished my rough draft.  Originally it was going to be over twenty paragraphs, yet I don't know how I could express my thoughts on it in just a few.  Well, let me try.
EDIT: I still had some video game footage on my video camera, so I managed to create a few still shots again (since the ones on my flashdrive got lost, too).  Click on the screenshots to see their native size.  One day I'll make a full-length review, but for now, my feelings must be shared.  You may notice that from time to time I'll refer to the game with its Japanese name; if I reference it as Terranigma over and over, it'll give the false implication that I played the European version, when in actuality I played the original Japanese version.  The last thing I want to do is mislead anyone, so please bear with me.

Impressions Time:
In the early to mid-90's, Quintet developed a series of action-oriented RPGs many regard as the Gaia trilogy for the Super Famicom and Super Nintendo consoles respectively, which are highly praised and lauded as some of the best video games available on Nintendo's 16-bit console, and for good reason.  The first game, SoulBlazer, I absolutely love to pieces and is one of my favorites, despite being a victim of bad translation.  The easy-going nature, not to mention its lighthearted feel and quirkiness, make it very charming to me; also, it makes for a perfect starter RPG for those new to the genre (almost to the point that it makes me wish it was my first RPG).  Eventually it was followed by the second title, Illusion of Gaia (Time for PAL countries), which is another game I love to death, even if it didn't have a satisfactory difficulty (in my opinion) and suffered from a lot of plotholes.  The stark contrast between this game and the previous one was that the controls were vastly expanded, had a unique leveling up system, it was linear, the tone was much darker, and there was an optional secret boss fight.  In some respects, it's a superior game to SoulBlazer, but overall it's still a fantastic, fun game, though not in the same level as the aformentioned title.  Finally, today's game, Tenchi Sōzō, released in Europe as Terranigma, was the third and final game of the trilogy.  And all I've got to say is: damn, it's one of the most incredible video game experiences I've ever had in my life!

Before I start, I should share a little story.  Ever since I first looked it up, I became very interested and intrigued, and for a long time it's been at the top of my wishlist, for I heard tons of great things about it.  Sadly, it only saw release in Japan and Europe and was never released in America back then.  Over the years, there have been "repro" carts that were made to play on an NTSC Super Nintendo console.  I'm sure you must be curious as to why I bought the original Japanese cart over the localized version.  The reason I didn't buy the American "repro" cart was because it's way too expensive for my taste, and the reason I didn't buy the PAL version was because I researched that it's one of those games that won't work on a Retro Duo system (the console I use to play Super Famicom games).  If it did, I would've totally picked that up.  Luckily the Japanese version sells at a smaller price than the other two versions do, and I thought that Tenchi Sōzō was more likely to function on the Retro Duo than the PAL cart.  I thought right, for when I turned it on for the first time, I was totally surprised to see that not only did it work, but I was also about to play one of the most critically acclaimed video games of all time.  I was super excited when I got it, and I did not regret buying the Japanese cart one bit.  Yeah, it's all in Japanese (well, mostly; there are a few instances where you see English words or letters, though not exactly many), and I may not have understood what was going on dialogue-wise, but it didn't stop me from playing and enjoying it.

The main character Ark, or whatever you wish to name him (fortunately you can name him with English letters if you scroll down far enough in the character naming screen, up to five characters), is a really fun character to control, and a versatile and responsive one, too.  He can move in all eight directions, run (by either double tapping a direction or by holding down the Y button), attack with the A button, jump (one of the few games in the genre that allow you this ability), use the chosen item in his inventory with the X button (depending on what it is), and he can shield himself from enemy projectiles with the R shoulder button no matter where he faces.  What's neat is that in the game you'll find variations of not swords, but spears, pikes, and even rods, and there are even variations in how you attack.  Some of the examples being repeated strikes (by repeatedly tapping the A button), attacking while jumping, and there is even a potent diving strike attack that occurs when you press the attack button while in the air after having dashed in a certain direction.  There are various weapons and armor to be found and equipped, with the newest ones being more stronger than the previous one.  Some weapons even have elemental powers within them, if not unique qualities of their own.  You can even do other forms of action in certain dungeons and enemy fields, but I won't give them away here.  There are also a series of magic rings and special pins that can be bought at a magic store, but only if you have some crystal rocks called Magirocks (which are found around the world), and these items can be very helpful in certain situations.  Sometimes whenever an enemy is defeated, they might leave behind some gems, which is Tenchi Sōzō's form of currency.  Any time Ark levels up, his health, strength, defense, and luck will gradually increase; sometimes you might come across a potion that will augment any of these stats by just a few points.  One other thing I want to share is the menu design; normally I don't talk about menu designs unless there's something about them that is unique and stands out (like the ring menu system in Secret of Mana).  The menu is incredibly interactive, and I love how you can move Yomi (the winged round creature Ark meets in the beginning of the adventure) anywhere around it until you choose to go to an inventory room or until you choose an item to equip.  You could even alter the controls to your liking, change the dialgoue window color, and even change the message speed.

Tenchi Sōzō takes place in two sides of Earth: the Darkside in the underworld (found inside the planet) and the Lightside in the surface world.  Each area is very beautiful to look at, for they are detailed, colorful, and they all have got a great amount of variety, which I find very impressive.  What's nice is how each new location has their own unique look and quality, and as a result it rarely feels like you're visiting the same place twice.  I like that!  To name one example, the village you start in has a very surreal-like atmosphere, with big soap bubbles flowing in the air and taking place in a grass-filled land.  You'll find yourself battling enemies and bosses in locations like towers, castles, jungles, and caves, among others.  The area designs and layouts are well-done, but the most impressive aspect of the game, visually, has got to be the resurrection cutscenes.  Prior to playing it, I only read like a couple comments online that praised them, and I didn't know what to expect; but when I saw them for the first time, oh my God, my mind was blown.  One of them left a big smile on my face, and I swear it looks like most of the backgrounds during these moments were prerendered in 3D.  They are absolutely marvelous.  The animations displayed by Ark, the creatures (plants, animals, and humans), the enemies, and the bosses are smooth and very good.  The symphonic-sounding soundtrack is absolutely breathtaking, and a lot of the songs are very effective depending on what's going on, plus they blend with the atmosphere so perfectly.  The underworld and surface world themes are spectacular to say the least, the varied dungeon and boss themes are good, and the ending music is beautiful in every sense of the word.  One of the town themes is incredible-sounding, as it's very relaxing and emotional.  Some characters even have their own themes, all of which are very pleasing to the ears.

The amount of challenge in this game is very decent.  Out of the three Gaia titles, this game is the hardest, in my opinion.  Yeah, I know most regard Illusion of Gaia as the hardest in the trilogy, but let's be honest: save for a few spikes, not to mention the consistently expanded play control, it's really no harder than SoulBlazer, though that's just me.  That's not to say that Tenchi Sōzō is a difficult game, as it does have a medium-based difficulty level while at the same time being manageable with the game gradually getting a little harder the more you progress.  There are moments when the game gets challenging, and when it comes to boss fights it's important to be equipped properly and stock yourself with healing items.  Some bosses will require that you level up  just enough in order to defeat them, otherwise they'll be difficult to defeat.  You can only stock up to nine of each item in your inventory, which is fair to be quite honest.  Another thing that makes this game different than the first two games is that your character can actually get inflicted with a negative status, which can be remedied if you use an antidote or if you go to a different room.  Some of them are rather temporary.  The dungeon layout designs are very good, and each of them have their own sets of puzzles and challenges; several of them are even multi-tiered.  You can even consult your map (only in the dungeon) in the menu to see your current whereabouts.  The bosses will require a good strategy in order to be vanquished, and when it comes to the harder bosses (the final one especially, who I lost to a few times), it's highly essential that you have lots of healing items with you.

So how did I feel about Tenchi Sōzō in the end, and how does it stack up with its two older siblings?  The game is so chock-full of charm and personality.  The amount of variety found in here is just so incredible, and each location is really beautiful to behold.  I love how the majority of the adventure takes place on the surface world on Earth (which is like our Earth), and many of the places have their own atmosphere (many of them feel like real locations).  The visuals are gorgeous, and the soundtrack is one of the best (if not the best) I heard from a 16-bit game.  The controls are polished and very responsive, and Ark is a very likeable, charming protagonist.  In fact, a lot of the creatures, characters, and friendly areas are likeable as well, and I ended up caring a lot about them (not that I don't care about all that in other video games, I do, but bear with me).  It may have been in Japanese, and even though dialogue-wise I didn't know what was occuring, I could get an idea of what was happening during the game, and it didn't stop me from playing it.  I stuck with the game until the very end.

There were many effective moments of different kinds, including charming, funny, scary, shocking, and even poignant moments.  I'm not going to lie, there was a moment in a desolate, deserted town that really had me quiver in fear.  I won't say what it was that happened there, though let's just say it was quite a frightful moment for me (the ominous music that played during this situation made it truly effective for me).  The encounter with the final boss made me very nervous, as I thought it was an intensely epic battle.  A lot of the moments in Tenchi Sōzō took me by surprise (there were a few moments when I was like "Whoa!  Did that really just happen?" and "Wow, this is the best thing I've ever seen in my life!"), and I consistently kept getting surprised the more I played and explored around each area.  I said there were poignant moments, for there were moments that I thought were rather touching and moving.  There were moments I thought were very emotional, but the ending really did it for me.  After I defeated the final boss, while I was witnessing the ending, I reflected on my experience with the adventure and all that happened up to that point, and that's when it happened.  It hit me really hard and began to break out crying; the ending was incredibly moving to me (the ending music was equally touching), and it's one of those video game moments that I'll always remember.  Even if it was in Japanese, I still felt emotionally involved and invested.  Few video games have ever left me with an emotional impact, but Tenchi Sōzō was truly the first game to make me cry.  I finished it in a week and a day, about twenty-eight (non-consecutive; the game keeps track of your time) hours, and I was at Level 36.  I'm still thinking about it even now, over a month later.  This incredible game is one unforgettable journey from the beginning to the very end.  Quintet incorporated the better elements from SoulBlazer and Illusion of Gaia, and turned it into something bigger and even better.  In fact, it's not only one of the best games available on Nintendo's 16-bit console, but it's got to be (dare I say it?) the best Nintendo 16-bit title I've ever played.  I would even go so far to say that it's the best game I've ever played in my life!  That's how effective it was on me.  No lie.  I loved the previous two games, but Tenchi Sōzō I absolutely adored!  It was dark, but it was one fun ride, and I felt it was a heartwarming conclusion to a great series.  What would I give it if I was asked to score it from 1 to 10?  I would give it a freakin' 11!  It's that good, and all the praise it gets is totally deserving; it is 32-Megabits of absolute brilliance!  Simply put: I love Tenchi Sōzō=)

Thank you for reading!  Please leave a comment!  =)


  1. Great review! I've recently purchased an English-translated repro copy, and I'm looking forward to playing it in the near future. There are places that you can find repro copies for decent prices if you wanted to try to get an NTSC English-translated copy. Lord Loss on Reddit or ocdgamer on Nintendo Age could hook you up for not too much.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, it means a lot! =)

      That sounds like a good offer, what you mentioned in the end of your comment. I might, *might*, take that into consideration if I feel like buying the NTSC "repro" cart one day, but for the moment I'm good.

      I think you're really going to enjoy it. If you liked SoulBlazer and Illusion of Gaia, then you will really love this game; but if you haven't played the first two games, I still think you'll really like it. =)