Soul Blazer (SNES)

Pub: Enix | Dev: Quintet | August 1992 | 8 MEGS
Pub: Enix | Dev: Quintet | August 1992 | 8 MEGS

Back in April of 1992, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past thrilled countless SNES gamers. The excursions and exploits of one, Link, proved to be one of the grandest 16-bit adventure games ever created. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past set an incredibly high bar and took us on a rousing, unforgettable journey. Four short months later, Soul Blazer graced the Super Nintendo. While it’s no Link to the Past, it stands as a remarkably notable action adventure that all SNES owners should experience. So grab your Master Sword, er, Soul Blade, dust it off and enter the adventures of the Freil Empire. The fate of an entire nation depends on you!

THE STORY GOES…

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Dr. Leo reluctantly constructed the machine to summon Deathtoll. When Deathtoll was summoned, the King told him he wanted nothing more than to obtain the wealth of the entire world. And to that, Deathtoll presented the greedy King with a most grave proposition…

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LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN

Don't try to flatter me, bub!
Don’t try to flatter me, bub!
Grab the sword inside the chest and get to hacking!
Grab the sword inside the chest and get to hackin’
Be sure to monitor your status screen occasionally
Be sure to monitor your status screen occasionally
Gotta collect 'em all
Gotta collect ‘em all

There are five souls to meet up with throughout your journey. These souls will make life easier and are represented by a blue ball encircling the Hero.

The Soul Blade is the baddest sword in town
The Soul Blade is the baddest sword in town

Here at the sub screen you can select which armor, weapon, magic and items you wish to use. A total of eight different magic spells can be unleashed. These spells are highlighted below.

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Performing magic attacks will cost you some gems. Gems can be acquired by killing enemies and opening treasure chests (but beware of the fake ones which attempt to ambush you). Should you die, kiss all your gems bye bye.

They never learn...
They never learn…
Your first magic attack, the Flame Ball, in action
Your first magic attack, the Flame Ball, in action

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Killing enemies is important not just for acquiring gems, but gaining experience points as well. Your health automatically recovers and increases each time you level up. Whew, check out what a close call this was!

General gist
I like the ability to power up and regain health

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Hitting enemies with the end of your sword will inflict more damage. Very cool, subtle effect!

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You can also thrust the sword by holding onto L or R. It’s not as strong as the sword swipe but you can walk backward while inflicting damage. This proves to be quite useful in certain situations.

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Kill all the bad guys in each given section to clear the square. Otherwise, the monsters will continue swarming after you. The decimated town or village is restored bit by bit each time you clear a square. Sometimes this leads to a special animal popping up while other times new buildings will be formed. It’s up to you to restore all the towns that have been ravaged by Deathtoll.

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Clearing a square at other times may simply open up a closed section directly in the action world.

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Another possibility of clearing out a square is it may reveal a bonus treasure chest in the nearby area.

GENERAL GAME FLOW

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Changes in town? Yes, as mentioned earlier, clearing squares, or monster lairs, in the action world will piece together the ravaged villages in the town section. Check out an example below…

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Did you know that Quintet, the developers of this game, were absolutely INFATUATED with a certain ’80s song? 1985 to be precise. In fact, they were so infatuated that this city building gimmick that runs rampant in Soul Blazer was based off that song! It’s a very obscure fact and one that very few know about. Take a look (and a listen) below, and you’ll see what I mean…

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Tesla, eh? I always thought it was that bloke, Marconi. You learn something new each day! And say, how much did it take to rake in Mr. Freeman, eh? [Zero, it was his dying wish… -Ed.]

Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List (2007)
Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List (2007)

Dear Edward,
I’ve gone back and forth the last few days trying to decide whether or not I should even write this. In the end, I realized I would regret it if I didn’t, so here goes. I know the last time we saw each other, we weren’t exactly hitting the sweetest notes. It certainly wasn’t the way I wanted the trip to end. I suppose I’m responsible and for that, I’m sorry. But in all honesty, if I had the chance, I’d do it again. Virginia said I left a stranger and came back home a husband — I owe that to you. There’s no way I can repay you for all you’ve done for me, so rather than try, I’m just going to ask you to do something else for me. Find the joy in your life. You once said you’re not everyone. Well, that’s true — you’re certainly not everyone, but everyone is everyone. My pastor always says our lives are streams flowing into the same river towards whatever heaven lies in the mist beyond the falls. Find the joy in your life, Edward. My dear friend, close your eyes and let the waters take you home. -Carter Chambers

VILLAGE PEOPLE

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[Hey, what are you doing, Steve?! -Ed.]
[Hey, what are you doing, Steve?! -Ed.]
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Oops, wrong game...
Oops, wrong game…

The Dream Rod allows you to enter people’s dreams. You can even sneak into the dreams of animals. Who knew animals could even dream? Quintet teaching us educational stuff left and right! It’s all a bit weird but then again, that’s Soul Blazer in a nutshell. Just watch out for ol’ Freddy…

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Such a smooth cat, that Steve... [Riiight -Ed.]
Such a smooth cat, that Steve… [Riiight -Ed.]

THE GOAT?

I mentioned how weird this game is, right?
Well, it’s about to get even weirder…

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*cue flashback*
*cue flashback*
*Back to the present*
*Back to the present*

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Talking goats for pete’s sake! Too weird, EVEN for me!

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I HAVE A DREAM…

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"WAIT! I can do much more, I'll show you!"
“WAIT! I can do much more — I’ll show you!”
WHAT THE -- !
WHAT THE — !

Um, let’s just move on…

ACTION JACKSON

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Venture across the bridge in Grass Valley to forge on ahead. What terrors lurk beyond?

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Along the way you’ll meet some jewel fairies. They assist you by offering to send you back to town so you can stock up on supplies, gather more information, save your game and so forth. They also might grant you with experience points, helpful items or simply dispense invaluable advice.

Take the lift up to uncover new monster lairs
Take the lift up to uncover new monster lairs
"YEAH! RIP EACH OTHER APART!"
“YEAH! RIP EACH OTHER APART!”
"WHOA WHOA TAKE IT EASY!"
“WHOA WHOA TAKE IT EASY!”

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No joke. Some goats will share any secret, provided you have some goat food on hand. As you can see, it’s weird piled on top of weird. And what’s this “swallowed up in a painting” business, anyhow? Hmm. Something to investigate, then…

House on Haunted Hill?
House on Haunted Hill?
It ain't no Bob Ross piece of art I can tell you that!
It ain’t no Bob Ross piece of art I can tell you that!
The Man, The Myth, The Legend
The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Only fools rush in
Only fools rush in
Enemies can come in many forms
Enemies can come in many forms
I find they often appear just in the nick of time
I find they often appear just in the nick of time
"Yes, two eggs, sunny side up.  Hold the bacon"
“Yes, two eggs, sunny side up. Hold the bacon”

Entering a teleport marker will whisk you back to the Master’s Shrine. From here you can save your progress, recuperate lost health or head back to town for more clues and items. This is also where you can move to the next town after having cleared the current town’s boss. You may also backtrack (which proves to be necessary at times).

Each marker here serves a specific purpose
Each marker here serves a specific purpose

Every Master’s Shrine is the same. Once you’ve unlocked all four blocks, they follow this pattern:

  • The top yellow tile is used to save the game or to move to another town
  • The right and left blue tiles will take you to certain areas in the action section
  • The bottom blue block transports you to town

On a side note, I love the haunting church organ that plays here. It’s awesome.

The first boss. Gotta love the classic flashing
The first boss. Gotta love the classic flashing
I DON'T RECOMMEND DOING THIS!
I don’t recommend this!

It’s a sure fire way to die fast. Stay on the conveyor belts and employ the ol’ hit and run tactic! I recommend using the middle conveyor belt only as your attack point. Lure him left or right, wait until he commits, then charge up the middle belt to score some hits. Retreat. Repeat. See below.

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You can easily evade his fireball attack thanks to his deliberate delivery. He also has a slow recovery rate so you have plenty of time to score some hits. Always lure him left or right, then attack from the middle. Retreat and repeat!

He throws these on occasion to keep ya honest
He throws these on occasion to keep you honest
It's not as intimidating as it may initially look!
It’s not as intimidating as it may initially look!

He’s easy but he certainly doesn’t lack in health points! Be patient, be smart and he’ll be lucky to nick you even once. The thrusting technique will take you longer but allows plenty of control as you can moonwalk while damaging him.

WHO'S BAD?!
WHO’S BAD?!

Congrats. You’ve saved the good fair citizens of Grass Valley and have brought restoration to their lives, animals and plants. Now you can graduate to the next town in need of your aid, GreenWood.

But this isn’t goodbye to Grass Valley. More of a see you later. There are a couple lairs in Grass Valley that still need to be cleared and cannot be until you acquire the Zantetsu Sword.

Don’t forget to locate the Master’s Emblem in Grass Valley by the way, as well as pick up the Brown Stone. You’ll need all six stones to open up the gate to the Dark World where Deathtoll awaits.

GREENWOOD

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Welcome to GreenWood. Legend has it that this town was developed by a dog named Turbo. He built this peaceful village to offer protection and serenity to all animals. That is why, once rescued, all you’ll find in GreenWood are critters and creatures.

"Have you seen my nuts?"
“Have you seen my nuts?”

Such as this squirrel, who will ask you for delicious seeds. If you have them and choose to offer it to the little guy, you’ll be awarded with a mighty grand prize… the Psycho Sword!

How bizarre, how bizarre!
How bizarre, how bizarre!

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For over a decade I’ve wondered what “it” is. “Everytime I look around, it’s in my face” as the song by OMC goes. It wasn’t until I played Soul Blazer that I understood what “it” is: the blue soul ball that encircles our hero. Because everytime he looks around, everytime he looks around… IT’S IN HIS FACE!

[I have no words -Ed.]

See? The legend is true...
See? The legend is true…

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Classic moment, this is. As Turbo takes you on a quick tour around GreenWood, he asks if you’d like to see what’s on the restaurant menu. This all occurs while the peaceful and serene music of GreenWood is playing. But as soon as you select yes, the music suddenly stops without warning. It’s followed by a dramatic pause before Turbo answers, “YOU!” Of course he’s joking but part of me was hesitant for a second the first time. Nicely done, Quintet!

"I know a great place to drop a load"
“I know a great place to drop a load”

I love that Turbo dog. [We all saw very disturbing proof of that earlier on -Ed.]. It’s a well known fact but did you know the “sequel” to Soul Blazer is Illusion of Gaia? Though the protagonist to Illusion of Gaia is a different character, there is reference made to ol’ Turbo.

New monsters await in GreenWood
Hey, it’s Mudlup from Teddy Ruxpin!
Mudlup (Teddy Ruxpin)
Mudlup (Teddy Ruxpin)
Beware those pesky water dragons
Beware those pesky water dragons
"Nice try guys, but you ain't no BUSHMAN!"
“Nice try guys, but you ain’t no BUSHMAN!”
R.I.P. infamous Bushman of San Francisco
R.I.P. infamous Bushman of San Francisco
Sometimes you just have to fight fire with fire
Sometimes you just have to fight fire with fire
That's definitely no Bushman...
That’s definitely no Bushman…

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Things start to heat up with scorpions and Lizard Men!
Things heat up with scorpions and nasty lizard men
And watch out for that alien crystal skull there! [Where's Indiana Jones when ya need him?! -Ed.]
And watch out for that alien crystal skull there!
[Where’s Indiana Jones when ya need him?! -Ed.]
Two stones down, four to go!
Two stones down, four to go!

THE SUPER SIX

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RANDOM SOUL BLAZIN’

The path switches from cold to hot without warning
The path switches from cold to hot without warning
You need Bubble Armor to pass these rolling waves
You need Bubble Armor to pass these rolling waves
Poseidon guards the mountain and is my fave
Poseidon guards the Mountain and is my favorite
You can't just rely on brawn. You need wits, too!
You can’t rely just on brawn. You need wits, too!
Moments like this are good for a chuckle
Moments like this are good for a chuckle

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With all eight of the Master’s Emblems in your possession, you’ll earn the Magic Bell. This grants you unlimited magical attacks! You can still defeat Deathtoll without the Magic Bell but it’ll be a much tougher task. Some of the Emblems aren’t so easy to locate. Remember to backtrack to places with sections that you previously could not pass.

Can you make it to Magridd's Castle?
Can you make it to Magridd Castle?

You’ll have all six Stones if you manage to get by the fortress. All towns will have been restored. The gate to the Dark World will open and the final battle will begin. Don’t forget to find the Soul Blade and Soul Armor before confronting the demon. Good luck!

THE PERVERSE WORLD OF SOUL BLAZER

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Quintet... such dirty minds over there [*sighs* -Ed.]
Quintet… such dirty minds over there [*sighs* -Ed.]

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID

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Soul Blazer was well received by critics. Many praised it for being a top-notch action RPG, especially during a time where there weren’t many choices being represented on the Super Nintendo. EGM gave it scores of 8, 8, 8 and 9. Super Play rated it 89%. Fan reception has also been overwhelmingly positive. It’s rarely acknowledged as one of the system’s best games, but almost everyone I know who has played it has largely enjoyed it. And most people will tell you that it’s one of the “unsung heroes” of the vast SNES library, especially for fans of the genre.

Mighty high praise from EGM!
Mighty high praise from EGM!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS...
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS…

Super Play pretty much hit the nail on the head when they called Soul Blazer “an excellent and slightly weird game.” The game definitely stands out from the pack due to its odd (but endearing) nature. It’s not quite the epic game Link to the Past is but hey, few games are. Soul Blazer will take you on a fascinating and strange journey. From conversing with goats in Grass Valley to visiting mermaids in the rolling waves of St. Elles, you’ll see and do much before all is said and done. And that’s just the town portion of the game! The action sequences are well done and the balancing act between thumb-pounding action and using your old noggin is handled beautifully. The bosses deserve a shout out as well. Sadly, it’s too bad the game presents minimal challenge.

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Graphically, the game does a pretty good job of bringing the towns and temples to life. I love the clouds scrolling overhead in Grass Valley. The dark and decrepit underground chambers in GreenWood are nicely executed. And who could ever forget the fiery blazes of the Dark World? Unfortunately, there are some ho-hum bits scattered in there, such as the islands in St. Elles or the model towns in Dr. Leo’s house (both of which leave something to be desired).

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While the visuals are a bit hit and miss at varying times, the music on the other hand is fantastic through and through. A stellar soundtrack puts you right in the heart of whichever region of the game you happen to be in. From the Master’s Shrine’s haunting church organ to the serene and adventurous theme in Grass Valley, the music men behind this game deserve a big round of applause (Yukihide Takekawa, Kazz Toyama and You Himeno). The battle themes are perfectly suited and the dream theme that plays during any dream sequence possesses an incredibly dreamlike quality to it, making you feel as though you’re in a dream yourself!

"I do NOT snore!"
“I do NOT snore!”

I really like the aspect of restoring each village to prosper once again. It’s instant gratification. When you clear a monster lair, the game may fade back to town to show you what people, animals or buildings you have resurrected. The liberation of a city is a wonderful feeling. The game plays well and I always wanted to play more to see what denizens or creatures I might unearth next. It kept me going and moved along at a brisk pace. I also enjoyed the various NPC’s scattered about. Some are just silly while others provide helpful tips. Others may tell a juicy story that helps add to the game’s mystique. It made me wish for more character interaction as I don’t think there’s enough.

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While I never felt the game did anything particularly special or extraordinary, it was all executed extremely well. More than enough to keep any action RPG fan occupied for a weekend or two. There are puzzles along the way but nothing too tricky I don’t think. It’s just a fun little game to pop in and get lost in. You’ll find many swords, items, armor, magic spells and more in your quest. You’ll help many animal friends in need and traverse a wide range of locales, from creepy dark dungeons (make sure you have the Soul of Light) to the snowy mountains that reside high above the Freil Empire. Hell, you’ll bear witness to a snail race (tough to beat that) and even catch a glimpse of the majestic Northern Lights! And did I mention talking goats?!

Can you dethrone Deathtoll?
Can you dethrone Deathtoll?

It took me 16 hours over two weeks to beat Soul Blazer. A seasoned veteran of the genre can probably do it in 10 to 12, maybe even under 10. The game won’t last you terribly long, but you’ll probably enjoy every last second of it. I’m not sure “quirky” even begins to describe the game. Talking with moles, goats and tree stumps? It’s almost like an acid trip. Soul Blazer is a game every Super Nintendo fan should experience. It’s got a legion of fans for damn good reason. And after finally playing it over 10 years ago back in the summer of 2007, I can see wholeheartedly why. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t already.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8.5
Longevity: 7

Overall: 8.5

Double Silver Award
Double Silver Award

 

 

 

I may not be Zelda but hes no Link, either!
I may not be Zelda but he’s no Link, either!

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