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…
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…
LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN
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.
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.
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.
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!
Hitting enemies with the end of your sword will inflict more damage. Very cool, subtle effect!
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.
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.
Clearing a square at other times may simply open up a closed section directly in the action world.
Another possibility of clearing out a square is it may reveal a bonus treasure chest in the nearby area.
GENERAL GAME FLOW
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…
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…
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.]
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
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…
I mentioned how weird this game is, right?
Well, it’s about to get even weirder…
Talking goats for pete’s sake! Too weird, EVEN for me!
I HAVE A DREAM…
Um, let’s just move on…
Venture across the bridge in Grass Valley to forge on ahead. What terrors lurk beyond?
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.
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…
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).
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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!
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.]
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 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.
THE SUPER SIX
RANDOM SOUL BLAZIN’
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.
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
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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?!
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.
2 thoughts on “Soul Blazer (SNES)”
I adore Quintet’s SoulBlader/SoulBlazer with all my heart; it is just one of my top favorite action-adventure games of all time (as opposed to just one of my top favorite Nintendo 16-bit games of all time), my second favorite Quintet title ever, and in my opinion I view it as such a pitch-perfect game! =) Even with what little differences there are between versions (the inclusion of a middle conveyor in the Solid Arm fight, a slightly bigger dialogue box than in the Japanese version, the overall design of the boss in the Mountain of Lost Souls, and Lisa during the ending… oh, why was Enix of America racist anime back then? There was nothing wrong with big-eyed praying Lisa, why’d they have to completely replace her face with a “normal” design? It just feels wrong in hindsight), both versions are on par in terms of quality which is already excellent in my book =)
Sure, it heavily leans into the easy side of the difficulty spectrum (despite certain monster gates where the monsters come out all at once), but I don’t mind it as there’s at least a gradual progression when it comes to its challenge value up to the point you face Deathtoll at the end. The gameplay’s also very intuitive and fun with the soul attributes; I really liked how the armor and swords you collect not only increase your defense and offense respective but have their own unique special qualities (like the Zantetsu sword which defeats any and all metallic enemies, the bubble armor which helps you breathe underwater, and the ice armor which ensures that you don’t lose your health upon stepping on molten hot lava, et al), the music by Yukihide Takekawa, Kazuhiko Toyama, and You Himeno of AMENITY Co. greatly complement the various locations while matching the lighthearted tone (whether it be the purely soulful dream theme that I could listen to all day, the wondrous awe of the underwater theme, the mysterious theme of the pyramids, the triumphantly jovial theme upon defeating the present area’s big bad–contrasting with the aptly lonely quality that’s there at first–and the theme for when you trek in the Mountain of Lost Souls; also, Lisa’s Song), and it’s such a pleasant game to look (especially with the wavy water filter underwater, the passing clouds in some of the villages, the Aurora Borealis and the looming icy stalactite, a sense of warmth and comfort inside the cave in the Mountain of Lost Souls despite the otherwise cold setting, and let’s not forget the final area which is visually mesmerizing) =)
There is a wonderful sense of world-building as you liberate more souls, explore the ins and outs of villages, and even participate in certain events; it really makes up the heart of SoulBlader/SoulBlazer. The overall writing by Tomoyoshi Miyazaki is very good, I love the sense of tone and pacing as well as how delicately he explores the game’s plethora of themes in such a respectfully tactful manner and how there is hopeful feeling in the end; but then, Miyazaki’s a great scenario writer anyway, having also done Nihon Falcom’s Ancient Ys Vanished diptych, Quintet’s Actraiser/ActRaiser and it’s in-name only sequel as well as the company’s Magnum Opus Tenchi Sōzō/Terranigma, and Shade’s underrated inaugural title Granstream Denki: The Granstream Saga/The Granstream Saga (most of its writing, anyway, I still find it endearing). And since Quintet was formed up of former Nihon Falcom employees, there are moments when this game almost feels like an Ys game but in name appropriately enough (the main character, with blue hair, walking at a swift pace and in a square pattern; only being allowed to have one of the same item; the inventory system is quite similar too; and spinning around when you lose all your health and have no medical herb equipped) but SoulBlader/SoulBlazer does plenty of things different to make it its own self-contained entity (like swinging your sword at a diagonal angle which can prove advantageous during certain situations, conjuring magic with the soul that circles around you and if you walk towards an edge have the soul spiral its way ahead should you hold down the direction, being required to reach a certain level in order to equip something, and saving at a shrine as opposed to any non-boss room you wish, and doing the crabwalk and/or have the blade of your sword magnetically pull the gold towards you by holding the shoulder buttons)
Poor Robert L. Jerauld, this game’s translator, though. I love this game, but the translation *is* pretty spotty in areas (so many “recieved”s as opposed to “received”s and misplaced “its” and “it’s” moments), but I found the proceedings to be so engrossing and the adventure very fun and soulful that I could forgive it (aiding that was that his heart was in the right place). One would think that Jerauld would improve as a translator after SoulBlazer… one would think . Produce’s The 7th Saga, Elnard compromised version, is his best translation in terms of grammar structure and spelling (lazy enemy naming scheme, lazy simplified dialogue compared to the Japanese version, and peculiar equipment abbreviations not withstanding) with nary an Engrish error though I did find it to feel disingenuous in places compared to the original Japanese (the extraneous difficulty imposed in The 7th Saga doesn’t aid it, but never mind); Quintet’s Illusion of Gaia is a case of compromise AGAIN, only this time it was his second attempt (whereas the first was in the beta SoulBlazer: Illusion of Gaia which stuck closer to the story and difficulty in Gaia Gensōki before Nintendo of America told him, “Scrap it, do it all again!” once they hovered over the entire localization as a Western distributor simply because they wanted another A Link to the Past to their name… which is an impossibly high bar given that classic’s permanent impact on the gaming industry, and when you compound that with the fact that there was no Google or Bing translate during the ’90s and it takes a long time to translate from Japanese to English with what little resource was available back then it kinda screwed over any chance for Produce’s Brain Lord and Quintet and Ancient’s co-developed Slapstick/Robotrek to have a solid or passable translation–both Enix releases came out in America exactly one month after Illusion of Gaia… just a little something to think about) where the newer translation felt a bit watered down, forced, awkwardly tone deaf in spots, and uncharacteristically meanspirited at one point or two that it puts a bad taste in my mouth (when speaking to a person in the process of grieving: DO! NOT!! SHAME!!! THEM!!!! UGGGGGGHHHHH, SO WRONG!!!! DX)
I do like that this game’s first boss Solid Arm makes an appearance in Gaia (even though it doesn’t really affect that game’s overall plot one iota, but it’s a nice bonus upon collecting all fifty red jewels) albeit as an optional boss, and there is a neat little Easter egg involving Teddy, the name of the boy from Bloodpool who ended up being sacrificed in Actraiser, being the shopkeeper’s son in SoulBlader/SoulBlazer, I quite liked that. And y’know how in Actraiser it was your duty to protect the people? Well, as an ingeniously clever reversal here (as well as giving as Gulliver vibe) when you venture inside Dr. Leo(nardo da Vinci)’s model towns in his laboratory you are forced to combat against the miniaturized people, OH, I so love this devious twist! XD … Well, given that both titles share a similar visual aesthetic and use a similar graphic engine, it’s an apt observation, I feel
Ever since I first played this game I’ve always liked this game more than Actraiser/ActRaiser (which has got to be THE most schadenfreude Nintendo 16-bit game ever… I’m probably using the wrong terminology, but I don’t care; I just wish to clarify that I like the game, I think it’s solidly well-made, I understand its importance in history as one of the very first games for the console and is the most approachable God game there is–even if it’s during the location’s central Act–but its popularity, hype, special treatment, and excruciatingly overbearing sense of overexposure honestly all make me feel emotional and exhaustive burnout it soured my appreciation for Actraiser/ActRaiser considerably which it shouldn’t be the case, but it did; it wouldn’t be such a problem for me if the license holder gave as much attention and special treatment to the Gaia trilogy and ActRaiser 2, but obviously those games weren’t as important to Enix and subsequently Square-Enix as Quintet’s inaugural title by never giving them their second lease of life like they all deserved; I could never rank the “spoiled child of the six Quintet titles” higher than all the five other games knowing that they were never given a fair share in terms of rerelease, in that they never GOT rereleased, and I’m tired of feeling guilty for feeling like I’m one of the only people acknowledging all six Quintet games’ existence when it feels like it’s the only game certain people know of that were done by this developer; without it, though, none of Quintet’s other games would exist, but since Actraiser/ActRaiser DOES exist it’s as if those other games DON’T exist because of frequently shoved into the foreground it is; and not everyone can afford the luxury to own the system to play these games which is the only way they CAN be played… including Actraiser/ActRaiser since the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console shut down in 2019 so it’s back to square one for that one……… *sigh*
I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be mean, I just feel constantly tired of Actraiser/ActRaiser’s popularity, the game is good and reasonably fun, but I can’t with its popularity status anymore, I wish I could just ignore it completely, it’s not good for my head)
SoulBlader/SoulBlazer is an enjoyably lighthearted and soulful experience every time I play it, and I personally lump it up there with Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Quintet’s Terranigma as among the best Nintendo 16-bit action/adventure games ever! =D Short and easy as it is, it never outstays its welcome, and the delicate handling of its themes make the proceedings feel meaningful and deep
To each their own
I haven’t played SB in nearly 15 years, but I had a blast with it then. Definitely one of the better action RPGs on SNES!