The SNES has some of the best RPGs ever developed. Final Fantasy IV and VI, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Shadowrun, Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, and many more. But after my recent interview with Alan Weiss about Secret of Evermore, many readers pointed out a game I’d never heard of called Terranigma as one of their favorite RPGs. Considered part of the Quintet Creation Trilogy, it was the culminating tour de force from the Japanese studio behind games like Actraiser, Illusion of Gaia, and Robotrek. It was never released in North America (though it received a translated version in PAL), explaining why most of us here in the States, including myself, never even heard of the game, much less played it. For the past week, I’ve rectified that situation and wanted to explain why I think this is one of the greatest SNES RPGs ever made at Kotaku. Here’s two of the reasons I listed, more at the link:
Story: At the core of every phenomenal RPG is an amazing story. Terranigma is about the rebirth of the world. But it’s also about the follies of humanity, its relationship with nature, a philosophically introspective probing of the quandaries of creation that have been with us since the beginning of our history. Slowly, Earth is being repopulated by your actions, even though your initial tampering with a mysterious box is what caused all the mishap in the first place. I wondered if the director, Tomoyoshi Miyazaki, and the team were indirectly making a deeper statement about the creation art, whether in the form of literature or gaming. We are the misbegotten children opening the digital box and unleashing a universe of which we must help guide into inception. They’re leading us along the path like the elder, helping us to see that more is at stake than just our whimsies. In some ways, the rebirth of all the islands reminded me of another game I love, Dragon Quest VII, and that’s in the best way possible.
Music: I’ve noticed many modern RPGs have atmospheric music that, while it works great in the context of the gameplay, is often times forgettable. Terranigma has a soundtrack that complements the narrative, weaving together somber and meditative pieces that impress players with the tragedy of a world wracked by destruction while struggling towards rebirth. Miyoko Takaoka and Masanori Hikichi haven’t just created melodies. They’ve woven together a tapestry, a language that speaks just as powerfully as the story. One song in particular stands out; whenever you pass the challenges of a specific tower, people in your village are unfrozen, and it dissolves into the world map, a mix of hope and sorrow. They captured the enigma of Terranigma perfectly.