Arcana

They spent a lot of time on the intro screen!
They spent a lot of time on the intro screen!

When the intro loaded, with its ominous plot, its terror-ridden story-line, its dramatic description of the standard battle of good against evil, I was actually excited. I felt that chill go down my spine that I get every time I watch the intro to FF6.

Ooooh! Dramatic bad guy! Exciting!
Ooooh! Dramatic bad guy! Exciting!

And then the game actually started…

I have nothing against the standard formula: boy’s parents get murdered by the evil bad guy; boy is last of his kind; boy leaves village to find his destiny and save the world in the process. That’s great. But pairing it with shitty gameplay is depressing.

Of course, somehow, cards are magical, even though you don’t have any to start. And you are somehow a Card Master. Bleh. Obviously Card Masters wouldn’t have any cards. Yeesh.

The game’s interface is like a cross between Might and Magic 3 and FF8’s card game. And movement throughout the game is done in hypercard direction displays. Really kind of sad for the Super Nintendo era. I’d expect this for the NES. I suppose we were still at early attempts in 3D simulation in that era, but still.

Uncertain hero. Check.  Magic using sylph. Check.  Hmmm... Two party slots still open.  Ah, there we go! White-draped female caster-type and blue-armored fighter type!  All set!
Uncertain hero. Check. Magic using sylph. Check. Hmmm... Two party slots still open. Ah, there we go! White-draped female caster-type and blue-armored fighter type! All set!

The music is distracting and repetitive, and doesn’t take advantage of the SNES’s great music chip. It has a very 8-bit feel to it. And the dungeons are clearly built in that classic FF1 style, to make you wander around with random enemy encounters for the better part of your life.

This is a game where the plot is amusing enough that you’d probably want to play through it for sake of completeness. But please, for $Deity’s sake, play it with a Game Genie with random encounters disabled. The last thing I want is for you to slit your wrists with boredom and ruin a perfectly good SNES controller.

Verdict: This game could have been fun at the time it was released, before people knew better about what could truly be delivered on the SNES. It has many annoying elements that one would not be able to be patient about anymore. Back then, sure, but then again, back then, we listened to Kriss Kross and Vanilla Ice. You’ll ask yourself what you were thinking while playing this game. It makes a good attempt at the RPG genre, but falls well short of the classics we’ve come to love.

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4 thoughts on “Arcana

  1. I feel as though games like this would benefit from a chronological, rather than alphabetical approach to the massive SNES library. We might see them as noble ancestors to the later, actually good games. Or maybe it’s just laziness and lack of creativity, I haven’t checked the release date.

  2. Strangely enough, I enjoyed this game, even after the SNES / PSX era. Will it win any game of the year awards? Probably not. But it’s a competently executed first-person dungeon crawler. Probably better than Shining in the Darkness for Genesis.

    That being said, if you’re REALLY interested in this type of game, I recommend Shining the Holy Ark for Saturn. Great, great game.

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