I’m pretty certain it was about 7 or 8 years ago I first gave Soul Blazer a shot, and it didn’t take much to convince me this game was neat. Here I had found a clear SNES gem I had missed out on!
Though much of the story is rather simple on the surface, there is a lot to unpack if you let your mind linger on the major themes of humanity’s corruption and its ability to learn and grow, and the concepts of death and rebirth this game loosely tackles. Getting into the discussion of Soul Blazer offered some surprising insight as we panelists postulated (likely too deeply) over the aforementioned story themes.
Visually, Soul Blazer still holds up well enough. It stayed fresh throughout the game as I journeyed from one land to the next with clear environment and hazard changes, even if foes largely functioned the same. The combat system is still fluid and fun as I remember, brick-dumb AI aside.
Overall what hooked me, then and now, is the pattern of action RPG dungeon exploring to rebuild/repopulate the various settlements. I put more effort into finding each secret this time around, and was not disappointed with the rewards. Ultimately, Soul Blazer is so satisfying with its tight reward loop, making it easy to get lost in, and coming back to it this second time around was a welcome experience!
It’s hard to quantify exactly what was so appealing to me about Soul Blazer when I first played it as a kid. There was this sense of mystique and wonder to the game. As an adult, I don’t feel moved in the same ways, but I see layers upon layers that I didn’t fully comprehend.
The sparse but impacting plot grows more mature each time I revisit the game, bringing new life experiences with me. At the same time, it has simple and appealing combat and pleasing aesthetics. While anyone can appreciate this gem, having had it as a childhood favorite that held up well is an extra bonus. The hourglass isn’t always so kind to our beloved classics.
It’s hard to remember a time when Square and Enix were separate entities. The two juggernauts each had a very iconic style. While Square may have gone on to dominate the Super Nintendo’s latter years, Soul Blazer and its sequels were perhaps some of the most uniquely “Enix” games on the console. I highly recommend Soul Blazer to anyone fond of retro RPGs with sim elements and optionally deep philosophy.
I tend to remember Soul Blazer in the same terms the game uses to describe Lisa’s song. That song can sound either lonesome or satisfying depending on how you feel in the moment, and I think Soul Blazer is much the same way. It presents a lot of good and a lot of bad about humanity, and invites you to reflect in a surprisingly impartial way. It’s also fascinating how many of the odd translations and early SNES idiosyncrasies compound this mystique rather than being annoying. It comes together into a whole that ends up feeling enriching. It’s nice to know that hasn’t changed.
What’s also nice is the immersive experience you can have despite Soul Blazer’s age! The environments and characters are charming, especially for the amount of time you spend with them (yes, it’s shorter than I remember), and the gameplay is so smooth that it’s seamless. I almost don’t mind that the leveling and item systems keep you on such narrow rails, because it felt like a natural progression that contributed to my immersion. Soul Blazer is the rare early RPG I would recommend to anyone who likes a little sometimes-uncomfortable philosophical musing or anyone who enjoys action RPG gameplay like Ys or Secret of Mana.
But really, who could say no to talking tulips and chests of drawers who explain that furniture needs exercise too?
Soul Blazer’s loose “trilogy” of games are all worth experiencing, and while the first in the series isn’t as refined or as lush as Terranigma, it was still a great ride going back to it. I don’t know that I even have played the game between the early 1990s and this Retro Encounter-inspired playthrough, yet as I played, the memories came rushing back.
It’s true the enemy AI is not very advanced, but hey, this was 1992. The combat is simple but satisfying, even if I still don’t find many of the later spells useful after the second one. And sure, the English text definitely could have used a QA pass.
But you know, I’m never going to get tired of talking to a village full of animals, or an underwater temple of mermaids and dolphins. While Soul Blazer is a short game by most RPG standards, and the narrative and dialogue aren’t often deep, the potential is there. I just love the variety of each area and the inventiveness the folks at Quintet used in designing the world. Each new area is a miniature world unto itself, and it’s great fun to discover how each of these societies and races live and their part in the bigger picture.
Also, how many games let you walk around in the dreams of a tulip? I would be shocked if the answer is more than one.