Soul Blazer is an adventure RPG made by the creators of Actraiser. Soul Blazer was brought to the US by Enix back in the early days of the 16-Bit age, a time when Enix was a strong supporter of the RPG market in the US.
Before the game begins, the player learns about the greedy King Maggrid. King Maggrid’s lust for money was so powerful that he desired to make a Faustian deal just to further his wealth. To arrange this, he forces Dr. Leo, a renowned inventor, to build a machine that could bring a demon to their dimension. The machine brings the demon Deathtoll to King Maggrid’s castle. Deathtoll tells the king that he will give him one piece of gold for every soul he brings to the demon. In time, the life of the world vanished, and the souls of all living things, including humans, animals, and plants, are in the hands of Deathtoll’s minions.
The hero of Soul Blazer (you name him) is an angel appointed by The Master. In addition to being a skilled swordsman, the hero has the ability to communicate with all living things. As The Master’s angel, it is your job to reclaim each and every stolen soul from Deathtoll’s monsters.
The gameplay of Soul Blazer is much like that of other 2-D adventure games. Soul Blazer uses bird’s eye view style maps, where you can walk in any direction. Some maps have multiple elevation levels.
Almost all monsters come from monster lairs. Each monster lair has a set number and type of monster it can produce. Once all of the monsters from the lair have been defeated, the lair can be captured. Capturing a lair will either release a soul from the demons or change the area map in some way.
Each of the six stages of the game has a safe civilian area and one or more dangerous areas. When a soul is released from a monster lair, the safe area will change somehow. As new things appear in the safe area, the hero will gain access to new items and new places to go. A player with a sharp eye and a love of exploring will find several secret areas and hidden items as well.
The hero’s personal repertoire consists of a sword, armor, magic, items, and souls of other angels. There are eight swords and eight armors in the game. In addition to a level of attack or defense, each weapon or armor has a special power. For example, the Critical Sword will sometimes kill an enemy in one hit, and the Bubble Armor allows the hero to breathe in water. Over the course of the game, the hero will come across five other angels who serve The Master. When one of them joins you, its power becomes active in the soul ball that rotates around the hero. For example, the angel called “Soul of Light” allows you to see in dark places. However, the way it works is that a circle will appear around the soul ball and follow the soul ball as it rotates. As a result, the places where the light touches are always changing.
There are also eight different spells in Soul Blazer. Each spell has a specific shape, casting cost, and pattern of motion, so some work better against different types of monsters. Magic becomes usable when the hero finds the “Soul of Magician”, and all spells are fired out of the soul ball. Magic is fueled by gems, which are little golden orbs dropped by monsters.
Soul Blazer is fairly hard as far as adventure RPGs go. Long term survival while hunting monsters can be a challenge, and the boss fights are tough. First time players may die a few times while exploring dungeons or fighting bosses for the first time, but death isn’t that annoying because the only penalty for dying is the loss of your gems, which are easily replaced after a few minutes of fighting monsters. When you die, you keep all the souls you freed and all the items you found.
Soul Blazer featured graphics up to the quality of post launch Super NES games. Many of the monsters in the game look very detailed considering the small size of the sprites used for them. Soul Blazer has a very wide variety of monsters such as goblins, lizards, toy soldiers, sea creatures, metal tanks, and fire ghosts. The bosses in Soul Blazer are huge, colorful, and monstrous. The area maps feature very realistic artwork, and places such as towns, castles, forests, sky and fire temples, pyramids, volcanic mountains, and undersea coral reefs all create perfect adventure environments. The icons on the item screen are very nice little pictures. One thing Soul Blazer is lacking in the graphics department is animation; most of the hero’s and enemies’ attacks use only a few frames.
Soul Blazer fares pretty well as far as music and sound effects. Some of the sound effects in Soul Blazer are borrowed from Actraiser. These include the sounds of damaging a monster, getting hurt, and the sound of metal hitting metal. Most of the music from Soul Blazer is nice to listen to. I particularly like the songs used for the jungle and the sky castle. The boss music is also a great piece, and it’s just the right tune to make the battle more exciting.
Soul Blazer’s main weak points are in its story and length. Soul Blazer has a decent story, but it is not a very story centered game, so the plot is very simple. The story is easy to understand, but it is not an especially intriguing or captivating story. Also, Soul Blazer is a fairly short game. Each of the six levels goes by pretty fast, and getting to the end usually doesn’t take long.
Soul Blazer is a fun adventure that should appeal to any fans of the adventure RPG genre, particularly fans of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Actraiser. If you are in the mood for a classic 2-D adventure, give Soul Blazer a try.