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loogslair.com I feel asleep!


Year released: 1992
Company: HAL America
Genre: RPG

Many people tend to think that the RPG market is cornered by Squaresoft and Enix. Let's face it - while they don't have a total monopoly over the genre, it's a sad fact that most other companies that try to come out with an RPG suffer from underpromotion, bad quality, or both. Why do I say this? Because it's entirely possible to overlook a role-playing game because it wasn't made by the big two, and Arcana is a perfect example. Despite stiff competition by FFII, I have to say that Arcana is the best RPG to come out in the first year of the SNES.

The part of this game that blows every other early-era RPG away is the game's presentation. The graphics to this game are superb. The characters have a glint of Anime about them, but not so much that it looks cartoonish. The enemies contain something that few other RPGs possess, even later ones: animation. Not only do the enemies move when you take your turns, they also have various sequences for their attacks. The music for this game, also, is nothing short of superb. The composers took a lot of time trying to come up with some of the best themes they could, and it certainly showed. I especially like how the normal battle, boss, and final battle music all had that one particular theme that tied them together. And the kicker - there's a sound test in the game, which makes listening to all of the music even more pleasing.

The game also has a nifty plot to keep you playing. The element of Rooks, the main character, being a master of what they call "card magic" adds the concept of elementals into the scheme of things, moreso than FF games. The game certainly has its twists and turns, and the new player will definitely be intrigued with all of the different characters popping in and out of their party. The only real problem with this game is the horrid Japanese-English translation the game got. It doesn't get to the point where they're speaking in tongues, but there are many portions of the game - especially in the climactic ends of each chapter - where characters systematically butcher the English language. While not a detractor from the game itself, it is enough of a concern to drop the Plot rating 1 point.

Another problem is two-sided: The game gets too hard too quickly. The first chapter isn't a major difficulty. The second chapter is OK as long as you did some major exploring beforehand, but once you reach the third chapter and onward, The enemies are more fierce than you can handle. While this wouldn't be too bad in most RPGs - just backtrack, hang out in an earlier dungeon and rack up Experience - Arcana doesn't allow you to backtrack. Since the game is divided into chapters, once you pass certain points of the game, you can't go back. These cause a real problem with me. If you're going to make enemies tougher, give us a chance to build levels somewhere else. Still another mistake made by the game is the lack of freedom you're given in terms of where to go. Once you leave a town, you head immediately to your destination. No wandering, no exploring, no nothing. Hardcore RPGers will feel as if they're being dragged through this game on a leash. It detracts from the enjoyability of the game because it's something that most other RPGs before and after it avoid doing.

However, don't get the impression that you won't like this game. I fell in love with it the first time I played it, and it wasn't until I'd played it for a year that I noticed these problems. Arcana is definitely a blast to play - largely because of the excellent tunes and the first-person perspective - but you'll have to develop a tolerance to it if you want to really enjoy this game in the long run. This game is still proof that not every quality RPG comes from the big two.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 16
Challenge: (Hard)
Thrill: (Frustrating)
Aesthetic Score: 18
Overall Score: 81%

You are now listening to the Battle Music to Arcana.