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Mystic Ark (SNES) artwork

Mystic Ark (SNES) review


"In the early nineties, Enix released an oddly named game known as Elnard to an otherwise unsuspecting Japanese public. A number of months later, the stateside release hit, and due to the fact that Elnard was a damn stupid name, the American release was renamed The 7th Saga. It made a mild splash in the gaming world, but fell into semi-obscurity under the thresholds of other, better games released at the time. Then, 1995 rolled around, seeing the release of memorable titles s..."



In the early nineties, Enix released an oddly named game known as Elnard to an otherwise unsuspecting Japanese public. A number of months later, the stateside release hit, and due to the fact that Elnard was a damn stupid name, the American release was renamed The 7th Saga. It made a mild splash in the gaming world, but fell into semi-obscurity under the thresholds of other, better games released at the time. Then, 1995 rolled around, seeing the release of memorable titles such as Seiken Densetsu 3, Romancing SaGa 3, and Mystic Ark.

Mystic Ark? I've never even heard of it. How is THAT memorable?

Well, here's the deal. Mystic Ark is the sequel to Elnard. Sorta.

While Mystic Ark was never announced as a true sequel to Elnard, it shares many similar features to its predecessor. One of Elnard's staple features, the "Crystal," makes a triumphant return. Using this Crystal that nestles itself in the upper-left corner of the screen, the player can determine the location of the ever-moving monsters, thus removing the randomness of the random encounters. The only downside to this is that oftentimes the player is caught paying more attention to monster locations on the Crystal than looking at the beautifully designed overworld maps and dungeons, complete with rich, detailed graphics and nice sprites. Sadly, the same cannot be said about the animation of these sprites. The sprite animation always seems blocky rather than fluid, and this trend is especially noticeable in battle.

Speaking of battles, they're nothing new. The eight playable characters have different specialties in battle, though many of the characters fall into RPG clichés. While some original characters stand out (The tetujin [robot] Lux, another crossover from Elnard is an example of this), the greatest portion of characters are nothing more than RPG leftovers with a new name and (nicely drawn) sprite. Included with these rather bland, simplistic battles comes a myriad of surprisingly well-done music. There are multiple battle themes as well, so the player never truly gets tired listening to the battle music. Once a song just starts to get boring, you'll end up arriving in a cave or dungeon, thus changing the battle theme. The rest of the music isn't quite as grand, but it's still fairly pleasing to the ear. Just don't expect to be humming along to it while bored at work or school.

Mystic Ark also has a number of puzzle-themed elements. There are many times while playing through the game's rather cliché story that you'll find yourself stuck at a certain part because you need to talk to ONE person or use ONE item at a certain spot. There are many times when it just gets to be more of a hassle than anything else. That being said, the storyline is also nothing incredible. A Goddess has summoned 7 heroes to find the 7 arks located in the lands of the world. Each area has a specific theme and population, as well as their own share of problems. These populations are fairly original and their problems make them somewhat endearing. Early in the game, for example, you'll find a pirate ship inhabited with... Cats. Pirate cats, even. These feline pillagers war with another group of pirate cats, and they have no weapons. Furthermore, these ships aren't even in water. Eventually, the area has you restoring peace to the two feline foes, restoring water to the world so that the ships can sail once again, and finally making your way to a small island out in the ocean, which, just a couple hours of gameplay before, was on a high plateau unreachable by any means. It's a nice touch in an otherwise fairly bland storyline.

Overall, Mystic Ark is a fairly good game that was released at the wrong time and never got a chance to make its way into American gamers' hearts. Had I played this when it first came out I'd probably like it more, due to the memories of playing it with friends and unlocking the mysteries of the Arks with them. However, Mystic Ark is nothing more than an average game with some pretty nice graphics and good music that never had a chance to grow on me, and the fact it isn't the type of game to grow on the player (at least in my case) damns it to mediocrity.

Rating: 7.5/10

espiga's avatar
Community review by espiga (March 27, 2005)

Espiga likes big butts, and cannot lie.

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