Terranigma (SNES) review
"Meet Ark, just another mischievous teenager enjoying his easy life in the small town of Crysta. Since the day he was born, his childhood has been limited to the gates of this mysterious village. The Elder seems to be the only soul around who has an understanding of life outside the boundaries of Crysta, but no one dares to ask him what may be beyond the walls. One day, a curious Ark decides to break down a mysterious door that had always remained shut. Inside the dusty room, he releases an evil ..."
Meet Ark, just another mischievous teenager enjoying his easy life in the small town of Crysta. Since the day he was born, his childhood has been limited to the gates of this mysterious village. The Elder seems to be the only soul around who has an understanding of life outside the boundaries of Crysta, but no one dares to ask him what may be beyond the walls. One day, a curious Ark decides to break down a mysterious door that had always remained shut. Inside the dusty room, he releases an evil that has been kept at bay for ages. Suddenly, all the inhabitants of Crysta become frozen - all but the Elder.
The protagonist's quest from here becomes clear. Even after unfreezing Crysta's inhabitants however, the outside world must still be brought back to its original state. Ark, the root of the problem, is naturally chosen for the job.
Thus begins a quest of rebirth and discovery. Beginning as a desolate wasteland, the Earth is slowly filled with life again as the intrepid Ark successfully vanquishes the malevolent forces that have held the growth of plants and animals in a bind. Terranigma takes the player through the slow process of revival and the breakthroughs of the new human race. Though not entirely played out with historical accuracy, some familiar names will rear their heads as the game progresses. Ark will meet the likes of inventors and explorers such as Edison, Columbus, and Will (based off of Wilbur Wright, inventor of the aeroplane). Gradually, players will travel through an era of discovery and growth, as human technology becomes more and more sophisticated. All of this occurs as Ark, protector of the outside world, maintains watch over the humans.
Now, that may seem like an enormous task for any teenager. However, it becomes apparent that Ark has matured whilst bringing up the continents and resurrecting life. This plays directly into one of the more stressed themes of Terranigma - the act of self-discovery. Ark realizes his role as the world's savior. But discovery does not come without its fair share of regrets. During one particular excursion through a snowy mountain, Ark accidentally causes an avalanche which lands him in a cavern blocked off by ice. He meets a mountain goat here who points him over to her dead husband, killed by the iceslide Ark started. Despite that, she manages to break open a hole for Ark to climb out of but meanwhile, leaves herself alone to find another way out. The game does not directly tell you of her fate, but if a player chooses to come back to the cavern later on, he'll find not one, but two bodies - it's clear what end she met.
Sequences like these can really stir up mixed emotions and feelings. Though subtle, they are definitely meaningful. The game also acquires a penetrating pathos from the emptiness, yet sacrosanctity, of the bare world before the revival of man. We are shown a peaceful land with plants and animals, living in their own utopia before the resurrection of the human race. However, as man steps up, the other species step down. Ark, following the appearance of humans, is no longer capable of speaking to the plants and animals he once knew. It's these minor details that so scrupulously express each of Terranigma's inner themes. I would be lying if I claimed Terranigma did not deal with controversial subjects.
There aren't many characters in Terranigma, but those that do appear are surely memorable. Take Elle, Ark's best (and only) friend over in Crysta. She has a pretty obvious crush on Ark, yet she doesn't show it (tries not to at least). It becomes clear that she'd like to express her compassion and caring for our protagonist, but somehow, she never finds the chance - most likely, of course, due to Ark's mainly stoic nature. When the day comes for Ark to leave, Elle locks herself up in her room. Ark comes up, hears her sobbing, and leaves without a second thought. Although it appears to be a rather disfunctional relationship, the game does draw some hope out for the two young lovers even though it's unclear as to where it may lead. Another character, Yomi, serves as a bit of comic relief for an otherwise serious game. This pink, ball-shaped fellow comes and goes at its leisure. Usually appearing to give Ark some helpful tips, it often teases Ark and has a knack of disappearing at the worst of times. Yomi really succeeds in adding some life to those drab moments of the game. Terranigma certainly differs from some of those other RPGs that feature myriads of characters, proving that games don't necessarily need wild-haired punks wielding gigantic swords to deliver an awesome experience.
Honestly, there are a few instances in which the gameplay does happen to get stale and boring. The first few dungeons for example, feature pointless monsters that can be defeated in a single hit and simple, linear layouts. Now, it's typical for RPGs to have a few easy dungeons before they really get into the game, but Terranigma seems to drag that a bit too long. For a good segment of the game, players will trudge through the same repetitive dungeon layout. After a rather slow start though though, Terranigma will slowly open up once Ark actually reaches the surface of the Earth. Dungeons in the second chapter and beyond will prove to be far more intricate and well-designed than the ones before. Whether it be transcending a steep canyon wall or scaling a lofty, snow-covered mountain, the aforementioned "uninspired" locales will seem like a thing of the past.
Terranigma boasts a superb, polished look and an equally fitting soundtrack. Not only are in-game textures and characters beautiful to look at, but the FMVs are also very well-rendered. Whether it be a wind-streaked field below Airs Rock (Ayers Rock) in Australia or a sunset over a savannah in Africa, the quality graphics, complemented flawlessly with an amazing soundtrack, will be sure to astound you. Gamers who don't really care for storylines can just enjoy Terranigma on these qualities alone.
Not often does one find a game that leaves as much a lasting impression as Quintet's Terranigma. Only a select few titles nowadays can invoke the powerful feelings and emotions that this game so subtly emits. More than just another action RPG, Terranigma is a work of art that delves deeply into the mind, leaving its mark there like a meaningful novel or painting. It's a game fueled by its epic storyline, memorable characters, and perfect execution.
Community review by redemption (September 06, 2006)
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