Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Soul Blazer (SNES)

Click here to pick up your copy!

Full disclosure: when I was younger - I didn't care much for standard role playing games. Growing up, my only real experience with RPGs was playing over at my friends' houses. Typically, they would have another buddy already over there and they both would be huddled around the Super NES with controllers in-hand trying to blast through Final Fantasy II or III (or Final Fantasy IV and VI in Japan.) Which usually meant I had to patiently wait around near-silent for a few hours while they leveled up, combined magic, and screamed at the screen. Meanwhile, all I wanted to do was rip into Mortal Kombat a few times before I had to go home again. Outside of Faxanadu and Castlevania II - I didn't really own games with more than mild RPG elements. Naturally, this left me with a bad taste in my mouth for RPGs that lasted until a buddy of mine leant me a game that completely changed my view on RPGs forever. It was way outside of the realm of "typical" RPGs and played more like an action/adventure game (which I would later find out was similar in nature to Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, one of the greatest Super NES games of all time.) It was called Soul Blazer and would prove to be one of my favorite games for the SNES. I recently bought my own copy from Lukie Games to see if it still holds up to the nostalgia I've held onto since 1992. So the question is: does it live up to my memories?

Typically one of the most important elements in an RPG is the story. However, for the uninitiated - Rpgs can be an incredibly long time-sink that require paying attention to minute details and dialogue trees. "Where did the king tell me to travel to again?" "How am I supposed to free the mighty blade from the ground?" In Action/RPG games such as Soul Blazer, the story is still important in the overall enjoyment of the game; however, it is not nearly as lengthy or crucial as in games such as the Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior, or Ultima series. In this game, you control a hero sent from "the master" to resurrect a series of towns held captive by the evil Deathtoll. Along the way you meet a cast of characters who give you items to progress through the story and to bring these dead cities back to life. It is a classic tale of good versus evil and is similar in tone to other Enix games with spiritual/religious undertones such as EVO, Illusion of Gaia, and the Actraiser series. The story and dialogue are decent enough, but might not satisfy the hardcore RPG crowd. For everyone else, this is a good primer for the RPG genre and the story moves along quick enough to not hinder the action.

"Paging Craig. Clean up on Aisle 5!"

Speaking of the action - it is quick, exciting, and effective. You have a sword attack and magic (both of which you will find upgrades for as you progress through the game.) Different swords, armor, and magic will be useful in different situations. IE: in the underwater city, it is crucial to have your bubble armor equipped - lest you take damage and drown. Some swords and magic are tailored against certain enemies, such as rock monsters or flying enemies. For the most part, you can progress through the game with your most powerful equipment on at all times - but in order to unlock all secret items and get through to the final stage - it is important to know what tools to use where. Battles are uncomplicated and flow in a swift pace (ala Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.) Instead of typical turn-based battles - you are free to hack, slash and even run past enemies if you wish. There are boss battles at the end of each level and thankfully three warp zones per level to return to the safe room - where you can save, load, and travel at your will.

BAH! What the heck is THAT thing?!
One of the main highlights of Soul blazer may also be my biggest criticism: at times, the game is perhaps a little too accessible. The challenge level is perfect for people who do not have much RPG experience under their belts, and for an 8 year old Chris - it was a perfect primer for the genre. However, I have now taken down several RPGs since, and what once was a cute, engaging action game has become a breeze to play. Most bosses have easy to master attack patterns and with the right technique can be killed without taking much damage. Most enemies can be struck down with one or two sword blows if you're properly equipped. Finally, aside from having to hop back and forth between levels in order to track down all of the hidden booty that you missed while you were a weakling - the game is linear enough that you're never going to get lost. When I stopped playing Chrono Trigger for a year and came back to the game - I had literally no idea what my last move was, so there was a lot of backtracking in order to figure out what to do next. In this game - I could leave it 90% finished, come back in three years, and know exactly what is left to finish the game. That is a terrific feature for beginners, but as a somewhat seasoned gamer it makes the game easy enough to beat over a long weekend.

That little green donut unlocks a bird...or a mermaid...or a...
So the question needs to be answered - is Soul Blazer as awesome as I remember it? Absolutely. It's fun, addictive, quick, and action-packed. It's also ridiculously easy now that I've clobbered more complex RPGs and admittedly - the story is a little thin. However, it is still well worth your time and investment for a relatively underrated Action/RPG classic. It's a bit on the collectible side these days so it may run you a bit more than your average SNES cart - but it's worth it. Pick up a copy for yourself!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mike’s Gameboy Game of the Week: Yu-Gi-Oh!! Eternal Duelist Soul


Yu-Gi-Oh!! Eternal Duelist Soul is the first Yu-Gi-Oh!! game released on the Gameboy Advance platform (in the United States at least). Eternal Duelist Soul is a huge and competent step-up from Dark Duel Stories for the Gameboy Color as it not only follows the TCG’s rules the game contains all the cards that existed in the actual TCG back in 2002 (About 819 different cards). Since the game was made during the early stages of the card games development there is no forbidden or limited list meaning you can use any cards you want sans god cards because the  legal versions of them hadn’t been made yet.


For good reason I suppose. 

Eternal Duelist Soul was one of the first games I bought for my Gameboy Advance way back in the early 2000’s and I remember pouring in around a hundred hours unlocking all the cards and all the other duelists. Even after I had purchased Pokemon Ruby and Legend of Zelda I still poured countless hours into this game as because getting everything in the game wasn’t as clear cut as just beating duelists to unlock all the cards. Eternal Duelist Soul could essentially be an completionists nightmare as there is a strong luck element to getting the cards and you can’t even get some until you’ve beaten all the duelists about five times but to unlock the a couple of the duelists several duelists like Simon or the Dueling Robot you have a set random chance that they will become unlocked while you are playing so the game can take quite a while to “beat”.

gfs_51483_1_6Which can feel pretty trying as all the duelists sound so condescending.

Card games are generally very complex and Yu-Gi-Oh!! is no exception to this (the lack of tutorial doesn’t help) as there are plethora of rules and card types that need to be learned in order to play the game. Even after learning all the facets of the game you still have to find a play style that suits you best, be it a super aggressive style where you use equip cards to augment the strength of your monster cards, or you could try to deplete your opponents deck by making them discard all their cards. For the sake of keeping this review somewhat concise I’ll avoid trying to explain how you play the actual game as that alone couple be a stand alone article due to its length. So here's a link to a website that can teach you the basics.

I’m serious this stuff can get insane!

Eternal Duelist Soul is a pretty straight forward game. It has several main features that can broken into two sections, Campaign mode, and Deck Building Mode.


The Campaign Mode consists of the Campaign feature which is a single player mode where you duel computer opponents to unlock cards and other stronger duelists to battle, tying into that is the calendar and record modes the calendar  mode shows you what day of the week it is (game time) and on certain days you will receive some free cards or be challenged by a random duelist. The way time works in the game is that after the conclusion of any given duel the game will advance one day instead of running on an in-game clock or some sort of real time clock it follows an archaic “Perform and action, time passes” setup. Record mode record your total win loss ration and the individual win loss ratios against any duelists you have faced or unlocked. Lastly is link battles which is the mode you and a friend enter in order to duel each other with whatever decks you have thrown together, in order to do this a link cable is required and two copies of Yu-Gi-Oh!! Eternal Duelist Soul.


When you start the game you enter your birthday and the game will even wish you a happy birthday.

The Deck Building mode is split up between the Deck Editor and the Password and Trading features. The Deck Editor is where you can swap cards into and out of your deck and side deck for use in link battles and the Campaign mode. The Password mode is where you can enter the codes from the bottom of the cards you already own in order to add them to the game. Unfortunately you can only receive one copy of any card whose code  you enter (i.e. If you enter the code for the Blue Eyes White Dragon you will only ever receive one copy of the card no matter how many times you enter the code.) If you have a hard time unlocking or finding certain cards you can use the trading mode to help you get them by trading for them with your friends, so long as you don’t try shorting them in the trade its a fairly reliable way of getting rarer cards.


Sometimes its the only legit way of getting the alt versions of some cards.

Eternal Duelist Soul has few flaws so long as you buy the game knowing that it’s nothing but an emulator for a card game. It has many features all of which work as they are intended and a campaign mode that has a perfect difficulty scale so that you are made to always try improving your ability and your deck. Of all the Yu-Gi-Oh!! games on the Gameboy Advance this is the one I most highly recommend because it doesn’t try to force itself to be something that it should never be. Eternal Duelist Soul is a fairly common game that you should be able to nab for anywhere from $5 to $20 and for any fan of the series this should be a priority if you are looking into experiencing either some semblance of nostalgia or want to see how much the card game has evolved since it first started well over a decade ago.


Normal Monsters, Normal Monsters as far as the eye can see!