Soul Blazer is an action RPG developed by Quintet and published by Enix in 1992 on the SNES. It asks the player to take the role of a servant of the Master, who is essentially a benevolent god who wants to see the land healed after a foolish king summoned a demon.
Being an action game on the SNES, there isn't a great deal of time dedicated to story. Even so, Soul Blazer manages to leave a good impression. The world on display is extremely quirky, featuring talking goats and living dolls intermixed with mermaids, people and dwarves. It's not as bananas as Earthbound, but certainly not as plain as something nearer realism.
These NPCs give the game a rather dreamlike quality, which somehow goes well with all the philosophising present in the dialogue. It's all about life, dreams and hope, which suits a game of this era, even if it does reach some somewhat somber notes every once in a while.
It never gets impressive, but the ending is very nice, as it really showcases the things you've achieved over the course of the game.
Being played from the top-down perspective, comparisons to A Link to the Past are inevitable. But I also think it feels like what the SNES Ys games should've been, which isn't strange, seeing as a few people from Falcom moved to Quintet and helped make this game. Hell, the leveling and equipment progression is nearly identical to the way the Ys games do it.
Our avatar is responsive and feels fun to play as, even if he doesn't have much to him. You can move around and slash at stuff, which is what you'll be doing for most of the game. Enemies have some decent variety, but you don't have to change your approach much to defeat them.
What is nice is the fact that our hero comes with the ability to strafe! But to balance out the better mobility, you can only do a continous stab while strafing, which is weaker than a regular slash. This makes it easier to deal with beefy enemies that chase after you, which have always irked me in games of this sort.
Taking after Gradius, the magic system is basically an adaptation of Options in that series. You have a soul that constantly rotates around you, making it possible to aim at things not directly in front of you, while also making it harder to hit things and basically renders magic spam moot, unless you use the wider spells.
It's a nice mechanic which is fun to master. My one complaint is that the majority of spells aren't necessary, as I got by just fine using only 3 of them.
To cast spells, you need gems found by killing enemies and in chests. And should you die, you'll lose ALL of them. Losing them like this doesn't work for me, since it's basically just a punishment for not saving, seeing as you can reload the game with gems in hand with no problem. Frankly, I'd be down for a corpse run mechanic here to get your gems back. It'd fit the structure of the game rather well.
The unique feature of Soul Blazer is its restoration mechanic. At every turn, you'll find monster lairs that spawn a few baddies to kill. Once that's done, you step on the lair to summon a chest, open the way forward or to revive a creature.
You'll then come to a point where you can't progress anymore and have to go back to the town of the current level to find help. Which isn't as bad as it sounds, since the game is very good at spacing out shortcuts back to town when you're almost out of health. It's like the Dark Souls of SNES RPGs!
Here you get to talk with everyone you've rescued and have to solve some light puzzles to find the thing that takes you further in the dungeon. It could be a key, a machine or magic leaves that make rafts recognize you as a friend. It's a really satisfying back-and-forth that makes you get to know the inhabitants of the current level. It's also cool to see the towns slowly become rebuilt as you rescue folks.