Review: Terranigma

Hello, my lovely Lusi-sprites. It has come to my attention that it has been a fair little while since we put on our nostalgia goggles to talk about old nonsense. After accepting a sound flogging from Lusipurr for this dereliction of duty, I am pleased(?) to present you with this Terranigma review. I have mentioned this game many times, and from what I understand based upon reader comments, a good number of you have not played it. Hopefully this will be interesting. I will settle for tolerable, however.

Epic cover art is epic

To review or play Terranigma, one must set their Wayback machine to 1995, when Enix published Terranigma in Japan and PAL territories. Quintet is probably best-known in North America for Soul Blazxer and Illusion of Gaia, both of which also happen to be SNES games, and bear many similarities to Terranigma. The three games are often considered to be an unofficial trilogy, and Terranigma is even jokingly referred to as Illusion of Gaia 2 as part of an Easter Egg area. If this is not enough to give the reader a fair idea as to what the game is like, the Japanese titles might offer a clue. There it is called Tenchi Sōzō which is roughly translated into “The creation of Heaven and Earth”. It is a real-time action RPG where, you guessed it, the player resurrects and helps shape the development of the planet, and works to save it during an epic confrontation between Dark and Light.

Our story revolves around Ark, a mischievious little scamp from the adorably quaint village of Crysta. He spends his days mooching off of the Elder, chasing chickens, smashing produce, and flirting with his girlfriend, Elle. Ark seems to have it all, until one day he breaks into the Elder’s sealed chamber and opens the Forbidden Box of Mystery (Yeah, let’s just call it Pandora’s freaking box and get it over with). In an instant everyone save for Ark and the Elder become frozen. Ark must then set out from the village, where noone had ever left before. He discovers that his world is actually the Under World, and it is a frozen wasteland with rivers and oceans of lava. He must journey through his world, visiting five towers. At each tower Ark must pass a trial, and if he succeeds, villagers will begin to recover, and a continent on the Upper World is resurrected. As the story advances, Ark travels to the Upper World where he introduces various forms of life, then helps guide and shape that life.

Gameplay-wise, Terranigma is simple, yet effective. Ark is your only playable character. He has limited attack options, and limited equipment options. He fights in real-time action-based combat, using a spear. Depending on whether he is running, jumping, or button-mashing, he will perform different attacks. Certain enemies are vulnerable to certain kinds of attacks. He can also cast magic spells, which he obtains by collecting items called Magirocks, then converting them into spells at the local Magic Shop. Ark gains experience and levels as in most RPGs, and can regularly upgrade his weapon and armor.

Pretty game is very pretty

From a technical perspective, the game does hold up quite nicely. It was one of the last games developed for the SNES, and this is reflected in the quality of its graphics. Visually the game is a cross between Crono Trigger and Seiken Densetsu 3. There is a pleasing depth to the graphics, like a good watercolor painting. The soundtrack is also impressive, and features some engaging tracks that can easily become stuck in the player’s head. The main theme that plays in Crysta is particularly good, as is the African theme.

Where Terranigma really shines is its mythology. In its previous games, Quintet also used the concerpts of Dark and Light (or Upper and Lower) worlds with moderate success. Players often complained that these elements seemed to be tacked on as an afterthought, and the worlds were not well thought out, or their lore was not well established. While Terranigma does suffer from the trend of SNES games to expect players to read the manual to understand the world, it does still do a much better job of incorporating that mythology into the entire game, from start to finish.


  1. I played Illusion of Gaia years ago and enjoyed it a good bit, but I never bothered looking up what else the company did. The second picture brings up *soooo* many memories, pardon me while I oldfag. If this is a not-quite series, I’ll have to see if I can find a ROM of it to play through. Thanks for your insight, Ginia!

  2. Fun Lane fact: I played the entire “Soul Blazer” trilogy as emulated games on my Macbook during Astronomy 301 at UT.

    I made a C. In my defense, my professor had Tourette’s and clucked like a chicken.

  3. Also, I played and beat the US-released ones on the SNES as a wee child. Also, Jen, unless I’m mistaken, I have like 5-6 years on you, so give me back my onion.

  4. Terranigma, Star Ocean, and Rudra No Hihou are the three SNES games that I’ve played a bit of and still need to finish. Terranigma was probably the most fun I had of the three. I ended up getting to a human village with lots of cliffs and not knowing what I was supposed to do when I last played it I think.

    I never played Soul Blazer, but Terranigma is definitely like a more polished and pretty Illusion of Gaia. Minus the jumping off extreme heights and falling unharmed with Will. That was just awesome.

  5. Lane: Are you the oldestfag or is Grandpa Lusi? Enjoy your wrinkles and prune juice, boys!

    Paul: Yeah, I never understood how Will survived his ridiculous falls.

  6. I think Lusipurr and I compared one time on LJ. I’m not sure who came out older but I’ll be inching closer to 30 this year.

  7. He responded on the podcast and verified that he is indeed the oldestfag. Glad to know I’m still the baby of our horrible group!