In 1996 Squaresoft brought us Treasure of the Rudras, and alas, most of us missed it. It was one of the last titles released on the Super Famicon and it was considered too late in the console’s life cycle to bother with an English translation. By the time that would have been possible, it would have been 1997, and who would buy Rudra when Cloud Strife and his big shiny sword were on the scene? Fortunately a fan translation was developed in 2003 by Aeon Genesis Translation and is readily available via this series of tubes.
The game takes place in what is to be the final 15 days of the human race. In this word the Rudra comes every 4000 years to decimate the current ruling race in order to make way for the rise of the next great race, and to prevent the current race from outgrowing the world. In the course of the planet’s history merpeople, giants and others have teetered on the brink of extinction thanks to the Rudras, and now it is man’s turn. The player initially has the option to follow three adventurers through these last days, and can switch scenarios at any time. The player can experience this end of days as a solider named Sion, a priestess named Riza, and a sorcerer named Surlent. As events unfold, a handy little doomsday timer ticks away the final 15 days at pre-determined, story-driven moments. Once the original three scenarios are completed, the game unlocks its fourth and final scenario, a thief named Dune and through his scenario the game is truly completed and the four storylines merge.
In many respects Rudra is your typical 1990’s Square RPG. There is an overworld map infested with baddies, and friendly little towns and unfriendly little dungeons scattered here and there, right in the path of the heroes. Characters gain experience from slaying monsters, level up, and have standard equipment slots. The story is the typical doomsday scenario featuring a ragtag group of misfits, fighting against all odds and for their own reasons. For instance, Riza is a bit of a hippie and is trying to stop some pollution nonsense, while Sion is a bit more stereotypical, and is launched into this adventure when he tries to rescuea girl. The general mood of the game tends to be darker than most in its genre. A 15 day doomsday clock tends to do that. Every time the screen dims and one sees that it is now one day closer to humanity’s demise it is hard not to feel anxious and worried along with the characters.
Where Rudra shines and sets itself apart is its magic system, known as Mantras. Essentially the magic of this world is founded solely upon the spoken word. Any combination of letters will result in some magical effect (so I hope they are really careful when carrying on a conversation) but of course there is an optimal method and “language” to the magic system. It is based around nine core words, which correspond to the seven elements and healing. Various prefixes and suffixes can be added to these core words, to do such things as make them multi-target spells, increase their overall power, add a certain status ailment, etc. For example, “ig” is the core word meaning “fire”. If you had the suffix “na” to a spell, it causes it to hit all targets, so “ig” is a weak single-target fire spell, and “igna” is a weak multi-target fire spell. There are other stand-alone words like “powerup”, “death” and “virus”. Players can experiment with words that they think ought to be spells, and see what sticks. This system gives the player a great deal of freedom, as every spell in the game is available from the beginning. Whether it is MP-efficient to use these spells is another matter, of course. It is up to the player to set up a list of spells to use in battle. New mantras are learned by speaking to NPCs, reading books, watching what spells enemies use, experimentation, or reading a handy dandy FAQ online.