I think most jaded RPGamers would agree that Square-Enix releases a lot of substandard, lowest common demoninator RPGs these days. Said people also like to look back on the ‘good ol’ days’ - usually, the SNES era. What I think most people don’t realize is that Squaresoft has ALWAYS released a lot of mediocre RPGs. Now, that’s not to say that Square hasn’t brought us a ton of great stuff; but, it’s not like they only started releasing bad games in the past few years. One such game is Treasure of the Rudras, one of the last SNES games released by Squaresoft. This game was never released stateside; however, a group of fan translators labored to release the game in english. It was one of the last big Squaresoft SNES RPGs to recieve a quality fan translation; it’s also one of the most overrated japanese SNES RPGs around.
First things first: This game is quite possibly the most beautiful 2D RPG I’ve ever played. The quality of the graphics, animation, and detail far surpass anything else on the SNES by Squaresoft. The only real trouble is that the dungeon design is very lazy; almost every mountain and ruin is just a pallete swap of each other. In fact, most ruins aren’t even pallete swaps - they look exactly the same! This is too bad, because the graphics are truly beautiful. The music was written by relatively unknown composer Ryuji Sasai, who you might know from Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Sasai is an excellent composer; his proficiency in writing orchestral music and rock music is amazing, and his use of thematic material in his music is brilliant. This is an excellent soundtrack.
So, here’s the deal with the story: Every 4000 years, a destroyer called a Rudra comes to earth, destroys the most prevalent race, and establishes a new one in its place. In Treasure of the Rudras, you get to witness the final sixteen days of the human race from the perspective of three characters: Sion, a confident, slightly reckless knight; Surlent, an eloquent magician and researcher; and Riza, a typical ‘Really-nice-but-with-no-personality’ lady. All three of them have different-yet-related quests to help stop the coming cataclysm, and are bound to do so by destiny. After beating all three, there will be a short fourth scenario where the game truly ends.
After having played this game twice, I’m convinced that the better way to play is one scenario at a time, rather than all three at once. There are three main reasons why:
If you try to keep all scenarios at roughly the same place in time, You won’t actually be giving equal play time to all three scenarios. Sometimes, in the same day, one character will have several things they need to do, whereas another character’s events for the same day consist of merely making it from one destination to another. Hell, one character skips three entire days altogether.
All three parties learn about the coming destruction on their own, all from several different deities, prophets, and scholars - almost all of them having weird names that you will forget within a minute of meeting them. Not coincidentally, you’ll also forget WHEN you read the same few prophetic lines of crap, and with whom. In the middle of one quest, one of the main characters asks a prophet, ‘What is a Rudra, anyways?’ My first thought was “Are you serious?” But then, I quickly realized that I had no idea if anyone had actually explained to them what a Rudra was.
It’s hard to remember what to do and where to go when switching between all three characters. This is due to many things: For one, a lot of locations in this game look very similar, if not exactly the same. Also, all three characters will go to a lot of similar-looking places, if not the exact same places. Soon, you’ll be forgetting which of the million similar ruins you need to go to with which character - maybe even WHY you have to go there. Or, since every group has a different means of transportation, you may forget how to leave a continent with a certain character.
…But, no matter how you play it, the game falls short for a few reasons. A lot of it has to do with sloppy writing. Originally, I thought this was a matter of the fan translation, as the writing for the original english writing was pretty substandardl However, while an excellent rewritten script has helped a lot, there are still a lot of aspect to the game’s script which are just sloppy. I had too many examples to bring up in this review, but here are some generalizations of the most important ones:
For one, there are many conversations that end abruptly. Not even so much as a “Anyways, let’s move out!” or something. It’s just like, “Question?” “Answer.” “Comment that only a socially inept bunch would allow on the tail end of a conversation.” …And then, there’s the end of the conversation! What the hell!?
For two, sometimes, people bring up things without explaining what the hell they’re talking about. This especially happens in Sion’s scenario. For example, when you meet your third party member, he will explain that the villain you’re looking for probably left on a ‘ship’ (or an ‘Ark’, I can’t remember which word he used), but no one said, “Uh, I didn’t see any ship outside the tower,” or “What the hell is an Ark?”
For three - an expansion on my second point - A lot of the villains’ motives are poorly explained. It’s hard to elaborate on this without spoiling much, but there almost every villain will keep you perplexed as to their true motives for almost the entire game, if they EvER get explained in the first place. This kind of shit happens through the entire game.
For four, there is frequently little or NO effort in telling you where to go next, or how to reach your next destination. Many times, you will have to backtrack to random places with no indication (Riza), or go to one of the many lookalke ruins (Surlent), and you will have no idea, because no one will ever let you know - nevermind HOW you should get there! Admittedly, this is slightly mitigated by playing one scenario at a time; but not enough that it still isn’t a problem.
Sure, there are other problems, like how the events that happen within a particular day will happen in a completely different order depending on which character you’re playing as, or how Surlent’s scenario has no clear point to it at all. I could also make a big deal about how the ending doesn’t resolve anything, or how every character in the game except Sion remains completely static. But, going in depth on these things is like beating a dead horse. It’s not even worth talking about how unnecesarily complex and convoluted the plot is when it breaks down at the most fundamental level: the writing. And, worse yet, it’s not due to the quality of the english writing anymore; the english writing is very good, now! No, the script of Treasure of the Rudras is just sloppy - there’s no two ways about it.
“But hey, Skankin’ Garbage, the draw of the game is the combat system!” Okay, let’s talk about that for a minute: Treasure of the Rudras is a turn-based RPG with two gimmicks. One is that you can set the order in which your characters act in each individual turn of combat. Whopee.
The second, very important gimmick, is that you can create your own spells. When you enter the menu, you choose the option ‘Enscribe’, pick a blank spot in your magic list, and then just write ANY word, and it is a spell (which are called Mantras in this game, by the way). I’ll admit, it’s FUN to put in things like ALANGRENSPAN (greenspan won’t fit) and find out that it’s a water Mantra, but that won’t suffice for long. The trick is to learn base words, prefixes, and suffixes to make spells. For example, “Ig” is the Mantra for fire, and “Na” is a suffix for multiple targets. So, “Igna” would be a fire Mantra that hits all enemies. Now, there are plenty of Mantras that break the basic mold, like ALANGRENSPAN, but you will likely learn them in time, as you talk to different people or find tablets in dungeons.
“Okay, well uh I don’t see a problem with any of that!” Well, let me explain just WHAT the problem is: In Treasure of the Rudras, physical attacks are generally more potent than attack Mantras.
A big part of the reason why is because grinding is SO quick and easy! Just about every location in the game has monsters that just give you a LOT more experience than they should. This persists all the way up to the end of the game, where a random monster in the last dungeon gives you enough experience to go from level 98 to 99 in just four fights. It’s really easy to always be 5-20 levels ahead of the likely projected level.
The other, more ironic reason, is that the stat-boosting Mantras are so powerful, particularly the one that raises physical strength. As long as you have a good cure-all Mantra, a revive Mantra, and the Strength Up Mantra, you can brute force your way through 95% of the bosses in the game with no problem, and 4% of them with very little problem.
These two factors working in tandem with each other, completely sabotage the unique magic system of Treasure of the Rudras, turning it back into just your average turn-based RPG.
Another gripe I have is that you can’t remove equipment off of a character if they have another piece of equipment they can replace it with. For example, if you want to unequip a shield with a character, there can be NO other shields in your inventory that they can equip, or else you either have to leave that character holding a shield, or sell off ALL the shields in your inventory. This is a problem because half the characters in the game can equip one-handed and two-handed weapons. So, if you want to equip a two-handed weapon to a character holding a one-handed weapon, be ready to sell off some good shields. This kind of oversight blows my fucking mind.
And that’s that. Here’s a Squaresoft RPG from the SNES era that falls into all the same traps as its modern counterparts: Looks good and sounds good, gimmicky combat system that breaks itself, and a convoluted story that fails to make an impact. It’s too bad that it had to be this way, because there were great ideas being thrown around. But still, there are a lot of great ideas being thrown around in Square-Enix’s new games, too. Treasure of the Rudras serves as an important historical footnote in RPGs: That Squaresoft, the giant of RPGs, has ALWAYS released its share of mediocre games. See for yourself…or, maybe you shouldn’t.