Soul Blazer (1994)
Picture the scene: it’s a lovely summer’s evening and you’re having your usual merry walk or Sunday drive. But hold up – something’s spoiling the beautiful view. Yes, it’s worse than those roadworks that never, ever seem to get finished.
They’re more unsightly than those rent-a-scrote apartment blocks that were planned, designed and vomited into your town’s landscape in a mere two weeks. And they’re even more abundant than the seven hundred road signs contradicting your driving every five seconds. Yes, it’s the dreaded election posters, and that means there’s change abrewing in the government.
It’s always a laugh, election day. The posters, God they’re ugly, never a looker among them. And it’s only when you get down to the polling booth that you actually realise just how uninformed you are about the state of political affairs.
But anyway it doesn’t even matter who you vote for because you’ve just walked past the local down-and-outer, and his vote’s worth just the same as yours. How are you gonna cancel his wrongbrain opinion out?
And what are you doing, if not putting people who loathe you into a nice handy number for the next number of years. Who’d be a politician? By golly, I would. The obvious drawback, of course, is that you’d have to be seen to be lending some sort of ear to the great unwashed that make up your electorate.
Even if you were to seek election in a relatively well-to-do area, you’re going to have to give social housing to some of these toerags, aren’t you, and you can be sure they won’t just leave you alone after that.
But the established politicians have already thought of that one, so you needn’t worry – all you have to do is disappear for five or so years until the next election rolls around and you’ll have to summon the energy to (shudder) knock on doors and (convulse) speak to the residents and get their stupid opinions on local issues.
Bewitch and beguile them with a bit of handy lying and smart quips and you’ve got their vote. Of course I’ll sort out the housing crisis, Jacinta, and of course I’ll get a pardon for your baby boy Deco so that he can return home from Australian exile.
Alright, I’m well aware that I’m coming across here like some oul fella on Facebook that thinks everything’s a conspiracy and everyone in power is out to get him, the kind of guy you’d avoid like the plague were he to lock eyes with you in the pub from his barstool.
And I’m actually naive enough to believe that most politicians do try their best but find themselves either powerless, which leads to them taking bungs – or they’re too powerful, and too much of a galoot to be entrusted with such power. Rather obviously, that’s worse than taking a few odd brown envelopes.
You best believe I’d take any brown envelopes that came my way as well, another reason never to give me any sort of power. No, but listen: the politicians’ cabal came up with another beauty to get around this as well – they say that they need to be paid very high wages to make them less susceptible to bribes and kickbacks.
Now is that grabbing the taxpayers by the balls, or what? I admire their audacity. It’s no wonder most of your elected officials sit down the back of the chamber and make as little fuss as possible. Who’d want to upset a gravy train like that?
The pursuit of wealth and power, it’s what led to King Magridd messing it all up for his kingdom in Quintet’s Soul Blazer for Super Nintendo. Yes, he fancied near-infinite wealth for himself, so he brought in the evil Deathtoll and began selling his citizens’ souls in exchange for fat stacks.
Leaving aside the fact that the king probably has the biggest spending power in his realm, you wouldn’t exactly be in a hurry to do business with a geezer called Deathtoll, would you? He’s bound to be even more bent than you are.
Of course, the difference here is that kings aren’t elected officials, so this time you can think of that gravy train as being like Trevelyan’s armoured train in GoldenEye. You know, the one that looked like Sam Eagle from Sesame Street and even ploughed through a tank with little trouble? Our naughty king is so bulletproof that he doesn’t get deposed at the end of the game, even after everything he did. Clearly this guy can organise as many Berlusconi-esque bunga bunga parties as he likes.
Soul Blazer is considered the first part of an unofficial trilogy of similar Quintet games, alongside Illusion of Time and Terranigma, although I find this one has a lot more in common with ActRaiser. You play the role of a Soul Blazer, a God-sent (sorry, Master-sent, this is early 90s Nintendo) angelic swordsman sent down to the mortal world to defeat monsters and free the world’s population across six different locales.
It’s a nice little game, even if sometimes the presentation can be a bit duff. Non-centred text on the title screen, the drums in the opening song being off, little raw things like that. I better tell you that there’s some dreadful translation errors and typos all throughout as well, pretty typical of Quintet games really. Pretty typical of the leaflets and other rubbish that politicians like to put through your door as well, incidentally.
I would also say that the music isn’t the best. Quintet definitely came out with some proper bangers when they released Illusion and Terranigma, and ActRaiser had the Streets of Rage main man Yuzo Koshiro in there doing the tunes. Soul Blazer suffers a bit too much from what I tend to call the Seinfeld bass, something you’ll hear in a lot of bad SNES games. That’s not to say this game is bad, far from it, but it’s definitely got that whack of early SNES.
It’s the usual bad news for PAL gamers though, at least for the English speakers, because for whatever reason only Sweden got an English PAL release. And worse than that, only about 7 copies were made. Net result is that you’re talking a grand plus to own a boxed copy of this game, or if you want to cheap out, you can drop a mere four or five hundred on just the cartridge.
Let’s just say that I didn’t shell out a grand for this one and I’ll leave it to you to conclude how I managed to play it. If I were an elected official, it’d be a scandal that dominates the headlines for two days before something else buries it and everyone forgets all about me, put it that way.
Oftentimes in Soul Blazer you’ll be slashing your way through enemy bottom feeders and having a fun old time, even if it’s a trifle repetitive. But then suddenly you have to backtrack to the town you’re in the middle of resurrecting and speak to some flower or gnomeboy or whatever.
That definitely halts the momentum, just as you’re getting near the end of the slashy-slashy level. We’ve already established that talking to non-entities is the worst part of being a politician (I prefer the term ‘lightbringer’), and it doesn’t get any better here.
Still, there’s a very satisfying game loop here in Soul Blazer. It’ll give you a nice little six or seven hour adventure, and sometimes that’s just the perfect length. You’ll get plenty of sword-slashing done in that time – that’s one of this game’s promises.
The difficulty curve is expertly judged by the developers, and even though the translation is wonky, there’s some mature themes involved, plus a bit of a love story at the end if you’re into that. Yes, this is definitely the sort of game that I could see myself replaying in another five years’ time, without giving it a single thought in between.
10 November 2020