Arcana: Better than 52 card pick-up…but not by much.
My heart swells with an overabundance excitement to deal with this subject early into my gaming line up. I am a role playing game fanatic! RPGs to me is what breathing is to most people. If I had one choice of genres to play, It would always be an RPG. They are the core of my being; from my stubby toes to my bald head. I learned something early in life, amidst my time in the suburbs, that has helped me immensely. What I had learned on that cold, frosty morning (or was it during the summer) was that I had become great at action games and this had the unfortunate downside; I beat these style of games too quick. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not bragging about my skills in the least. Over time, my dexterity has dwindled away but that has not stopped me from holding my own in newer games like Call of Duty: Black Ops or Halo: Reach. I may no longer be on par with that 12 year old brat who brings into question the promiscuity of my Mom while using a combination of racial slurs and cuss words, BUT… as those cute little rascals would say “I got game”. On a side note, my definition of “cute little rascals” translates into jackasses.
So enters the hollowed RPG, the collection of games that allowed me to stretch my gaming time to unimaginable heights. No matter how good you think you are, you can’t beat it in one sitting, one afternoon, or one hour. These games were a life saver for me and I hope, fellow reader, for you as well. I fell for them and I fell hard. At times I would dream about solutions to the engrossing RPG puzzles. I don’t mean dream, as in to wish, but to literally dream about the game while I was sleeping.
So enters the first RPG from my queue to qualify for the coveted title of “RPG That Is First in My Queue”. Before sitting down to Arcana and giving you an in-depth and maybe sarcastic look at the game, let me tell you how I came about playing it for the first time. There was a Blockbuster not far from my house one that I would frequent like a moth to a burning flame. While there I would peruse the shelves weighted down with many glorious games I wished I could own. Every now and then, these “Holders of the Golden Game” would reduce their stock by selling off used copies and it is here that I found my fortune. I was a scavenger, digging through the bloated carcasses of games past. My days were spent roaming the catacombs of Chateau Blockbuster. Fighting off the many demons that roamed the halls (i.e. customers and employees). Hoping that buried under those copious copies of “Bart’s Nightmare” or “Home Alone”, I might find a diamond in the rough. As anyone who has ever played Arcana knows, I didn’t always find that diamond. But since I am such a huge fan of role playing games, It was easy for me to overlook some of the bad aspects and try to focus on the good. I can’t promise that this article will keep the same *positive* tone but I will try.
Arcana tells the story of Card Master Rooks, a young boy that is forced into saving the land from the evil court magician Galneon. You see, Galneon staged a coup and overthrew one of the six majestic kingdoms that ruled peacefully plunging the lands into warfare and strife. Of course this *unique* situation can never be resolved by armies of faithful knights or godly kingdoms but always from one lone, spunky individual with a sense of right from wrong. Thankfully, Rook isn’t tossed to the wolves without a little bit of protection. Rooks has the ability to summon elemental creatures that fight by his side. In order to render the help of these beneficial creatures though, you must first locate them scattered through out the sprawling world. The fighting strategy found in this game comes from the fact that you can only summon one elemental at a time, so you must consider each battle before you begin. You are not always left holding the proverbial bag though since you also have the aid of party members you meet along your adventures.
Arcana used an interesting mix of summoned cards and turn-based elemental strategies. These cards are not used in the traditional sense but in a rather unique prospective. Every creature and character is represented by a card and each card does have a tangible feel to them. These cards are not ones that you would draw from a pile, mind you, but one that is in appearance only. The character design has a nice touch to it though. Giving all the NPC’s and party members an Anime feel. Later in the game, you have the option to traverse the over-world map, explore new towns and pretty much get yourself into all sorts of trouble.
The game is seen through the eyes of Rooks as your traverse through the desolate dungeons and the one horse towns. Unfortunately, the view is severely limited to only about half the screen since your party members’ cards cover about 25% on either side; leaving only a small box from which to view the world. The graphics are very simplistic in nature and most of the environments are static with occasional movement found in the background. Other areas of movement come from the random encounters you engage in. Yes, this game is loaded with random encounters and it wouldn’t be such an endeavor if you didn’t get lost so many times in the confusing dungeons. Speaking of the encounters, each style of monster has one or two repeating animations that will sometimes match with the music making them appear to be rocking out or having a seizure. Regarding the music the game has to offer, It really wasn’t all that terrible. It does tend to repeat itself over time but for the most part it stays true to its 16bit SNES roots.
One aspect of the game that many will have difficulty with is the exploration. Since you are seeing through the eyes of the main character the game is displayed in a sort of corridor fashion. Think Doom or the old Eye of the Beholder games. This makes navigating the dungeons a repetitive and boring chore since most walls look identical and, in most cases, the floor and ceilings do as well. I spent about 20 minutes walking around in a circle and didn’t even know it! Bollocks. You do have a small compass at the bottom of the screen and a non-detailed map but it does next to nothing to help you. Moving around the environments is handled in a very grid like in fashion that will have you yelling obscenities at your controller.
Looking back, I must have really had some boring summers. I don’t remember if I ever beat this game but with the snail like pace of this dungeon crawl, I would imagine I’d still be playing it to this day. Walking around in a circle, watching the wolves convulse on the floor while I try and figure out of I’m going North, South, or “take ye flask”. Here is an interesting fact for you to feast your brains on. Even though everything in this game is represented as cards, it is not recommend that you use this cartridge in a game of UNO.
Released on the SNES, May 1992
Published by HAL America INC.
Developed by HAL America INC.