So, after years of desperate pleading from the game’s small, but impassioned fanbase, Nintendo finally re-released Earthbound on the Wii U virtual console. Victory! Ah, but we can’t rest on our laurels — now that Earthbound is finally available, it’s time to turn our attentions to other obscure 16-bit RPGs that haven’t received a proper re-release! Games such as…
Warsong (Genesis, 1991)
Warsong is the American name for the first title in the long-running Langrisser series. As you can see, this game came out super-early in the Genesis’ lifespan, so most people totally overlooked it. It also had super-goofy, aggressively westernized box art that probably didn’t help.
Anyways, Warsong may have been the first Japanese strategy-RPG to ever come to North America, pre-dating the release of series such as Shining Force, Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy Tactics. I certainly remember being pretty impressed (and a little baffled) by the game’s depth back in the day.
Secret of Evermore (SNES, 1995)
Man, I remember being fascinated by the crazy-ass box art for Secret of Evermore. That little kid fighting that huge freaky red bug thing! What the hell was going with this box art? I didn’t actually try the game out until years later (that box art was just too crazy for me man) and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
Secret of Evermore starts in a modern-day setting (well, modern when the game came out in 1995) before transporting you to Evermore, a wacky world split between four historical themed areas (prehistoric, ancient Greek, dark ages and futuristic). Basically the game is sort of a simplified Secret of Mana with a heavy dollop of Earthbound-like whimsy. Secret of Evermore wasn’t particularly well liked when it was released (most compared it negatively to Secret of Mana) but based on what I’ve played, it seems like it’s aged well.
Shadowrun (Genesis, 1994)
Yeah, I’m picking the Genesis Shadowrun over the SNES version! What can I say? I was always more of a Genesis kid, and this version of Shadowrun always seemed a little more colorful and varied to me.
The Genesis version is also surprisingly open-ended for a 16-bit game. There’s not a lot of focus on story, instead you roam around a large game world completing quests and customizing your character — it almost plays like super-early, cyberpunk take on the sandbox genre. At the very least this game might be a nice compliment to the recently released Shadowrun Returns.
Robotrek (SNES, 1994)
Oh yeah, now we’re getting super friggin’ obscure. Who’s played Robotrek? Who’s ever heard of it? Apparently this game only sold around 10,000 copies in North America — by comparison, Earthbound, infamously considered a “flop” by Nintendo sold around 150,000, sooo yeah.
Anyways, the game is certainly unique. It takes place in a sci-fi, cyberpunk-ish setting, but unlike something like Shadowrun, the overall tone is very light and goofy. Also your main character is an inventor and all your battling is done via robots you can create and customize. It’s all very cute and cartoony and unlike most other mid-90s JRPGs, which were transitioning to a darker style. If you want another 16-bit RPG in the vein of Earthbound, this is actually one of your better bets.
Illusion of Gaia (SNES, 1994)
Okay, this one isn’t quite as obscure as some of the other titles on this list, but still — it’s never received a proper re-release! I always considered Illusion of Gaia one of the big late-era SNES RPGs alongside Final Fantasy III, Chrono Trigger and the like, but I guess its profile has declined over the years.
Like Secret of Evermore, there’s definitely a bit of a Secret of Mana feeling to Illusion of Gaia, but it’s got it’s own unique twists. For instance, there’s no experience in the game — you instead level up by collecting a wide variety of different jewels. There’s also some Zelda-like puzzle solving included in the game. I’ll admit, I never loved Illusion of Gaia, and never made it that far in it, but the fact that it’s never re-appeared on the virtual console is just kind of weird.
How about you folks? Any weird old RPGs you want to play again (or for the first time)?