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.