Squaresoft had an unprecedented string of stellar role playing games during the 16-bit era. Not only did they release Final Fantasy II and III (yeah, yeah, I know…), but we got Secret of Mana, Breath of Fire, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Evermore, and Super Mario RPG.
It was a great time for RPG lovers. As you probably know, for every Squaresoft RPG that got a Western release, there was another that didn’t. Today we’re going to talk about one of these SNES classics that was forever lost in the land of the rising sun: Rudra no Hihou.
In its fan-translated English version it was given the title Treasure of the Rudras. But in the Japanese, Rudra is singular and Rudra is a reference to a Hindu god. And there is only one god in the game referred to as Rudra. I’m not sure where that plural came from, so I’m just going to refer to it as Treasure of Rudra.
In Treasure of Rudra, the whole world is going to end in 16 days. Talk about a downer of an opener. After watching the introduction and learning more about the world and its plight, you get to name the game’s four main characters: Sion the soldier, the priestess Riza, and the archaeologist Surlent, and Dune the thief.
Only the first three have scenarios, and with each of them, you’ll be playing through 15 days, with the last day reserved for when the four main characters all team up and take on the big, bad Mitra, a god who created the Earth and Moon and who is intent on killing everything on the planet. This was pretty much a necessary goal on any JRPG villain’s resume during the 16-bit era.
Luckily, you can swap between the different scenarios whenever you boot up or reset the game, so you’re free to jump around or finish one quest before starting the next. This freedom really helps the game stay fresh.
While none of the stories really stray too far off the path of the typical hero’s quest, they’re all very well told and provide some likeable protagonists and dastardly antagonists along the way.
Likewise the gameplay is a typical menu-driven turn-based style RPG. One thing that sets apart the battle system, however, is the use of Mantras. This is just the term used for the magic system in the game.
Mantras aren’t bought or learned through levelling up, instead the game gives you a grimoire where you write down letter combinations. You can find new combinations from exploring the world and talking to people and then write them down in your grimoire. You can even learn new ones from writing down the mantras that your enemies use in battle. Simply go to the grimoire after the end of the fight and input the letters for the spells enemies were using and then your characters learn them as well. Neat!
Now of course, because they are all set, you could just look up a walkthrough and find high level spells right in the beginning of the game, but it’s not really to your advantage because those high level spells will cost way too much MP for you to be able to use. Also, the grimoire can only hold so many spells so you’ll have to erase some to learn more.
Other than this unique magic system, everything else functions much as you would expect from a typical turn based JRPG.
Where Treasure of Rudra really shines is in its art and animations. The game was released in 1996, well after Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, two visual powerhouses for the Super Nintendo.
Character sprites are incredibly detailed and fluid, on the same level as the expressive sprites in Chrono Trigger. Spell effects are brief and impressive. Animations are also smooth and quick. Enemies, especially bosses, have a lot of moving parts that animate fluidly.
The music is also fantastic, falling just short of Square’s other big releases during the 16-bit era. There is a lot of variety to be found in the tracks and some really memorable and emotionally impactful numbers, so saying it’s a fantastic soundtrack instead of an absolutely masterful one isn’t a knock against it.
Treasure of Rudra is a wonderful JPRG with a unique magic system that is definitely worth checking out. The story isn’t going to rock your world, but the freedom of jumping back and forth between 3 different scenarios and enjoying some killer 16-bit art and music while doing it, makes it more than worth checking out.
There is a fan translation readily available online, so it’s relatively easy to play this game in English. The translation is really well done, so you’ll definitely be able to enjoy it to its fullest.