Is it the evil opposite of "Pressed for Time"? It's not THAT evil, really. Join time killer Adam Gallant as he guides you toward the great epics and steers you away from the tedium. It's all about time well spent with games that take, well, time.

16-Bit RPG's Done Right

Perhaps you need something to do during your school vacation. Or maybe you have a spouse, kids, and a house that's spotless and you're just going out of your mind with nothing to do. Maybe you're a lazy bum with no job, no significant other, and only your console and your TV to guide you. Regardless, I will find a way to fill up those empty hours! I've sacrificed days... nay weeks of my time playing some of the longest, hardest, craziest, and something-else-est games in the whole of Video Gamedom and will pass on the knowledge to you. Just because you have all this time to kill, it doesn't mean you want to waste it on a junk game.

In this issue, I get to put myself out on the line and let rabid console fanboys and fangirls tear me to shreds at the Retrogaming Roundtable forums. As a 16-bit connoisseur, I have decided to put together a list entailing what I consider the best five 'epic' titles during this era for each system. For arguments sake I included Sega CD games in with Genesis, and Turbo Duo being one 16-bit system. This is the internet article version of hara-kiri, but I persevere regardless in hopes that future article writers may gain inspiration to truly speak their mind. Or at the very worst learn when to keep their stupid trap shut.

Our first system? Easiest of the three (I hope...): the Super Nintendo!

A few rules: I am only sticking to American releases in their original translation. Final Fantasy V will not be on this list, even though it was later released in English form on the Playstation. Also, games like Final Fantasy II (IV) will receive consideration in their original translation, not a later re-released yet better form. Only games playable on the original system intended count. Now that the rabid FFIV fanfolks are placated, onto the list!

5) Robotrek

No, it's not a RPG form of Robotron 2084, it's Robotrek! A quirky RPG from Enix, the folks that brought you the Dragon Warrior series and E.V.O. In this game you play a young boy whose Super-inventor father has gone missing. Also, a group of nasty men has besieged your town, leaving you alone with a whole bunch of robot parts and a guardian robot who seems to know what to do next better than you. Missing father, bad men overrunning town and the world... no correlation! Nevertheless our young inventor-to-be picks through parts, makes a robot of his very own and sets off to save the world.

Okay, the story itself is somewhat kiddie and not very deep but it's solid. The gameplay is where this title truly shines as this game can only be described as Final-Fantasy-meets-Robot-Wars-meets-Pokemon. Since you can't expect to fight the mad scientist brigade yourself, the robots you build do. You obtain new parts to upgrade and with enough bits and bobs left over you can build a brand new robot to team up with your first in battle. You can actually have up to three at any time, rebuilding and replacing as you see fit to make a specialized "I can hurt you more ways than you can count" bot. Or a defensive "I can take whatever you dish out, keep it coming Nancy I don't feel anything yet" bot. Or a "I'm fast and deadly like a ninja" bot. Or a... you get the idea.

All this building leads me right into the battle system. Ah the battle system, an interesting engine to be certain. All of you who complain turn-based RPGs are just a 'choose an option and hit A' ordeal, this game has you hit three buttons! Depending on the robot's equipment, you can pre program your machines of death with a three button combination which will allow the 'bot to do a special attack that either does more damage, heals, or some special benefit attack. It's sort of like magic only it requires research or way too much trial by error than is healthy.

Should you get stuck or feel the need to get some new items without random-battling to death, there is the Invention Machine! See, your father was brilliant but lazy, so he put all his main effort into one machine that made all the rest of his inventions for him. And with Daddy gone, it's all yours to play with. Unfortunately you can't make anything that an 11-year old boy would REALLY want, like an atom bomb or invisibility gun. You can however take parts that you already have and combine them with other parts or some scrap metal you find lying around (not joking on this) to create upgraded items or new items entirely. Turn that pellet gun into a badass laser, or add some scrap metal to a smoke bomb and make a... weather device? Weirdness abounds with this but I had way too much fun throwing two random items into the machine and seeing what it made with them.

All in all this underrated title deserves a go around on your SNES and it always had a soft spot in my heart. I love it enough to make it a shock addition to the list at number five.

Time to Kill: About 30 hours if you really stretch it out, 10-15 if you rush it.

4) Final Fantasy II

Oh this one's going to get me killed. I know of at least three people that feel this game is the greatest of all time period, and to put it at number four of a list of only Super Nintendo games is high blasphemy. Ah well, can't please them all right?

Final Fantasy II tells the tale of Cecil, commander of the Baron Kingdom's Air Wings. He and his Red Wings, not from Detroit, feel compelled to obey their King but question his motives for trying to obtain all of the elemental power Crystals of the world. Questioning gets him in deep trouble as him and his friend, the Dragoon Kain, are sent off on a fool's mission to distract them. The fool's mission turns up real information and the plot thickens as the plot in every great Square game does.

Gameplay in this is just what you expect from a Final Fantasy game. Fight, Magic, Item and the like with no real gimmicks introduced into the series just yet. Each character has a special ability, like Kain's Jump, but overall anyone could pick this game up and know what to do within a minute or three. There is a slight twist with the level up system, where after level 70 your characters can gain one of six different stat increase sets or actually decrease in ability. My guess is that this was to discourage people from leveling to 99 and wasting the end boss but frankly I was never one of those types so I never noticed.

The story is what drags this game down from a higher spot to 'just' II. Square's English translation was not all that great and just a bit rushed with this title so a lot of the character interaction ended up being watered down. Avoiding the urge to give away plot points, one example would be a love triangle that was tense in the Japanese game, only to be made out as a childlike "We're all just friends, what's kissing?" level situation. If you get a hold of a retranslated version this game may seem much better than I'm giving it credit for. Regardless, it still makes number four, bad English or not.

Time to Kill: Approximately 40 hours if you're not the 'level 99' type.

3) Super Mario RPG

Story: Mario's looking to get back at the bad guys who stole his sweetheart, Princess Toadstool, and bring peace back to the Mushroom Kingdom. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? However this time around the big N teamed up with SquareSoft to make this Mario game a Role-Playing epic. It was an experiment and a risk but a small one since both companies were well-known for their high quality output. The risk paid off well, since this game made number three on the list.

Story wise this isn't your typical Mario game. The Princess does get captured by Bowser in his castle but Mario defeats him right at the start of the game, causing a minor disaster at Bowser's castle and making way for the true villain to take over. Now Mario and Toad have to figure out who these new guys are and how to stop them. From there it becomes a playful romp in an isometric Mushroom Kingdom only in a turn-based style.

The gameplay takes everything you like about Square's turn-based formula and injects it with a high dose of Mario style. Healing items are mushrooms, you can shoot a fireball 'spell' ala the Mario platformers, and characters all have special traits like Mario's Dragoon-like "Jump" command. Random encounters fall along the Chrono Trigger style where enemies can be seen and avoided on the overworld maps. Also, because of it's isometric viewpoint, Mario can jump at the overworld and find ?-boxes and find items for later use in battle! The battle system is very familiar with one twist: hitting the A button at just the right time will cause the attack to increase in damage. The timing on each attack is at a certain short point in each attack's animation. Those familiar with fighting games and canceling one move into another will find these points with ease and have an easier time of playing.

The storyline is great for a Mario game but won't be bowling you over with emotion. But with this hybrid of style you wouldn't expect that anyway. It's a lock at number three and should be in any RPG-fan's library.

Time to Kill: 30 hours or so if you plow through. Mini games make it possible to spend much more time if you're that bored.

2) Chrono Trigger

I came to this party late. Very very very late, as I only purchased and played it for the first time a few months ago. I was a bit skeptical since I've heard nothing but praise for this title. Some claimed it was the best game of all time. However almost all of these people picked this game up and played it during it's release, how would it fare a good ten years later?

I have to admit I was floored at just how thorough and well done this game is. Graphically (for a Super Nintendo game) it was beautiful. The plot was never contrived or trite, a compliment to the translation staff who must have gotten one right for a change. The encounter style, later seen in Super Mario RPG, was brilliant as you could truly avoid fights for the first time if you were nimble. The battle system included a difference between spells and techniques, with the ability to combine attacks into one. An interesting twist had each character have control over one of the elements and no more, meaning certain character would mesh with techniques and others wouldn't.

All these things pale in comparison to the real reason this game works so well. This game centers around time travel, but rather than just have you hop about willy-nilly, you have to think as things you do affect the past and future. Suddenly, you have to think hard if you want to steal that man's lunch for some free HP or he might just come after you later in the timeline. Change the future for the better, and you may lose or change friends you obtained in that time period. Change the past for the better... or for the worse and feel it's effects in your present time.

I have the urge to go on about this game but I can't, as it would be too easy to spoil things for those playing for the first time. In fact, I may still have done that anyway even with the vague descriptions I gave. This game is incredibly deep, bringing innovation to the plotline side of a RPG without breaking the gameplay side. This is one of those games you should own whether you have the system or not.

Time to Kill: It took me 20 hours to get through it the first time. Oh, but there's 11 different endings, 10 of which can only be obtained by starting over. Want to see them all? 100 hours. Have fun.

Drum roll please...


The number one epic game for the Super Nintendo....




1) Final Fantasy III

HUZZAH! Square takes the top four spots including number one with what might be the best RPG of all time. The only way I can truly describe why this game deserves the top spot is to go by things this game did that broke new ground in the genre.

Magic System - Esper 'spell learning' style. By obtaining 'espers' one could do two things. First, they could summon a huge nasty magical being once per battle to just slap the hell out of your enemies. However it's true purpose was to teach characters magic over time. Battles won give XP (experience) and AP (ability points). Each esper had certain spells it taught at different rates. Once a spell was learned 100%, that character had that spell to stay even when changing espers. This got essentially reversed when the 'Materia' system was used in Final Fantasy VII

Character special abilities - This wasn't the first RPG to use this style, but every single character had one. Many of which were ripped off or reused in subsequent RPGs. One character has a technique which requires Street Fighter-esque precision movements to be entered before an attack is made. Another has a special ability to learn the techniques monsters would hit him with, something that was very useful indeed in this game.

Hidden playable characters - Two in this game, one of whom you hear nothing, see nothing, and know nothing about until you acquire him. I may be wrong, perhaps one obscure NPC somewhere gives a vague hint about him but most people ended up stumbling into him before knowing they got a new character.

The "False" ending - As if the plotline wasn't good enough already, halfway through the game you think you're done. Something else happens, and you keep playing. I can't say more but you'll know when you find yourself yelling to the screen: "OH SNAP, I'M STILL GOING?!?!?".

The Badass End boss - The end boss to this game may very well be the most evil badass to ever be bad to asses. Or something like that. He's badass and cool, and evil. Very very evil. You love him and hate him at the same time.

Side Missions Aplenty - Some are mandatory, some aren't, all of them have a reason to be in the game. Every last one has some bit of plot you really shouldn't go without unless you've already played through once.

Truly unique playable character base - Fourteen in all (two hidden) and each is incredibly different from the last. You can't take one and look at another and go 'oh they're just palette swaps with the same techniques'. Each character is also very well developed (well, minus one of the hiddens) and has a deep background that comes through brilliantly in this game.

A perfect plot - Okay, this isn't a 'trait' as much as me gushing over what may be the best RPG plot ever. Do me a favor, buy three copies of this game and use them in a triple-deity shrine in your room, worshipping the Square gods for blessing humanity with it's glory. Or just play it, whichever.

Time to Kill: 60 hours or so if you want to get every character and see every plot point. And you do.

So, to recap, SquareSoft owned RPG fans back in the day, Enix wasn't too shabby, and someone's going to bitch at me for not including 'Earthbound'. Oh well.


Next issue you'll see us hit everyone's favorite blast processing-enhanced system: The Sega Genesis! Revel as I say the word "Shining" more than I care to. Until then, get up and stretch once in a while. It's healthy for you.

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