Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Arcana (video game)
|Release date:||May 1992|
|Game modes:||Single player|
Arcana is a RPG for the SNES. The game was novel in respresenting all of its characters as cards. In keeping with this metaphor, the death of a character resulted in a "torn" card, and the magical properties of some cards were used to explain abilities of the game's characters.
Arcana retained many conventions from earlier NES games and, as is common in RPGs, the game's intent was to be difficult and challenging to the player, so as to create a feeling of reward upon completion.
Assuming a first-person perspective , the dungeons and towns of the game were navigated from the viewpoint of the characters and, with a few exceptions, the conversations between characters held true to this as well. Battles within the game were also portayed in the first-person, displaying the protagonist characters along the perimeter of the screen, with the enemies in the center. Arcana's battles, however, were not graphically intensive and the characters' animation was limited to, at most, five frames. Breaking from the established format of displaying the damage incurred by characters above their heads, this information was instead summarised in a text display at the bottom of the screen.
The map's tile based dungeons were, arguably, the most challenging aspect of the game. Seeing often only what was immediately before the characters, the player was free to move in the four primary compass direction. Labrynthine in their design, and oftentimes fraught with dead-ends and hidden dangers, the detail in the drawing of these dungeons compensated for their relative lack of animation.
The game's difficulty was boosted by various factors employed by the designers:
- Easy Game Overs. In contrast to the norm for RPGs of the era, which dictated that the death of one character in the player's party was usually a recoverable loss, in Arcana, the death of any character save an Elemental resulted in Game over. This meant that an unexpected confrontation could result in a speedy demise.
- Little forewarning. Due to the convoluted nature of the passages, a common cause of death for a player's character, was the sudden discovery of a Boss character. The gravity of situation would not be aparent to the player until the fight had begun. The presence of these boss character was not always deductable in advance, and in many cases resulted simply from the player's movement onto a particular tile.
- Scarcity of save points . Saving the game was limited to the town area of each level . As such, it was very possible to be in a difficult situation without any restorative items, leading to a potential sense of panic in the player, who would find themselves in a race to escape to the solace of the town before being engaged by monsters.
- Limited inventory. The party's inventory was limited to 42 item slots. Unlike many other RPGs, where multiple copies of the same item can "stack" in one slot, the items in this game did not stack, providing a very strict, and oftentimes small, item limit.
- Linearity. Having completed a dungeon, the player could not subsequently return. The dungeon the player explored was determined by their progress in the story, not what they chose to do. This prevented players from returning to a dungeon with easier monsters, occasionally getting them stuck in a dungeon that is too powerful for them.
Battles within the game followed a strict turn system. As each character took their turn, various options were presented to the player. Here is where another factor in the game's difficulty arose: Rooks, the principle character, possesed many of the vital battling techniques. Because he could switch the Elemental spirits, flee the battle, and use magical card spells - which, though powerful, were expensive - Rooks was the most valuable resouce to the party. If Rooks was incapacitated, the entire party became crippled. As in just about any other RPG, a battle was followed with the rewarding of Experience Points and Gold. However, unlike many other RPGs, the level progression of all of the characters was standardized; there was no randomness to what statistics increased when a character levelled.
Four elemental spirits, Sylph (Wind), Efreet (Fire), Titan (Earth), and Undine (Water), rotated through the same slot in the battle formation. Rooks and a spirit are always in your party, providing 2 other spots for party members. Unlike the human characters, an elemental can die and the game will continue. Their card will be torn, and they can be rotated out for a live elemental. If Rooks is incapacitated, however, the player could end up stuck with a dead elemental.
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