Posted on June 2, 2019
Rudra no Hihou/ルドラの秘宝
Rudra no Hihou is a game that is still obscure even within niche JRPG circles. The last Squaresoft RPG to be released for the SFC before Square committed fully to the new PlayStation, Rudra no Hihou is another SFC/SNES JRPG that never left Japan.
The people who do know about the game, however, would agree that the big appeal and unique point of the game is the “Kotodama” system, or simply put, the game’s Magic system. The Magic system in Rudra no Hihou allows players to create spells using a combination of Katakana (Japanese characters) to create different spells. Any combination of characters will create a spell, so there’s probably some million or so possible spell combinations you can create!
As Square’s last effort of the 16-bit era, did Rudra no Hihou finish off Square’s SFC legacy with a bang, or was Rudra no Hihou possibly a waste of resources that could have went towards their initial PlayStation release instead? Let’s find out!
Score – 33/40
Story – 9/10
Gameplay – 6/10
Graphics – 10/10
Music – 8/10
Style: Japanese Role-playing Game (Turn-based)
Platform: Super Famicom
Release Date: JP: April 5th, 1996
Length: 30～40 Hours
Table of Contents
Rudra no Hihou SFC/SNES Review
This is my first review where i’ll be posting videos that I took on my own. I thought they’d be better than GIFs, which always end up looking choppy and don’t really convey how smooth games look.
I originally thought it would be better to upload directly to WordPress, so I made sure to keep the videos extremely short so my site wouldn’t explode. It turns out, uploading to Youtube is way better, so from here on out i’ll take way longer videos when trying to show battles/animation and stuff. Sorry about that!
Rudra no Hihou was released during the middle of 1996 in Japan. To put that into perspective, that’s a year and a half after the PlayStation launched in Japan, and half a year after it launched in the US. In terms of SFC/SNES RPGs, that’s exactly 2 years after the release of Final Fantasy VI and exactly 1 year after Chrono Trigger. If somebody told you that, you’d probably imagine that Rudra no Hihou might possibly be the best JRPG ever created, especially with Squaresoft being hot off the production of those two games, which are usually considered to be the best JRPGs ever made, even to this day!
While I personally don’t think Rudra no Hihou hit the heights of either FF6 or Chrono Trigger, I definitely think it is still a good game that overseas players probably would have eaten up if it got a proper release back in the day. The story is definitely something I think people would have liked, assuming it had an official translation.
Reading the GameFAQs reviews and message board (always a terrible idea…), it seems that people are completely oblivious to the majority of the story, and that’s presumably because the only way to play the game is through a Fan Translation (uh oh, people making stuff up as they go along again!). The Fan Translation was apparently so bad that it had to be entirely rewritten because people called it out for essentially completely making the entire thing up (told ya fan translations suck!).
Another thing about the translation is that they somehow came up with the name “Treasure of the Rudras”, and that also somehow ended up sticking as the “official” English title. While there is a minuscule probability that the game would have been called that officially, I sort of feel like that name doesn’t really work. For one, if you re-translate that English back into Japanese, you’d get ルドラの宝, Rudra no Takara (or 宝物, Takaramono), which would both mean “Treasure of Rudra / Treasure of the Rudra(s) / Rudra’s Treasure”. 秘宝, Hihou, is more like a “Secret Treasure” or “Hidden Artifact”.
The “Hihou” part is pretty important, so just writing it off as “Treasure” seems pretty low-effort (what can you expect with fan translations, eh?), so for that reason, I chose not to refer to the game as “Treasure of the Rudras” in this review, even though I should for Google traffic…instead i’ll be using the name as is – Rudra no Hihou.
Back to talking about the game itself, i’m not gonna lie, I mostly play RPGs for the gameplay. I pretty much don’t even care if games have a boring story as long as I can grind levels, get new gear, and do tons of damage. Rudra no Hihou was actually the first RPG that i’ve ever played where I cared more about the story than the gameplay (that’s probably due to some stuff i’ll go over in the “Gameplay” section below, though).
The story is actually pretty complex, but not for the sake up just having a bunch of stuff happening all at once due to poor writing skills. The game has quite a bit of backstory and lore going for it, and the way the game is structured means that you’ll have 3 different perspectives of things that are happening throughout the game.
I usually post how long a game is before I get onto the actual review portion, but Rudra no Hihou is one of those rare games that doesn’t track your playtime. There aren’t any indicators of how long you’ve played, both in the Menu and when you Save/Load the game, so I kind of had to guess how long it took me to beat the game. I feel like each individual scenario took me about 10 hours or so, give or take an hour or two difference for some of the longer fetch-questy scenarios. I’d estimate the entire playthrough took about 35 hours, so that’s the longest i’ve spent on a single JRPG playthrough so far with this site!
I’ll mention it more down below, but while the game was 35 hours long, a lot of content is recycled in Rudra no Hihou, just purely based on the design of the game itself. So while it is fairly long, there’s probably only 10 or 15 hours of actual unique content in the game. Not a bad thing if you really like the towns and monsters, but otherwise the game can kind of start to feel like it’s dragging on after your first scenario clear.
Anyways, sorry for the longer than usual preface. Let’s jump into the “Story” part of the review!
The main premise of Rudra no Hihou is that every 4,000 years, a being called a “Rudra” awakens and eradicates the current race living on the planet, ushering in a new race that survives for 4000 years until the next Rudra repeats the cycle. This cycle has been going on for 20,000 years, and the next Rudra will awaken and wipe out all of humanity just 15 days from now. 4 individuals are in possession of a “Jade”, which seems to hold some sort of magical powers. An ancient prophecy foretells that the Jade bearers are the only ones who might have a chance at ending the ongoing cycle of destruction.
Can mere mortals find out who or what is creating a new Rudra every 4,000 years? Even then, can they somehow put an end to the destruction of humanity, even though they’re human themselves? Could they possibly accidentally cause the eradication of their own people whilst trying to save them?
The overall story of Rudra no Hihou is basically that – humanity is going to be wiped out in a matter of 15 days. The Jade bearers don’t understand their roles in helping to end the apocalyptic cycle at the beginning of their adventures, so each one initially sets out of personal reasons, but eventually comes to understand their purpose as their story progresses.
I’m kind of at a crossroad here – since the fan translation seems to suck at god-like levels, I kind of want to clear a lot of stuff up for people who are looking forward to playing the game. The problem is, the story in this game is structured so that most events that happen in the game have a huge impact on the story. Instead of the typical “This is the bad guy – follow him around the world until you beat him” story with a lot of in-between filler that you can talk about without spoiling anything, Rudra no Hihou’s story is structured so that almost each thing you do has a huge impact on the world, and is usually followed by some sort of speech or character interaction that reveals a huge part of the story.
Not only that, but the game has 3 separate scenarios, which are basically happening at the exact same time. If I were to talk about one character’s story and something that happens during their scenario, that would spoil things that will happen in the other 2 scenarios, since things are directly related (for example, the party in one scenario doing something that alters the world will be seen “in real-time” when you play another scenario).
So, instead of going deep into each character’s story, I think i’ll try to explain what their main goals and purposes are in the grand scheme of things. I’ll talk about the scenarios in the order I cleared them in during my playthrough. Let’s start with Sion’s scenario!
Sion is a knight serving the King of Cryune Castle. One day, one of the soldiers in the castle, named Foxy, captures a cultist that worships the coming Rudra, who then gets promptly interrogated. Sometime during the interrogation, the cultist escapes and Sion is sent to the nearby Giant’s Tower in order to investigate.
Upon ascending the tower, Sion finds a giant Stone with what looks to be a giant mechanical-being in front of it. The mechanical-being introduces itself as “Surt”, and suddenly attacks the party.
The party fights against Surt, which ultimately ends with Sion losing one of his eyes. Somehow, Sion’s lost eye gets replaced by a Jade that Surt was holding! Sion loses consciousness and wakes up in the nearby town of Vad. Sion decides to head back to the Giant’s Tower to figure out what happened last time. After reaching the top of the tower again, Sion’s Jade begins to shine as he approaches the giant Stone again, which causes the floor beneath him to cave in.
After crashing to the ground, Sion meets a giant named Ture, who was imprisoned by Surt inside the room. After Ture joins the party, they’re attacked by none other than the Giant Rudra, who wiped out the race inhabiting the planet thousands of years ago and replaced them with Giants! The party somehow defeats it (yeah, level 3 or 4 characters defeated something that annihilated an entire race a few thousand years ago…) and the party heads to the Tower of Warriors to test Sion’s ability as a swordsman.
The party rises through the ranks at the Tower of Warriors (basically a gladiator pit where you progress floor to floor) and eventually become the grand-champions. While being crowned champion, Sion’s Jade accidentally activates and the party gets teleported to a floating island above the clouds!
Sion and the party begin searching for a way to get back to the planet’s surface. In order to do this, they need to set out and find 4 Danan Temples (Danans are divine beings, close to living gods so to speak. The prophecy foretelling the Jade bearers roles was created by the Danans themselves.). Can Sion and his party make it back to the surface, or are they going to be stuck on the floating island in the sky? Will they be safe from the impending doom, or will they find something that they can do to stop it from happening?
Surlent is a researcher who is currently studying Rago Stones (the giant stone that Sion found near the beginning of his scenario), trying to figure out their purpose, why they exists, and who or what created them. Surlent and another researcher named Dr. Myunhi are both studying a Rago stone that holds the fossil of the ancient Reptilian Rudra. Dr. Myunhi wants to transport the Rago stone back to his research lab, but fears that doing so might cause something bad to happen.
Dr. Myunhi asks Surlent to go to a nearby mansion and borrow the Holy Grail, an artifact that has the power to repel evil, and bring it back to him so they can attempt to transport the Rago stone safely. Surlent and his friend Legin head out to retrieve the Holy Grail, but it quickly gets stolen by 2 thieves right before they can grab it.
Surlent and Legin report to Dr. Myunhi and give him the bad news. Dr. Myunhi is aware of another artifact with similar power, the Holy Robe. He mentions that it can be found in a cave to the far north, so the party heads out again and tries to retrieve the Holy Robe. This time, the party manages to grab the Robe, but the two thieves appear again and the party gets duped, basically just handing over the Holy Robe to the thieves.
With the only obtainable artifacts out of reach, the party heads back to Dr. Myunhi. The Reptilian Rago stone gets transported to the research lab in the town of Avdol, without the protection of the artifacts. After the party reaches Avdol, there’s a sudden Solar Eclipse. The party hears a huge roar coming from the research lab, and upon entering the lab they see dead lab workers, and Dr. Myunhi laying on the floor dying.
Surlent is told to “protect the Jade”, but he doesn’t have any idea what the Jade is or what he needs to protect it from. Without any notice, the Reptilian Rudra that was sealed away inside of the Rago stone comes to life and attacks Surlent before he can even realize what’s happening.
Riza is a young woman who begins her journey with the hopes of going around and helping people by cleansing the pollution that has settled upon the world. Riza is also on the search for her Mother, who she has never met (Riza was raised by her grandfather).
Riza sets out for the nearby city of Babel, and on the way she runs into a man getting chased by some city guards. The man runs off, but eventually gets caught and gets beaten up a bit by the guards. Riza asks if he’s okay and he says he’ll be fine, but suddenly points out Riza’s beauty and insists on travelling together. He introduces himself as Garlyle, and the two make their way to Babel, where they rest at the inn to recover.
Riza and Garlyle see that the nearby Mayor’s building seems to be causing problems with the air in the city. They make it their goal to go into the building and try to find a way to stop whatever is producing the air pollution. They get the job done, and as a result, some sort of butterflies fly out from inside of the Mayor’s building and immediately the pollution begins to clear up.
Riza’s next objective is to head to the cave that Surlent went to in search of the Holy Robe, only this time Riza is in search of an ancient Danan book that lies at the bottom of the cave. Along the way, Riza meets up with Dr. Myunhi, who tells her that he used to know her mother, and gives her a hint that long ago Riza’s mother set off for Cryune Castle. Riza heads to Cryune Castle, only to find that her mother already left the castle a long time ago.
Riza continues the search for her mother, and gains insight along the way about why she was born with a Jade implanted in her forehead (Riza has her Jade right from the start of the game). Riza learns that she has some sort of connection one way or another with one of the ancient Goddesses called Meifa. Riza, unsure of her relation to Meifa, seeks answers by going around the world in search for the last remaining Statue of Meifa.
Can Riza become the savior that the planet needs? Is her Jade particularly special? What relation does Riza have with an ancient Goddess who might have something to do with the cycle of extinction?
Covering a single over-arcing story and 3 separate but intertwined stories without covering any real major plot-points was a lot harder than I thought. I’m sure it sounds like I reviewed 3 separate games, and reading those 3 separate story summaries probably makes the game seem like it’s all over the place. It actually works really well though when you’re in the game.
The game functions on a day to day system, where days change after completing certain story events. This makes it so for example, on Day 3, if you’re playing Sion’s story, you’ll see the sky suddenly clear up, because this is something that happens on Riza’s Day 3. When playing as Riza, you’ll hear a Clock Tower ringing, because that’s what Sion was doing on that day. So while all important story events are done separately, each character in the game gets to feel the effects of each others story events, which is actually really cool to see in-game.
Before going onto the character introductions, I want to point at that players of the fan translation seem to think that the entire game is about pollution. This couldn’t be further from the truth, so this has to be another “made stuff up as they went along” translation. Most of the reviews I read on GameFAQs gave the game 1-3 stars, with one of the main complaints being that the game is some Hippie tree-hugging environmentalist game that constantly reinforces “pollution bad, environment good” and that the creators of the game are trying to say that “humans are the cause of all the bad things going on in the world”.
This is 100% absolutely wrong. If anything that’s the fan-translator-who-made-everything-up’s worldview, I imagine. Outside of the “theme” of Riza’s scenario, Pollution plays almost next to no role in the entire game. If memory serves me correctly, Pollution has no effect on anything at all during Sion’s scenario. In Surlent’s scenario, it causes a minor 10 minute or so block on Sea Travel, after that it has no effect on anything at all.
Even in Riza’s scenario, she’s supposed to essentially be going on a Pilgrimage, so “Pollution” is just there to give her something to get rid of. It could have easily been “Mist”, “Darkness”, or any other tried and true threat to humanity in RPGs. If they chose “Mist” instead of “Pollution”, would all of those GameFAQs whiners still be accusing the game of being “environmentalist garbage”? Probably not.
Since 99% of potential players are going to have to play the game with that fan translation, I felt I had to at least try to clear up some of the common misconceptions…I’m sure that came off a bit ranty, but I can’t stand it when people say a GAME sucks, when the reason for it sucking is that some random guy decided to make up a garbage story for it, which then gets mistaken as the exact same story from the Japanese version. If the gameplay sucks, cool. If the English version of the story sucks in a game that was never released in English, you blame the fan translator, not the actual game itself.
Alright, I really need to get on to the character section of the review now…
There are tons of characters in Rudra no Hihou – 14 to be exact (I think)! I wasn’t thinking when I originally planned this review, but i’ll have to list all 14 of them to be fair, so this section will probably be a bit long too. Anyways, i’ll list the characters in the order they appear in the instruction manual!
シオン (Shion, Sion) – Sion (pronounce like “Sea own”, not like the typical “Psy on”) is the swordsman with the most potential within the ranks of the Knights of Cryune Castle. A bit of a hot-head, Sion is always ready to rush into a fight. His hot-headedness is rivaled only by one other character that we’ll see here pretty soon…
フォクシー (Fokushii, Foxy) – Foxy is originally from the Elemia Manor, which holds the Holy Grail that Surlent’s party searches for. Foxy lends her strength to Cryune Castle, and helps capture the Rudra cultist at the beginning of Sion’s scenario.
テュール (Tyuuru, Ture) – Ture is one of the last remaining Giants. Ture is rescued from captivity by Sion near the beginning of Sion’s scenario. Ture is one of the best magic users in the game.
ラミレス (Ramiresu, Ramyleth) – Ramyleth is the legendary King of the Danans. After having something stolen from him, Ramyleth decides to help out Sion during his quest.
デューン (Dyuun, Dune) – Dune is a self-proclaimed “Treasure Hunter” (Lock, is that you???). Dune can be found raiding pretty much all important dungeons and stealing all important story-related quest items. He really knows how to play Surlent…
サーレント (Saarento, Surlent) – Surlent is an adept “Kotodama” (Magic) user. As a student of Master Solon, he is ordered to study the Rago stones together with Dr. Myunhi. Surlent arguably has the most eventful journey ahead of him.
レギン (Regin, Legin) – Legin is the son of the inventor Kastagia. Legin is a bit rough around the edges, but he tags along with Surlent to help Dr. Myunhi with his research.
ソーク (Sooku, Sork) – Sork is Surlent’s best friend and fellow apprentice of Master Solon. Sork follows a strict “Shoot first, ask questions later” lifestyle (he uses swords, so “Slash first” I guess?). Sork can solve anything with violence, but the rest of his party never gives him the chance…the only character in the game that might give Sion a run for his hot-head money.
ロロ (Roro, Lolo) – Lolo is a young boy of unknown origin. He has no memory of who he is or where he came from when the party finds him. Lolo has exceptional Kotodama power, as well as possessing the ability to read ancient (Danan) texts.
リザ (Riza) – Riza is a young woman who sets out to save all living things from the pollution that has taken over the planet. Born with a Jade in her forehead, but without any knowledge of why, Riza sets out to find her mother.
ガーライル (Gaarairu, Garlyle) – Garlyle is the leader of a Resistance Group (all members of the group are only young kids, though…) that resides in the city of Babel. Upon meeting Riza, he develops a huge crush on her and insists that he joins her and more or less becomes her bodyguard.
ピピン (Pipin) – Pipin is the Prince of the Reptiles. Pipin gets rescued from a monster by Riza and Garlyle, which prompts him to join the party. Pipin is sort of the prankster/youngster type. Pipin is seen holding a spear in the instruction manual illustration, but as far as I know he can only equip Claw-type weapons…
マリーナ (Mariina, Marina) – Marina is a priestess of the Aquatic race (mermaids/mermen(?) basically). Marina is tasked with finding extraordinarily clean and pure water that she can insert an egg into, which will give birth to a god that will protect her race.
These are the main characters that you see throughout the game. Since each party runs into each other during each respective scenario, you’ll come across each character quite a few times per scenario.
One thing I really liked about Rudra no Hihou is that the story talks about 4 different races existing, Humans, Giants, Reptiles, and the Mermaids. Instead of just having that be some backstory about the planet, the game actually gives you party members of each race, which really livens the game up a bit I think. It could have been really easy to just make everyone human, but adding in the different speech patterns and attitudes of the different races was really cool!
The game does seem to have a set “party attitude” that is replicated in all 3 of the parties. You usually have the “hot-head” and mouthy character (Sion, Sork, Garlyle), the “intelligent” character (Ramyleth, Surlent, Riza), the “playful” character (Foxy, Regin, Pipin), and the “reserved” type (Ture, Lolo, Marina). So while there are a lot of different characters, their arch-types line up just enough so that each party feels same-y enough that there isn’t really a huge shift in party atmosphere between scenarios.
The game would have felt much different if, for example, you had all the spastic characters (Sion, Sork, Garlyle, Regin) in a party going absolutely crazy on everything, and then in the next scenario you had the more reserved and calculating characters (Surlent, Riza, Lolo, Ramyleth) going through everything slowly and thoughtfully. I think I would have preferred this a bit more, mostly because the rougher characters are usually kept in check by the other 3 characters in their party whenever they start acting up, which kind of unintentionally tones down the character. The way the game is is fine though, each party is balanced enough that everyone is pretty active in conversations and story events, so it all works out in the end!
Now, after all of those story and character summaries, let’s get onto some stuff you can actually see. The graphics are probably Rudra no Hihou’s strongest area, so let’s see what it has to offer!
While it might be extremely obvious given the release date of the game, Rudra no Hihou probably has the best graphics i’ve ever seen in an SFC/SNES RPG. I’ve listed a few games already that i’ve given perfect 10’s to for Graphics (Star Ocean and Seiken Densetsu 3, for example), with Star Ocean being the most “technically impressive”. I can say without a doubt, Rudra no Hihou blows even Star Ocean out of the water. The only thing Star Ocean has on Rudra no Hihou is the 3d spaceship intro at the beginning of the game.
Rudra no Hihou has something that you won’t see in other SFC/SNES era JRPGs – animated sprites during battle! Idle monsters/party members breathe and pulsate during combat! Now, while Chrono Trigger did have some walking/direction changing going on in combat, it’s not in the same vein. I’m talking about Valkyrie Profile type of sprite animation – PlayStation 1 quality stuff going on here! Here’s what a typical round in battle looks like.
The sprite animation is such a big deal that it makes it easy to overlook the one actual lackluster aspect of combat – the spell animations, surprisingly. In a game that’s all about the magic system and creating a ton of different spells, around 90% of them are extremely bland, which I really regret saying. They were so bland that I actually forgot to take any pictures of them during my playthrough, until the very end when I realized I needed something to show off the magic effects.
Here’s a real brief video I took of one of the spells that a boss near the end of the game casts (one of the best looking spells, in my opinion). I’ll take longer videos next time since I can upload them to Youtube without caring about this site’s bandwidth…
Considering they made some awesome spells way back in FF6 and Chrono Trigger, which were released 1 to 2 years prior to this, you’d think they could have at least matched the quality at the very least, but somehow they couldn’t pull that off. Of course, the Graphical quality of spells is pretty good, but my complaint is the appearance/design of the spells.
Pretty much all party buffs/debuffs consist of a book/sword/shield/boot that floats above the party/enemies’ head for a split second. Every healing spell just shows a single star floating across the screen for a second or two. Most AoE spells that enemies use will consist of a 2d cone/triangle that covers the party (ice spells will be a blue cone, wind will be green, really simple stuff). For a game that is supposed to have an almost infinite number of spells, how did they think it was okay to only have 5 or 6 different spell animations per element (only 6 or so elements at that)?
Overall, the spells were a real letdown, especially considering this was Square’s last game on the system, which should lead you to believe that this should have been their most technically proficient game. Though, in Square’s defense, they probably had all of their FF6/Romancing SaGa 3/Chrono Trigger/Seiken Densetsu 3 talent going all out on FF7 instead (FF7 came out a mere 9 months after Rudra no Hihou), so if this really was a “left-over B Team” game, there’s not much they could have done…
Spells aside though, battle are really smooth and look great! Background are animated too – you’ll see fire blazing in the background when you fight inside of a volcano, you’ll see ice glistening in the back when you’re fighting inside glacier caverns, there wasn’t a single background that I thought was lackluster in the entire game!
Back to character animations, everything looks great in battle. Attack animations are fluid, with different weapon sprites being shown depending on what you have equipped. Dodge and Blocking animations also look really cool, it’s not typical SFC/SNES era blocking where a shield just magically appears infront of your character – your party members will actually hold up a shield while ducking behind it. Monsters all have their own separate attack animations, and while there are a few recolored monsters in the game, the addition of personalized attack animations helps keep things fresh throughout the game.
One really cool thing that not only looks great but actually affects the gameplay is that boss monsters change color after doing a certain amount of damage to them! This helps indicate how close a boss is to dying. I don’t know the exact percentages, but I felt like bosses changed color after every 25% of HP they lose. The first time they change color, they’ll turn a slight purple-ish color, the next time (at about 50% hp) they’ll turn a pink-ish red, and the last time they change (once they hit about 25% HP left) they turn a vibrant red color.
This is something I wish a lot more games would copy. Of course, most games just opt for an HP bar, or a sort of “exhausted” looking idle animation, but I think changing the colors of bosses is a lot more interesting, at least if it’s a sprite based game. Polygonal games would look weird with bosses turning bright red suddenly, but if you look at how it works in Rudra no Hihou, you might agree with me!
Outside of battles, the game looks like a cross between Seiken Densetsu 3 and Star Ocean. Character and NPC sprites look really nice, and a lot of the environments look great. My overall favorite thing about the game is how the water looks. It looks really amazing, especially as a SFC/SNES game – it flows so smoothly and has really good reflections, i’ve never seen water that looked this good before on the SFC/SNES! Check out that water!
Environments are sort of varied. Temples pretty much all look 100% alike, which isn’t really a good thing because you go through a ton of a temples during the game. Caves and underground dungeons all have the same tilesets, they just get recolored based on the type of dungeon it is (ice dungeon, fire dungeon). I’ll go over it more in the gameplay section, but there is an absolute TON on backtracking in this game, especially during a certain scenario. You’ll go back and forth to the same dungeons 10+ times, and that’s really not an exaggeration. No matter how great an environment looks, if you have to go back and forth through it that many times, you’ll start to get sick of it.
One thing that helps with all of the backtracking is that Rudra no Hihou has a day and night system, similar to Seiken Densetsu 3. Because of this, each area in the game has a “day” tileset and “night” tileset. These can end up looking fairly different from each other, so you can at least enjoy the first two times you have to go somewhere…
The overworld is fairly basic looking, to be honest. You have Plains, Mountains, Forests, the Ocean, and one Desert. For structures, you have Towns (which all have the same overworld appearance), Caves, Towers, and Ruins. The graphical quality of everything ends up dropping off significantly, compared to how the game looks otherwise. While most games have the same problem, like any of the Final Fantasy games on the system, the sudden shift is a lot more noticeable in Rudra no Hihou.
To make up for it though, there are technically 3 different overworlds. Two of them look identical in style except for some clouds added below one of them. The other “overworld” is completely different and has its own tilesets and geography, which ends up looking pretty cool. I won’t really take any points away from a game because of the overworld graphics, but since there’s so much backtracking going on in Rudra, I had to mention it.
Overall, Rudra no Hihou looks great, as one should expect from a game that’s created at the end of a system’s life-cycle. Outside of the questionable magic spells and a basic looking overworld, exploring environments for the first time should be quite a nice experience. Especially the towns, a lot of the towns have a cool and unique feel to them, once you start getting out of the human cities. My personal favorite town in the game is Ryla, which is an underwater grotto where the mermaids live. The ambience and atmosphere of the town is incredible! I actually sat there and just watched the water flowing all over the place for a few minutes! Take a look for yourself!
Next, let’s go over the gameplay in Rudra no Hihou. I have a few complaints about some of the main design decisions i’d like to go over. Sadly, gameplay might actually be Rudra no Hihou’s weakest area.
The gameplay in Rudra no Hihou is your typical SFC/SNES JRPG gameplay – Go to a town, kill something in the nearby dungeon, level up and get gold, go back to town, buy new equipment, and then go to the next town, rinse and repeat. In terms of the regular gameplay-cycle, Rudra no Hihou doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. There are two things that Rudra does bring to the table, though, the “Kotodama” system and the Scenario system.
First, i’ll go over the Scenario system. Most likely taking inspiration from Final Fantasy VI’s scenario system, the overall story in Rudra no Hihou is split into 3 separate scenarios. While this was initially a cool and interesting concept, it lost its appeal to me after I cleared my first scenario. I think if I were to give a short summary of how it works, you might even get sick of it just by reading about it.
Here’s how my first playthrough went – I started Sion’s scenario and played it from start to finish (you can actually change scenarios whenever you load a save file, which is a really cool feature!). I played through about 10 hours or so of the story, learned some stuff about what’s doing the bad stuff, some background on the Jades, things like that. I leveled up to around level 40, got all the good gear, had a pretty good catalog of spells, and completed Sion’s scenario.
Then, the game throws you back to the scenario select screen and I chose Surlent’s scenario. Immediately the first thing that hits you is you’re level 1 again. The spells from other scenarios don’t carry over (you can just create them again if you memorized them though, kinda breaking the early game). Your characters go back to knowing nothing about the Rudras, Jades, nothing like that.
So, you go back through the game’s overall story, with some scenario specific stuff happening in-between. You go back to a lot of the same towns and dungeons you went through as Sion. You go back and buy the same weapons and armor as you did for Sion’s party, essentially having everyone equipped with the exact same stuff, doing the exact same damage with the same elemental strengths/weaknesses as before. You go back and fight all of the same mosters, opening the same treasure chests, doing the same puzzles. You level up and get all the way to the end of Surlent’s scenario, and get sent back to the main menu.
Next, you load up Riza’s scenario and start back at level 1. You go to a town that’s unique to Riza’s scenario, and then get sent to the “mainland” again, for the 3rd time. You go back to the same dungeons and towns as you did during the last 2 scenarios, fighting the same monsters again. Buying the same equipment as you did the other 2 times. You go through and do the exact same stuff again with slight variations along the way until you beat Riza’s scenario.
Given, there are enough variations going on within the story that they aren’t 3 exact cut and paste copies, but around 80% of the things you do in all 3 scenarios are exactly the same. Exact same locations, gear, monsters, everything. It honestly felt like I was essentially running New Game + twice after I cleared Sion’s scenario. I particularly don’t care for New Game+ in JRPGs unless there’s additional super bosses or dungeons the next time through. You basically have to beat Rudra no Hihou 3 separate times in a row.
What Final Fantasy VI did right was it had your party split up, but you eventually reunited after a little while. Lock goes out on his own to scout the Empire’s movements, but he comes back after 2 or 3 hours of gameplay. Rudra could have been a lot easier to digest if it was something like Sion’s scenario was the first 5 days, Surlent’s scenario took off from there and went on for 5 days, and then Riza’s scenario showed the final 5 days. Now, I know that with the game’s story that wouldn’t have really worked at all (they’d have to redo the entire story to go along with the scenario revamp), but it would have actually cut out a ton of fat in the game.
The way the scenario system is set up in the game, around 70-80% of the games content is recycled through the 3 scenarios, which means that there’s only 5 or 6 hours of actual unique content split among all of the scenarios. As I mentioned above, the game took me probably 35 hours to beat, but if they got rid of all of the re-used filler stuff, it probably would have been a 10-15 hour game.
I don’t entirely hate the scenario system, though. I really do think it’s cool to see the stuff happening day to day between the separate parties. Having Surlent’s party and Riza’s party actually meet up, go their separate ways, and then having Riza’s party see the effects of something that Surlent did at that exact second is really cool. I made the mistake (not really a mistake, but…) of playing each scenario from start to finish.
Since you can load different scenarios whenever you load the game, the coolest way to play the game might be playing each scenario one day at a time. That way you’d be really familiar with where each character currently is in the world and you’ll really feel like each party is experiencing everything in real-time! The whole “replaying the game 3 times” feeling and the bitterness of going from level 40-50 back to level 1 twice will also disappear, now that I think about it. If I ever replay Rudra no Hihou, I might actually try it this way instead.
The next complaint I have about Rudra no Hihou is the main selling point of the game, the “Kotodama” system. Known as the “Mantra” system supposedly in the fan translation (it’s closer to “Incantation”, but we’re splitting hairs here…), this system allows you to create magic spells based on whatever combination of Japanese characters you want. For example, you can create a spell named after Sion (シオン), and it’ll have some sort of magic effect. You have a select number of spell slots that you can use to write down whatever spells you create (you can store maybe around 30 or 40).
When you create a spell, everyone in the party can use it. This is cool, but Rudra no Hihou doesn’t have any character or class specific skills. Everyone’s combat menu is “Attack, Kotodama, Item, Guard”. Everyone having access to the same spells means that each character can do the exact same thing (barring low MP characters), which leads to everyone feeling same-y by the end of the game. I had the exact same issue with Final Fantasy VI, where every single character at the end of the game would have the same spells and just spam Ultima or Auto Attack. If you have a healing spell, everyone suddenly becomes a healer, if a boss has a weakness to Fire, your whole team becomes a bunch of fire spammers.
This wouldn’t be so bad if there was more variation in the types of spells that you could make. Boss battles in Rudra no Hihou all pretty much follow the same flow – Start the battle by buffing your defense, your damage, and debuffing the boss’ defense, and have your last guy attack. Next turn have your support characters cast 100% crit chance spells on your fighters and have them attack. Keep attacking and heal when needed. When your support/mages run out of MP, have your fighters backup heal while the healers recover mp. Reapply buffs/debuffs when needed and keep healing.
That’s what you’ll do for 100% of the boss fights. Kotodama work decently if you have something that hits the boss’ weakness during early game, but late game, in order to do any sort of “decent” damage (it’ll be way lower than a buffed melee crit) at end-game, you’ll have to cast 30MP+ spells (my level 70 magic-oriented characters had 300-ish MP at the end of the game). Attacking with magic at end game is completely non-viable, which goes against the entire principle of a game that made custom spells its main selling point.
In a game with countless possible magic spells, you only need a defense buff/debuff, attack buff, crit buff, an optional spirit buff for slightly better heals, a resurrection spell, and an AoE healing spell. 7 spells that all of your party members will be able to cast will allow you to beat the game. Why would you go through all of the trouble creating a bunch of different spells when you’ll only use 7 of them?
An even bigger absolute pain about the Kotodama system is that MP is not directly correlated with usefulness. In pretty much any other game ever made, a 30 MP fire spell will out-damage a 12 MP fire spell. Not in Rudra no Hihou! You have no way of knowing how strong a spell is until you use it in battle. This is absolute bonkers game design – you don’t know if the spell you just created is better than your other spells, even though the MP cost is 3 times higher.
This really discouraged me from even trying to create my own spells after a while because I didn’t want to sit in the menu creating spells for 30 minutes only to then have to spend an hour testing them all in battle and finding out that they were all worse than what I already had. There’s an NPC at each Tavern in the game that will teach you a pre-written spell, so I just used those to progress through the game instead.
The fact that “1MP” Kotodama exist (they’re basically cheater spells though, you’ll never make any without looking them up) AND the 1MP Kotodama are usually stronger than 10-15MP stuff, there’s literally no way of figuring out what’s what. If the system had even some correlation and indication of magic power, it could have been much more enjoyable. Mixing elements would have helped with the spell selection immensely, too…being able to proc a crazy regen+magic defense spell or something like would have really made the system much more exciting and worth experimenting with.
Next on my list of complaints in the power curve, or should I say lack of. Leveling in this game does next to nothing in regards to increasing your characters damage/defense. Leveling gives a slightly noticeable boost in HP/MP (even level 70 characters only have around 300-400 HP, 50-250 MP), but that’s because the max HP is so low in this game that an extra 5 or 7 HP is pretty noticeable. Strength and Defense, however, increase by about 1 point at a time. This gives basically no increase to your actual damage output or decrease in damage taken. If you un-equip your characters at the end of the game, they pretty much do the same damage they did at the start of the game.
The game is entirely equipment and Kotodama-based. If you look up all of the good spells before you even start the game, you’ll break the entire game and have no trouble at all beating any of the bosses. Regardless of how much you level up, if you don’t buy that new equipment in town, you’ll never do any higher damage. This brings me to my next point, though it’s not entirely a minus point…
Elemental Strength and Weakness is probably the most important factor when it comes to either completely destroying a boss or getting completely destroyed. Damage is amplified by what seems to be 2x or 2.5x both ways – if you have a Fire-elemental weapon and you attack a boss that’s weak to fire, you’re gonna completely smoke him. If you’re fighting a boss that uses Dark Kotodama and you’re entire team is wearing armor that’s weak to Dark spells, chances are your entire team is gonna get one-shotted by the boss.
I don’t think i’ve played any other RPGs from around 1996 where elements played such a huge role in deciding whether or not you could beat a boss. Now, I know in some games they go even further and make bosses immune to certain elements, but those games usually have some form of backup (your physical attacks get immune’d because of its element, but you can cast other magic) or vice-versa. Like I said above, using magic to attack is basically pointless at end-game, so your actual equipment is going to be the deciding factor.
Just for a quick example of how ridiculous it can be – towards the end of Sion’s scenario, I got stuck on one boss that summons 3 separate helpers one by one before he fights you directly. He summons, I think, an element-less guy, a Dark element guy, and the a Water element guy. My guys had dark armor on, so I had no trouble at with the first two guys, but little did I know my entire team had fire-elemental accessories on. The water element boss almost exclusively used AoE water spells, which one-shot my entire team right into the Shadowrealm.
2 fights later after I realized I had those fire accessories equipped, I swapped them to water-resist accessories and tried the fight again. The water boss’ AoE attacks suddenly did 60 damage to everyone instead of 260, meaning that I only had to heal like once or twice during the entire fight. Just by swapping out a single piece of gear (that actually ended up lowering my stats!), I negated an entire boss fight. This is a bit much in my opinion, something like a +/-1.25x damage multiplier would have been a bit more of what i’m used to.
I won’t count this as a negative gameplay aspect though, as fans of games like Shin Megami Tensei/Persona would be a lot more accustomed to elements playing a huge part in fights (buffs/debuffs too). I just personally thought it became way too much of a focus – there were several times where I had to use gear that was 2 or 3 tiers lower than what I should have been using just so I could align elements for the next boss fight.
The last thing i’ll talk about is the insane amount of backtracking and the encounter rate that they conveniently accompanied it with. Sion’s scenario has almost no backtracking at all, so when I beat his scenario I didn’t really have any problems with it, but Surlent’s scenario, jesus christ dude. I mean, this is “MMORPG daily quest” levels of doing the same thing over and over again (I played WoW for around 12-16 hours a day for 4 years straight from around 2006-2010 doing the same thing pretty much everyday, and EVEN THEN I think Rudra no Hihou is brutal…). The amount of times you’ll have to go to back and forth through the Torr Volcano to talk to Master Solon easily exceeds 10 times. It wouldn’t be bad if the game didn’t trigger a random encounter after every 3 seconds of running.
I kind of felt that Final Fantasy VI had a pretty high encounter rate, probably the highest of all the SFC/SNES RPGs i’ve reviewed so far. The battles were really quick though, so it made up for it somewhat. Rudra is in an entire different league – i’m honestly not lying about an encounter happening every 2 or 3 seconds. Not only that, battles are extremely slow in Rudra no Hihou. Unless you blow your MP on a big AoE spell that hits all of the enemies’ weaknesses every time you go into a random encounter, a single battle is probably going to take at least 3-4 rounds of auto attacks.
Since Rudra is pretty flashy with it’s animations (spells aren’t flashy at all, but they usually take up an unnecessary 3-4 seconds each), you’ll have to sit through everyone’s battle attack animations, which means a standard round of attacks against a 3 or 4 enemy group will take around 15-20 seconds. Do that 3 or 4 times per battle and you’re looking at a minute plus for pretty much every appropriately leveled battle in the game. So for every 3 seconds of movement in a dungeon, you get a minute long fight.
The only saving grace is that dungeons are fairly short in Rudra no Hihou – most only being 5 or 6 screens long (fairly small screens). Another nice thing is that in some dungeons, after you beat the boss, there aren’t anymore encounters when you have to backtrack to the entrance. I’ve heard that the Breath of Fire games for the SFC/SNES also have a brutal encounter rate, which was always keeping me from playing them, but if I could truck through Rudra, I could probably get through those too…maybe someday.
Other than the complaints I had above, the ordinary gameplay wasn’t really too bad. There wasn’t really anything special about it, but there wasn’t anything particularly bad about it either. If you look at the game in general, its your standard RPG of the day. It only starts to fall apart a bit when you look at it thoroughly. If an all-over-the-place magic system, exhausting backtracking, and insane encounter rate don’t seem like a problem to you, Rudra no Hihou might just be one of the best games you’ll find on the system!
Let’s get back to an area that Rudra no Hihou excels in – music!
I initially looked up the game’s OST before actually playing the game, just to see what i’d be in for. At first, I didn’t really see what the big deal was – everyone in the comments kept talking about how it’s the best OST ever, so and so song is godlike, no other composer can match this game’s musical genius, everyone was just going crazy about it!
After playing the game, however, it grew on me a lot! Now, I personally don’t think its anywhere near the best RPG OST of all time or anything like that. It’s not gonna surpass FF6 or FF8, but it’s got a lot of great songs on it. I’ll go ahead and list some of my favorites below. We’ll start off with the intro song, though it’s also played quite a bit during the actual game too.
Next we have a really nice overworld theme. In Rudra no Hihou, each separate scenario has its own overworld theme (a day and night version, too!), which does help to keep the separate playthroughs fresh. Out of all the overworld themes, I personally like this one best!
Next we’ll pick a boss theme. Each 3 separate parties have a special boss theme, which I also really appreciate. I actually like Riza’s theme the most, but it’s basically just a sped up version of the intro theme, so it’d be a waste to choose the same song twice. Instead, we’ll go with Surlent’s boss theme!
This last track i’ll choose isn’t particularly amazing or anything, but I just like it because it has that real “retro JRPG music” feel to it. Close your eyes and listen to it – you’ll feel like you’re playing some old PC88 or PC98 JRPG (Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaance). A major plus is, this is the song you’ll be listening to while you go back and forth through the Torr Volcano over 9000 times during Surlent’s scenario!
Overall, by the end of the game, I really enjoyed the music in Rudra no Hihou! Some of the songs that are used in the temples and stuff get repeated a lot, but most songs are only used in one or two different areas. One thing though, to be completely honest, you’ll never really hear anything past the first 3 or 4 seconds of any dungeon theme because of the encounter rate.
The music resets everytime you finish a battle, so you’ll just be hearing the same 3 seconds of the song until you finish the dungeon and head back outside without any encounters. The only time you’ll hear the song in its entirety is when there’s some dialog going on inside the dungeon before boss fights, or unless you purposely stand still and listen to it all the way through. None of the songs really start off bad, so it wasn’t much of a problem for me!
I don’t think the OST is perfect, but I still do think it’s worth listening to the entire thing at least once. There’s quite a bit of variation in the types of songs, instruments used, and overall feeling throughout the whole thing that I think anyone who likes 16-bit JRPG music should really enjoy listening to it. I’ll link the whole OST below (seriously though, that box art).
Should you play it?
I was really harsh in the gameplay section of the review, I know. The backtracking and encounter rate are absolutely unforgivable, but the Scenario and Kotodama systems just didn’t click with me. I definitely think there are people out there who would really appreciate either one or both of those systems, especially people who like messing around with random generators to see what they can come up with.
Those specific-to-Rudra systems aside, the basic gameplay is in no way bad. While battles might be a bit average, I really did enjoy the music, the story, and the characters themselves. Sork always wanting to cut someone up was really funny, it never felt like he was some typical brain-dead brute like those types of characters usually are. Going through the game definitely did feel like an adventure, and the whole idea of what you were at the beginning versus what you’re able to do at the end of the game really felt like the characters progressed a lot in terms of ability, especially since it’s all supposed to happen over the course of 15 days.
All of my “Gameplay” section complaints aside, i’d still recommend anyone that’s interested in SFC/SNES JRPGs to play Rudra no Hihou. I just feel almost criminal though, recommending it when I know that everyone will have to drudge through that awful fan translation…
Which version should you play?
Rudra definitely isn’t one of those games where I could just say “go study Japanese for a few months and play the Japanese version” like I could with Final Fantasy V. Rudra is a damn hard game to understand – of all the games i’ve reviewed so far, Rudra was the second most difficult game to understand, just below Parasite Eve (surprise surprise!).
Rudra no Hihou’s story has a ton of references to religious things, ancient ruins/civilizations/prophecies, racial genocide (basically erasing whatever race is currently living on the planet), as well as research/scientific stuff with Surlent’s scenario. I had to look up quite a few words while playing, which is something I haven’t really had to do since Parasite Eve around a year ago (Parasite Eve also has tons of biology/science stuff in it).
Which means most players will be stuck with the fan translation…since I think the story is one of the biggest points in the game, having it get torn to shreds by some clown-world translation just doesn’t sit right with me. That’s the only possible way to play though, so for those of you that do go on to play the fan translation, just focus more on what’s actually going on in the game rather than what’s being said in the textboxes, and you might end up having a good time!
I truly do recommend getting the physical Japanese version if possible though. Even as just a collection piece – that artwork is absolutely incredible, and the cool metallic red side-logo on the box looks amazing! It’ll definitely be a talking point if you ever show it off to someone. That being said, Rudra no Hihou is the most expensive SFC game i’ve bought so far.
Live A Live previously held that title, at around 45$ USD (4,500 yen), but Rudra set me back 55$ USD (5,500 yen) boxed. This is most likely because while it sold “well” for its time, it was essentially one of the last SFC games, so there really aren’t many copies around – especially ones in good condition. I don’t even want to imagine how much it would cost to buy it from overseas, but i’d assume it would be close to 100$…that box art though, seriously!
If you’re looking to grab a copy for yourself, you can find them from Amazon below! (i’ll earn a small commission if purchased through these links)
Rudra no Hihou (Requires a Super Famicom or modded Super Nintendo!) – Grab Rudra no Hihou here! (affiliate link!)
I estimated that this review would only be around 3,000 words. Well, I was off by a modest 7,000 words, so I somehow surpassed my Final Fantasy VI review…anyways, on to the Final Score!
Final Score – 33/40
Story – 9/10
Gameplay – 6/10
Graphics – 10/10
Music – 8/10