Important Importables: Best SNES role-playing games

Sections: Columns, Consoles, Consoles-Other, Features, Genres, Japanese Imports, Nostalgia, Role-Playing

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The PlayStation 2 may be the role-playing game (RPG) giant today, but it wasn’t always so. Back in the early 1990s the Super Nintendo, aka the Super Famicom, was undoubtedly the place to go for a large variety of solid RPGs. It featured great games including Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire, Lufia, Earthbound, Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG and Ultima. That may seem like a long list, but there were even more great RPGs which didn’t make it stateside.

At this point, it is possibly pointless to look for some of these old classics. They might occasionally pop up on eBay, but its not worth selling a kidney or lung to buy them. There are shady ways of acquiring these titles, but that isn’t recommended as it is illegal.

The best we can do is honor these great games through a memorial list and take the time to look back and give love to some classic titles. Maybe one day we’ll meet again on Virtual Console or through a belated and updated remake.

Today we honor Live A Live, Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu, Star Ocean and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon: Another Story. All four are loved by many fans online, as all four received fan-translation patches at one point and time.

Live A Live
Live A Live's original box art
With Square’s success in the field of RPGs on the SNES, it is surprising that Live A Live wasn’t released overseas. This 1994 RPG featured eight main characters and stories which all remarkably came together in the end. The first seven stories could be played in any order. After they were completed, the eighth would be unlocked. During that character’s story, players finally realized how everything was connected.

The drawing point of Live A Live really was the ability to live through each character’s life. For example Cube’s chapter, called “Mechanical Heart,” consisted primarily of fetch quests and tasks and didn’t require much fighting. The ninja Oboro-maru’s “Secret Orders” chapter focused on stealth, rewarding the player for getting through the storyline without being forced to fight any enemy ninjas. Akira’s “Flow” story is more of a typical RPG, with the character using telepathic powers to discover information and featuring typical battles. This setup is a great change of pace and helps appeal to a greater audience. Live A Live also had a lot of replay value, somewhat of a rarity back then. There were four different endings, which would provide incentive to go back and find out what other possibilities there were.

Despite never being released outside of Japan, Live A Live still received love from the fan community. Aeon Genesis worked to create a translation patch for the game which translated everything for players. It is finally near complete with barely any glitches or bugs. RPG Classicsalso has a Live A Live shrine online.

Fire Emblem 4: Seisen no Keifu (aka Fire Emblem 4: Genealogy of the Holy War)
Fire Emblem 4's original box art
Fire Emblem never really received its due appreciation outside of Japan until it was released for the Game Boy Advance. However overseas it enjoyed a long and rich history. Probably the most beloved in the series is Fire Emblem 4, which is also considered one of the best console entries in the series. It was originally released in 1996. It featured a long reaching story which covered two generations, great writing, solid gameplay and innovative concepts which became mainstays in the series.

Fire Emblem 4 was the starting point for many concepts that would become staples in the series. It was the first to include three crucial abilities: dance, steal and critical hit. It also allowed unlimited character deployments. The most important concepts introduced were the weapon triangle and skills system. It first happened here that swords beat axes, axes destroyed lances and lances bested swords. This was also the first game were certain skills were innate to certain classes and characters, an idea which carried on to later entries.

This entry had some unique points as well, like the ability to repair weapons in castle shops, the ability to promote units without items, each character having their own money to buy weapons and items and the fact that the only units that can share money are lovers. That’s right, in the first generation of the game units can fall in love. Enabling such relationships will result in different children characters being available in the second half of the game.

When the Virtual Console was first announced, rumors abounded that Fire Emblem 4 would finally see a North American release. So far this has yet to be seen. There is a partially completed fan translation in the works online, which is a combination of J2E translation and Dark Twilkitri’s work. So far it seems like a fully translated Fire Emblem 4 is still a dream.

Star Ocean
Star Ocean original box art
Enix’s original Star Ocean was an ambitious endeavor for the Super Famicom. It was a massive game, featuring 48 MB of information, real-time battle, private action interactions between characters, enhanced graphics and voice acting. It, along with Fire Emblem 4, was one of the last games released for the system as it also came out in 1996.

Star Ocean was truly a work of art. It featured all of the hallmarks of the series: active time battles, emotional relationships between characters, voice acting and multiple endings. It also began an epic storyline which continued throughout all three games in the series. Characters which appeared here even are mentioned or are related to ones in later entries.

Thankfully, the popularity of the Star Ocean series has given Square Enix incentive to re-release a remastered version of this game for the Playstation Portable. Star Ocean: The First Departure was released December 27, 2007, and North American and European releases are practically guaranteed. This is a blessing, as the original game was very rare. Also, the graphic requirements for the game made it nearly impossible to emulate. Despite these hurdles, there was a 90% translation patch, complete with English voices, released by by the DeJap staff. RPG Classics also has a Star Ocean shrine online for those interested in visiting and learning more.

Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon: Another Story
Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon: Another Story original box art Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon: Another Story is probably the last game you would expect to see on this list, and yet it is the title I have the fondest memories of. Sailor Moon RPG is probably one of the first great video games based on an anime. It features a great story which doesn’t contradict story concepts brought up in the source material, challenging gameplay and good graphics, not to mention the sentimental nostalgia. It originally came out in 1995.

Sailor Moon RPG featured a unique story, created just for the game, that also brought in facts from both the anime and manga. It featured a set of unique villains, all of which had actual personalities and interesting motivations, and all of the main characters from the Sailor Moon universe. It also was more difficult than one would expect, requiring players to put time and effort into playing. The game also contained multiple endings and chapters where each of the supporting Sailor Scouts would have the opportunity to steal the spotlight.

Unsurprisingly, this game still has quite a large fan following. Many shrines still exist online for the title, like RPG Classic’s shrine, the Sailor Moon Games Archive, Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon the RPG page and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon: Another Story at FantasyAnime. Unsurprisingly, it received a 100% fan translation from Bishoujo Senshi Translations. Sadly, it will likely never receive an official English-translation release. Despite that, Sailor Moon RPG will still always hold a special place in its fans’ hearts.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Important Portables provides Valentine’s Day gift suggestions.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Important Importables talked about Super Dollfie dolls.

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    For whats its worth, out site snesclassics tries to stay true to the SNES and we hope we can continue to offer a great service to all the nintendo gamers out there.

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  • Milka Giordano

    Snes games have been my favorite since my childhood. The genealogy of SNES which comes from NES was pretty interesting too. Fire Emblem 4: Genealogy of War is also one of my fave game. Btw, you write a great article there. Why don't you try to be a freelance writer at It has a lot of projects including article writer. You should try it. Here, use this code "FAMILYTREE" to get more advantages from the site. Good luck.