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Video Game / Arcana

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An RPG released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System by HAL Laboratory, one of the only RPGs the company would ever work on. Known as Card Master: Seal of Rimsalia in Japan, Arcana is the story of a young warrior named Rooks and his attempt to fulfill his destiny as the last of the Card Masters.

The island of Elemen is home to six kingdoms, which have frequently engaged in war and bloodshed. But these wars were not the greatest threat the land faced, as the evil goddess Rimsalia attempted to destroy the entire island and claim it as her own. She was thwarted by the Card Masters, an order of wizards who wielded tremendous magical power in the form of the playing cards they carried. Rimsalia was sealed by the Card Masters, and peace returned to Elemen for a time. Ten years ago, however, the darkness returned in the form of Galneon, the court magician of the kingdom of Lexford, who murdered King Wagnall and seized power for himself. When the Card Masters opposed him, Galneon murdered as many of them as he could find, until a young man named Rooks was the only Card Master remaining. At the same time, Galneon prepared to undo the seal that bound Rimsalia, and return her to the world. Now, Rooks sets out on a desperate quest to stop Galneon before he can fulfill his goals and bring ruin to the world.

The game is known for its immersive atmosphere, a unique elemental system, and Awesome Music by composer Jun Ishikawa (who also produced the original soundtrack for Kirby's Dream Land 3).

This game provides examples of:

  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Justified. The quality of equipment and the prices at the inns increase with every chapter, but that's due in part to the fact that you go from the small village of Galia to the larger town of Doraf to the Hidden Elf Village and finally to the royal capital of Lexford over the course of the game.
    • Played straight in-between chapters 2 and 3, where Rooks is still in Doraf, but the inn has inexplicably jacked up its price by 50 gold.
  • Big Bad: Empress Rimsalia.
  • Brainwashed: It's eventually revealed that Teefa is under Galneon and Ariel's control, and they're using her to help revive Rimsalia.
  • Card Games: All the characters are represented as images on playing cards, which gives the game a very unique appearance. Cards also feature heavily in the game's mythos. Rooks can use magical cards for a wide variety of attacks, most of which are Elemental Powers.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Salah prefers to wield maces and clubs in combat.
  • Combat Medic: Rooks is not only the strongest physical fighter in the game, but he's also the best healer.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: After having the Crystal Sword stolen right out from under him, Rooks tries to fight back against Ariel and Teefa, only to find out that Teefa stuck him with a slow-acting paralyzing spell before they entered the room. Cue Ariel and Teefa beating the living hell out of the helpless Rooks until Axs and his sorceror companion intervene.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Demon Axe, Demon Shield and Demon Mail serve as Axs' ultimate equipment, and he uses them to fight for the forces of good.
  • Dub Name Change: Ariel was "Alan"; Axs was just literally "Axe"; Darwin was "Arwen" (three guesses as to why THAT one changed), Galneon was "Galnel". Teefa and Salah were... not changed, but fall under a different trope - see below.
  • Duel Boss: At least one of them in every chapter after the first. Chapter 2 ends with Rooks fighting Zerel one on one, Chapter 3 ends with Rooks fighting Sauza, Rooks insists on fighting Ariel by himself in Chapter 4 and the final battle of the game consists of Rooks fighting Rimsala. In every case, Rooks only has the spirits to back him up.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Two Kirbys appear in the opening.
  • Elemental Powers: Rooks and the spirits he can summon can cast spells to bury enemies alive, blow them away with deadly winds, or burn them with intense flames.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: Water beats fire. Fire beats wind. Wind beats earth. Earth beats water. Most of the game's strategy centers around using the elements to your advantage.
  • Evil Chancellor: Galneon murdered King Wagnall and seized the throne for himself.
  • Faux First Person 3D
  • Fight Like a Card Player: In game the cards are not the end-all be-all but are pretty useful for the early to mid game and Rooks is the last person who can really make use of them. Despite this, everything is graphically represented by cards, making you think they would be a little more central.
  • Guest-Star Party Member: All the other characters join Rooks at certain times, and leave at others. At most, you only ever have two other characters in the party with Rooks and the elemental spirits.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Teefa accompanies Rooks on the first part of his journey before betraying him. Then, after Rooks and Darwin are forced to fight her, it's revealed that she was in fact Brainwashed by Galneon and Ariel. She then joins them for good.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Teefa's eyes glow with a reddish tint in the first chapter. This goes away after Rooks and Darwin free her from Galneon's mind control.
  • In the End, You Are on Your Own: Zig-Zagged. Every party member holds off a monster so Rooks can go fight Rimsala, which he has to do himself. However, even when Rooks does not have anyone with him, he still has a spirit to take hits for him.
  • Killed Off for Real: If one of your human party members die, you can't bring them back and it's Game Over. This doesn't apply to the elemental spirits, which you can revive if they're destroyed.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Spellcaster enemies can basically attack the entire party at once whenever they feel like it, but the lower level spells tend to do less damage than the more physical capable enemies. Once enemies start learning higher level spells and inflicting status ailments, though (especially the Attribute spells,) they're far more dangerous than even the strongest purely physical enemies.
  • Mr. Exposition: Reinoll the Elder explains to Rooks that he needs the Three Treasures and the four elemental spirits if he hopes to defeat Rimsalia, and alludes to the heroic Fanas, the ancient Card Master who first sealed the Evil Empress away.
  • Multiarmed And Dangerous: Rimsala
  • Multiple Head Case: Rimsala again, though the heads don't all serve the same purpose.
  • Nintendo Hard: A high encounter rate and the fact that you get a Game Over if one party member dies both contribute to this trope. The game's difficulty is still overrated compared to other first person RPGs though, such as the Wizardry and Megami Tensei series; enemies lack any sort of insta-death spells and there's plenty of opportunity to train your characters before each boss, meaning any deaths are generally caused by carelessness.
  • One-Hit Kill: Each spirit (except for Marid) learns a party-wide instakill spell near the end of the game (though it costs a ton of MP and isn't the most accurate spell.) Dao's Petrify is effectively the same thing, although it's more of a two-hit kill since the petrified enemy needs to be hit one more time to finish it off.
  • One-Winged Angel: After Rooks fails to banish Rimsala in her nesting state as an egg with striking serpents, she fully awakens and becomes a screen-filling, multiarmed, almost pretty monster that nearly kills him with a single strike.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Axs wields large battleaxes and hammers in combat, can take a lot of physical punishment, and knows very little magic.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Darwin.
  • Parental Substitute: Axs adopted Salah after her father King Wagnall's death and raised her to adulthood. In the Japanese version, she uses very formal honorifics when speaking to him as if he were a respected fatherly elder.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Ariel has a number of apprentices, who Rooks and the party fight throughout the game, including the Bishōnen swordsman Zerel, the claw-wearing Sauza, and the Martyr Without a Cause Karul. Subverted by Teefa, who's the first apprentice introduced and who actually joins your party.
  • The Rest Shall Pass: On approach to the final level, your companions do this, leaving Rooks to fight the Big Bad alone.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Ariel used to be Rooks' closest friend in childhood. Now, he works with Galneon to bring about Rimsalia's reign of evil.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Rimsalia herself. Galneon is trying to free her.
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: Completely averted. Whenever another party member joins Rooks, they have no equipment at all and you have to go back to the shops to get their gear. On the other hand, whenever they leave all their equipment remains in your inventory, so you can then sell it in the next chapter.
  • Spell My Name with an S: SALAH. Yes, that's certainly a name without more logical ways of spelling it, especially when the kana are サラ. (Now, admittedly, Salah is an extant and not-uncommon name in Arabic... except that it's usually used by men. Oops!)
    • "Teefa" also dings this a bit today, although in 1991 this was less obvious since it predated Final Fantasy VII by half a decade. Though it's also made slightly more complicated by the kana - ティーファ for the girl here vs. ティファ for the famous one. The former does have a slightly longer "I"-vowel sound, so "Teefa" isn't totally inaccurate, but remains unconventional.
    • "Efrite" is also an unconventional spelling of that name, although this is admittedly a name that is taken from Arabic to Japanese and then to English.
  • Squishy Wizard: The spirits. Even the more physically imposing ones like Efreat and Dao have pretty pitiful physical attacks and have to rely on spells to do any real damage, and despite their high defense, they tend to take more damage than the other characters (fortunately, they slowly regenerate HP and MP with each step, even when not active.)
  • Summon Magic: Rooks can summon the elemental spirits from certain magical cards to assist him in battle. The spirits function as additional party members, although they don't otherwise play a large role in the storyline.
  • Take Your Time: Standard issue. However, the event where the companions hold off an encounter for you say that there isn't enough time for you to fight Tiamat, and send you forward.
  • They Call Him "Sword": Axs.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: It's implied that Ariel and Galneon are like this, hoping to in fact use Rimsalia's power to establish a Utopian society.