This is a blog I wrote a few months back.
If you dig through the Nintendo Shop Channel's Virtual Console games, you may find an Enix game named ActRaiser developed by Quintet. This classic SNES game mixes sidescrolling action with a sort of god-game simulator. In this game, players are basically a god. Instead of saving the world from destruction, the world has already been destroyed, so the goal is to revive the world by fighting monsters in and then rebuilding cities in a sort of Sim City-esque manner.
Quintet took all these ideas, aside from the rebuilding feature, and reincorporated them into a game called Soul Blazer, a title you sadly will not find downloadable on the Virtual Console.
Soul Blazer's similarities to ActRaiser are mostly in its storyline and style, but that is where most of the similarities end. It is not a spiritual sequel to ActRaiser (which, in fact, received a sequel called ActRaiser 2). In fact, Soul Blazer plays very differently. It is more like a Zelda-style action role-playing game.
As before, you play as a character (in this case, the Blazer) sent down from the heavens to revive an already doomed world by slaying monsters, which is very rewarding. For each nest of enemies destroyed, a small part of the world is revived, which also adds to the Blazer's stats. Players can also equip their character with different weapons, armor, and magic.
Sometimes defeating enemies will revive characters that the player can interact with. It is not necessary every enemy (the boss at the end of each area is your main target), but it is recommended for strengthening the Blazer and reviving every part of the world. The game is very entertaining, but it was nothing truly phenomenal. It was, however, a beginning to an unofficial series.
Illusion of Gaia, another SNES game, was also developed by Quintet. It has never been officially stated to be a sequel to Soul Blazer, but collecting certain items in the game will allow the player face an optional boss, who makes an obvious reference to Soul Blazer. It even contained gameplay reminiscent of the previous game, with a few differences.
There are still RPG elements, as Will, this game's main character, can receive stat boosts each time he defeats all enemies in an area, but he cannot equip new weapons and armor. This is not such a bad thing as he can visit pay a visit to the deity Gaia to occasionally learn new abilities and sometimes transform into the dark knight, Freedan. There were some puzzles, Making it less linear than Soul Blazer. Even the plots of the two games differ, and they are not tied to each other.
In Illusion of Gaia, The young boy Will begins his journey in a search for his father, an explorer lost in an expedition. He is somehow pulled into saving the world from certain doom, which may meet its end thanks to a comet nearing the planet and mutating anything under its light into demons. The game has deeper mechanics and storyline than Soul Blazer, but the next game in the series refined everything from both of the previous titles.
Terranigma, the third game of the Soul Blazer series, also on SNES, was never released stateside, possibly due to many religious references, but it was in Europe, so there are fully-translated copies out there somewhere. The ability to equip weapons and armor returns, as well as spells. The gameplay is even more elaborate.
Experience is gained from each monster defeated, like in Soul Blazer, but there is more strategy involved in defeating some enemies. The protagonist, Ark, can jump and pick up items to throw, something not in the previous games. Gold was introduced as currency, and there are many more side-quests than before. The game is much larger in scope, and the world is fully explorable.
The plot is very much like Soul Blazer's. Players need to restore a dead, empty world, but the story becomes more complex than that. The game keeps going even after the world is restored. Players will become more involved with the side characters than in previous games, and the game's narrative is the best in the series. There is even a cinematic feel to the presentation, as there is a great animated cutscene each time a part of the world is revived, which is something else not in the first two games.
The reason I write this is so, if gamers ever find the opportunity to play these classics, the Soul Blazer will not be overlooked. Each of these games deserves to be played. They have yet to be released on the Virtual Console, and with Sqare Enix's recent release of downloads like the awesome Chrono Trigger, games like these should not be forgotten either.
Many have likely missed out on the Soul Blazer series when they were available in cartridge from, and most North Americans would have never had a chance to play Terranigma without use of an emulator. ActRaiser was given attention, so why did they stop there? Let Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia, and Terranigma be the next to be downloadable.