Primarily having developed games for the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom, Quintet no longer exists, but they’ve left quite a legacy behind. Just about every single game they released on the SNES can be comfortably considered one of the best titles on the system. This was a studio full of creativity and inspiration with an eye for quality control. Quintet doesn’t develop games anymore, but at least they proved themselves in their time.
Most Quintet games are RPGs– something to be expected by anyone intimately familiar with the Super Nintendo’s library– but Quintet’s focus on action and puzzle-solving has always given their games an extra edge. Not just that, their titles often share similar themes of life, death, and rebirth, typically weaved with plenty of mythological references.
It’s an honest to god shame Quintet isn’t more well known or well regarded, but that entirely has to do with their games lacking rereleases. Nintendo has always been suspiciously quiet regarding Quintet games on Virtual Console (with one exception), and it doesn’t look like any of the titles will be heading to NSO anytime soon. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of the greatest SNES games ever made.
6 ActRaiser 2
A sequel to the action RPG/God simulator/city builder ActRaiser, ActRaiser 2 isn’t anywhere near as ambitious as its predecessors, opting to serve as a sequel exclusively to the first game’s side-scrolling action RPG platforming combat. In theory, this might seem like a good thing. After all, who wants to deal with sim stuff while playing an action game?
Unfortunately, part of the first game’s core strength came from its pacing. Hard action stages would be followed by relaxing sim sections where players could not only create their world, but create it in a way that directly improved their stats for the action stages. ActRaiser was able to create a gameplay loop that worked and kept the playthrough fresh.
ActRaiser 2 is just brutal action from start to finish. It’s much harder than the first game and much less rewarding. It isn’t a bad action RPG, but it’s the kind of game most will play once and likely never revisit. If nothing else, ActRaiser 2 is worth at least one full playthrough for being one of the best looking games on the SNES. Which is saying something considering the console’s track record for great-looking games.
Robotrek is probably the most “generic” title in Quintet’s SNES library. At the time, it was derided for being a big too straightforward an RPG– a fair criticism in hindsight considering Quintet’s solid track record– but hindsight and retrospect paint a different picture of the sci-fi RPG: one that actually recontextualized Robotrek completely.
In many respects, Robotrek is a proto-Pokémon alongside Shin Megami Tensei. Robotrek doesn’t feature monster collecting, but players build their own robots with spare parts that they send out to do battle for them. Outside of battle, robots are even kept in balls ala Pokémon! Of course, that’s really where the similarities end.
In terms of actual gameplay, Robotrek is more in-line with Final Fantasy and the emphasis is on customization. Every single robot can be heavily customized, allowing players to craft a party with a strong sense of individuality– arguably more than even the average Pokémon game offers.
4 Illusion Of Gaia
Illusion of Gaia might be the most well-known game developed by Quintet (by a mile), but it’s hardly the best. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad game. It’s still one of the better action RPGs on the Super Nintendo, but it does suffer from some fatal flaws the top three don’t. Notably, the very bad localization and the rather erratic difficulty curve.
Illusion of Gaia ebbs and flows between being easy and brutally hard, and its script does it little favors. The story, what can be understood, is actually quite gripping and layered, but the text is pure garbage– as if translated by someone with no real grasp of the English language. There are laughable translation errors that completely invalidate the narrative’s emotional depth.
But the gameplay is downright incredible and the dungeon design is some of the best on the console. Even at its most unintelligible, Illusion of Gaia is a beautiful game that makes terrific use of visual storytelling– good enough to overcome the inherent localization issues that would otherwise have ruined the plot.
ActRaiser’s simulator elements certainly make it a better game than its successor, ActRaiser 2, but it’s also just better design on a whole. Better paced with better level design, better bosses, and a better difficulty curve, ActRaiser is very challenging, but it’s one of the most unique games on the Super Nintendo, offering a gameplay loop totally its own.
Better yet, the combat improvements made between ActRaiser 1 and ActRaiser 2 aren’t enough where the latter is outright better. ActRaiser 1 is simpler in terms of combat, but what it offers is fun and plenty dynamic. It’s definitely an early SNES game, but it’s one of the best action platformers on the console once you get past the obvious choices (Mega Man X, Super Metroid, and Super Castlevania IV to name a few.)
ActRaiser also introduces the idea of a great Quintet universe, one that would find itself focusing on “Gaia” as a character, concept, and theme, but that’s comparatively humble without later Quintet games adding lore into the mix.
2 Soul Blazer
Soul Blazer might be a fairly early SNES action RPG, but it managed to stand out as one of the best titles on the console all the way to the Super Famicom’s last days. The combat is fairly simple, the dungeon design isn’t too complex, and there aren’t too many puzzles, but Soul Blazer is a poignant game with a fantastic script and a gameplay loop like candy.
Soul Blazer is one of the best pick up and play action RPGs there is, as players always make progress in short bursts across the game’s different worlds. Soul Blazer isn’t too long either, so don’t be surprised if you end up sitting down to play it and end up spending all day just getting to the final boss.
While it isn’t as narratively rich as later Quintet titles, its theming is incredibly mature and thought-provoking. It has the fairings of an early 90s action RPG, but it has the foresight and design quality only the greatest games can call home to.
Terranigma is the best action RPG on the Super Nintendo, if not the best RPG outright. Its combat is dynamic and fresh, with a surprising amount of in-game variety; the aesthetic is phenomenal, with one of the best scores on the system and visuals that make the rich world of Terranigma pop; and the story will never leave you thanks to a truly unforgettable last act and ending.
Terranigma is a powerful, beautiful game that proves video games have always been art. Terranigma was only localized in PAL regions with no NTSC release, but had it released in the United States, it’d likely be heralded in the same tier of quality as games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI.
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