Arcana / Card Master: Rimsaria no Fuuin

Arcana is a 3D dungeon exploration RPG on the SNES.  It was published by HAL Laboratory in 1992 in Japan, and a few months later in the US.

The healer's tent is in front of the hero and his initial card spirit.

The gimmick of the game is that you are a card master.  You use sort of summons embodied by various cards to fight evil.  However, in a world almost ruined by war, you may be the final card master alive.  The game depicts everything as cards.  Enemies are cards and show weaknesses in the color choices.  Characters approach the hero as cards.

Two characters are talking to Rooks. The man speaking is the blue card on the right.

There’s basically zero exploration in the non dungeon areas.  Towns are explored via rotating in a central point in town to face various buildings.  Usually only one building has a plot important character.  All the other buildings tend to be the usual inn, shops, and so on.  The world map involves automated walking.  When you have multiple destinations, you simply pick your destination, and the game handles the rest.

Since the walking is automated, you can't go to that town to the west until the plot lets you go there.

The real depth of the game is in the dungeon exploration.  The dungeons are done in pretty decent 3D style graphics.   The draw distance isn’t terrible, but the rotation can be a little slow.  The real problem with the dungeons are more due to the size.  Since they’re long dungeons, you can’t display the entire dungeon on one screen in the map.  And since you can’t scroll the map, you can’t check to see if you’re on the right path to the stairs, for example.  When you add in multilevel dungeons, it can become tedious.

The first dungeon area in Arcana is shown here.

Of course if you enjoy the exploration, it’s not too bad.  The plot involves a fair amount of fetch quests (find a petrified man, go back to get the materials to cure him, return to help the man, and so on.)  There’s a fair amount of grinding as well to handle the dungeon monsters.  I suppose I would like the game a lot more if it was more user friendly and the translation had a bit more zing to it.  As it is, the plot’s fairly formulaic, with the only real changes being the card iconography and the Wizardry style dungeon exploration.  When the plot includes betrayal, it feels more like a frustration for the player’s plans than an emotional betrayal.

The battle system in arcana is pretty typical. If an enemy misses, you do get cute comments from your characters.

  1. hLK’s avatar

    The Japanese version apparently has different gameplay, or at least the summons work differently

  2. Rav’s avatar

    I know some people said that the Japanese version also had a lot more text (though not necessarily more “meaning” to the text.) There’s apparently an elemental system tied to the jewels on enemy cards, but it doesn’t seem to matter much to the US version.


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