Esper Bouken Tai is related to an Arcade game called the Psychic 7. Psychic 7 is basically a game where you explore a maze full of monsters and collect items for points. Various characters have different strengths, and you can use them to pass various obstacles. This game is a NES game from 1987 from Jaleco. It takes the same characters, and puts them in a sort of Metroid like maze. You explore the maze and free your partners and gain various things to help you explore. Unlike Metroid, there’s a mix of friendly and unfriendly objects that you can talk to. The translator aishsha translated the game recently, and considering the era of the game, it’s quite competent.
Technically, the game is far more of an action adventure game than a RPG, but I think that it’s still an interesting mix of alien design ideas. For example, your first character is a little boy with a mallet. He has an amazing jump which is at least 20 times his height. The characters you talk to are household items. The odd statue under Akio in the screenshot above is something that acts as a doorbell / lever to unlock doors. Apparently you need “boost” to unlock more difficult doors. You need a shark fin to handle water.
Controlwise, the game continues that feeling of “strangeness.” You can catch the edges of ledges at about a half block in height, and the incredibly high jumping of Akio makes the game very “vertical” in design. There’s a map, but it’s definitely not very detailed. Talking is done by pressing start as you pass an enemy / friend.
All in all, I think the game is a quirky game, and one that probably would’ve fascinated me if I played it back in the day. Is there amazing RPG ideas there? The colorful and changing graphics are a clever way to make the game seem more varied. The weird elements (statues to open doors, for example) definitely give the game an alien feel. The game falls, I think, more under the “academically interesting” category of interesting. Not necessarily fun for everyone, but probably intriguing to the right person.