Alcahest – A Wonderful, Lesser-Known SNES J-ARPG!

Alcahest is another one of these hidden treasures that I wasn’t aware of until very recently, when my good friend Greg from Destroy All Fanboys shared some pictures with me of his Super Famicom collection. This particular game was released only in Japan back in December 1993, developed by HAL Labs, and published by Squaresoft. In fact, one of the things that drew me to this one was the box art, and the fact that Square had something to do with it (meaning I felt the story would be good). I think the partnership between HAL and Square on this one is interesting enough in and of itself, but all-in-all, this is a real treat of a game.

Alcahest is an action-RPG that you might say plays sort of like a mash-up between Zelda and Arcus/Gauntlet. The game is broken down into eight “stages,” each with unique items to seek out, puzzles to solve, and enemies to slay. There are some RPG elements (NPCs to interact with, an experience system, and equipment upgrades and items), but the core of the game seems to be in its action-oriented gameplay. The story is well-done, and the game has enough interludes that hearken back to what you might expect from a Final Fantasy title to keep you compelled to play on and see the next area.

I find it pretty neat, too, that there’s a partner system where certain NPCs join you for a period of time to aid you, and when you find a Guardian and unlock their skills, they provide you with certain unique attacks and magical abilities.

The challenge level progresses as the game goes on, but so far I haven’t found anything to be really unfair yet. The music is very well-done, the graphics hold up nicely, and overall, Alcahest is a real treat to play.

In this video, I take on the first two major stages (a mountain area and then a temple), and the plot thickens near the end. As to what the overall plot is at this point, you’ll just have to watch the video to find out! 🙂

If I were going to give this game a score, I’d rate it pretty highly!

RETRO RATING: A-

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