Mystic Ark Soundtrack, Akihiko Mori, 1995
Scarcity and nostalgia can have a powerful effect when working hand in hand – just take Mystic Ark. A representative of a particularly popular genre amongst retro game fans – the 16-bit RPG – Mystic Ark’s status was elevated further by the dual facts that it was released towards the end of the SNES’ lifespan and only in Japan. Was this one of the great untranslated SNES gems like Star Ocean and Tales of Phantasia that pushed the hardware and its beloved pixel art to its limits?
As a ROM translation released years later showed, not so much. Mystic Ark’s gameplay turned out to be solid, but not particularly inspired either, settling for second-tier status in the SNES’ busy RPG library. The one thing that set the game apart from the pack was the inspired weirdness of the various worlds its heroes traverse. Pick your favourite: a desert whose only inhabitants are pirate cats and a witch named Matoya; worlds where colour and sound disappear depending on your location or where all adults have disappeared – or maybe cities made of fruit and vegetables?