The Super Nintendo has arguably the best RPG library of any console ever. With games like Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, Final Fantasy III and IV, Secret of Mana, Earthbound, the list goes on and on. High Strangeness reminds me a good bit of the latter two games with the graphics and gameplay style, but with a twist: you can switch the world from a 16-bit look to an 8-bit look. So does High Strangeness bring back the glory days of the 16-bit RPG?
High Strangeness has a “strange” story. Without divulging too much, players play as a regular younger male who starts experience some strange things and is shipped off on a quest to save the world. The story is decent enough to keep you engaged. At times, however, it feels like the developers tried to add too much backstory in terms of drawn-out cut-scenes that seem to dwell on forever. I did appreciate the story a bit more towards the ending, and there was one very cool moment that really had a great look to it. If you are looking for a deep RPG narrative though, High Strangeness may disappoint on that front.
The game plays out very similar to the Secret of Mana series in that it’s an Action-RPG. You have a flashlight as your main weapon, and earn upgrades by defeating enemies and picking up “eyes” they drop. Those eyes can then turn into new abilities and upgraded abilities, such as faster running speed or improved attacks. As mentioned, the game switches from a 16-bit look to an 8-bit look at the touch of a button, but it does more than just change the way the game looks: it also impacts the gameplay. For example, areas that have small rocks in 16-bit mode cannot be passed through since the rocks have a texture and shape, but in 8-bit mode they are flat, and can be easily walked over. The puzzle system in the game usually relies on the shifting of worlds for different things to happen, and helps keep the game fresh. The combat also is different in between worlds, and really gives an incentive to view the area you are in with both modes.
The biggest flaw in terms of gameplay though is the game’s length. It took me a little under 5 hours to complete the entire game, which while fine for something like a platformer, felt a bit cheap for an Action-RPG. Although the story had a conclusive ending, I found myself wanting more areas to explore and more battles to fight. It just felt like when you finally get into the game, it is over.
In terms of graphics, the game has a very nice look. Enemy designs are a bit flat, but the characters themselves all have a little bit of charm to them. The game uses varied areas in terms of where you visit as well, and I did like the use of colors in the game. Nothing fantastic, but gets the job done. The soundtrack on the other hand is absolutely top-notch, and by far my favorite part of the game. High Strangeness uses 16-bit chiptunes for the music, and some of the scores and melodies are absolutely killer. The soundtrack is so high quality, that if it were available to purchase I would not think twice about doing so.
High Strangeness was a game I wanted to love, but I ended up just liking it. The fantastic score and solid visuals can’t make up for the short experience and that is quite the shame because what is there is really solid. If a sequel is ever considered, I would hope the developers would consider making a longer voyage. Fans of retro RPGs and Action-RPGs will find enjoyment here, but just don’t expect it to last very long.