Illusion of Time (Super Nintendo) Review

By Adam Riley 04.01.2005 27

Review for Illusion of Time on Super Nintendo

There is a legend, the legend of Enix and its trilogy of amazing RPG titles on the Super Nintendo. Life began quietly with the extremely pleasing Soul Blazer and ended with a bang in the form of the unquestionably brilliant Terranigma. However, developer Quintet’s middle-man game, Illusion of Time is often forgotten, yet is this somewhat unfairly done or due to it being the black sheep of the family? Find out by reading on…

You take on the role of Will, a young lad who not only plays the flute, but also happens to have psychic powers to boot. Using his telekinetic abilities he can make once inanimate objects suddenly take on a life of their own, which impresses his friends, Lance, Erik and Seth, who sit in awe watching him perform his ‘trick’. Unfortunately for poor Will, his parents suffered a terrible fate in the Tower of Babel over a year and a half ago, leaving him to reside with his only possible guardians, his grandparents. Upon returning home from performing for his friends again one evening, he discovers there is no usual meal waiting, but a strange girl and her pig. She turns out to be Princess Kara, her pig is hamlet, her father King Edward has gone crazy, locks Will up, the pig rescues him (yes, the pig…), he meets up with Lilly, who has the ability to transform into a flower…and so begins a strange and unusual journey! Not exactly gripping stuff, but it suffices.

Screenshot for Illusion of Time on Super Nintendo

There have been many wonderful RPGs churned out on the Super Nintendo and most of the third generation were so gorgeous that they still stand head and shoulders above several PSone and GBA games on the market. However, Illusion of Time was second generation and just at the time when Quintet was starting to get into its stride on the 16bit home console. Therefore, as with Secret of Mana from Squaresoft that was in a similar position, at its time it was striking, whereas nowadays it is still very pleasant to see, but the lack of variety and overall strength to the visuals is somewhat disappointing. There are still pretty, colourful backgrounds offered up, with large characters all with nice amounts of details to them, complete with standard smooth animations. Yet there is a little bit of repetition when it comes to houses and dungeons, with nothing too new and spectacular being thrown your way. Thankfully the technical side makes this up for, with only a little slowdown throughout and massive boss encounters that sometimes fill the majority of the screen. After being spoilt by Terranigma it is certainly jarring to go back to its pseudo-prequel…

The musical side of matters definitely stands the test of time far better than the pleasant graphics. With tunes that still remain in my head today, about a decade after its original release, going back to revisit the whole experience was certainly a pleasure. The pan-pipe theme seems to be a running feature, from the gentle flowing town tunes to the little ditties that pop up throughout the game. Then there is the fantasy, futuristic pieces you come across when faced with the special other-worldly female statue where you save your current progress and the dungeons that set the mood perfectly. Whilst many have criticised Enix for its graphical quality over the years, with Squaresoft being the master in that department, the musical scores to practically every Enix title has been of the highest calibre, with even the sound effects here being particularly strong for a Super Nintendo game of its time. As usual, a good stereo output is a necessity to appreciate the atmosphere to its fullest.

Screenshot for Illusion of Time on Super Nintendo

One aspect of Enix games that seems to be a constant, other than the stellar musical work, is that of gameplay. Back in the days of Dragon Quest on the old 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, right through to its work with Squaresoft in the newly amalgamated Square Enix on Sony’s PlayStation 2, the company has a nearly perfect track record (we shall overlook the strange Wonder Project J series…) when it comes to crafting enjoyable adventures that are both of adequate length and keep players entertained until the final credits.

Illusion of Time is no different. From the humble beginnings wandering around and entertaining your friends with your telekinetic and psychic abilities, the control of Will is natural and without problem. Holding either of the shoulder buttons twirls your stick and can draw items towards you, double-tapping on the directional-pad leads to you dashing around at a nice pace and you can also use your stick to jab away repeatedly to ward off any incoming danger.

Battling takes place in real time, hence this game’s distinction as an Action RPG, similar to the Zelda series. Will can run around, avoiding enemies and quickly beating his opponent when you feel the timing is right. Also akin to Link’s adventures is that there are no experience points, with bonuses and statistics upgrades being deployed when all enemies are cleared in an area – and you have to make sure you do this first time, as you do not receive the extras if you leave and then return to clear up the remaining mess. Strange for an RPG, as well, is that there are lives – nine of which can be collected, with one granted per 100 red gems found. But hey, at least there is no manual jumping to be found at all…

Screenshot for Illusion of Time on Super Nintendo

But jumping is involved in some of the puzzles, with Will being able to jump over small areas when dashing and slide under things and then the transformations you witness at certain points of the game – changing into a knight called Freedan to attack at distances further than usual, and Shadow, a malleable blue demon who can diffuse through some floor surfaces. These puzzles often requiring back-tracking, but it is never too tedious as the dungeons are not massively expansive and the controls, like I say, are nice and smooth. This is a finely modelled title that seems to have suffered only at the hands of time and progression in the RPG field. It is by no means completely lacking in playability, though.

At the time of release this was a very addictive little RPG, and it still is now – except I would probably deem it as ‘RPG-lite’ pure and simply because of the fact that Enix and Quintet left out most of the mainstay RPG aspects that increase the length of the adventure – no levelling-up, no currency, no shopping required as all items are available via treasure chests and there are certainly no side-quests along the way. This is countered, though, by the fact that Enix controls the difficulty throughout. There is no chance to build your levels up to an extent where you can breeze through, and neither can you be dropped into a completely unfair battle, which proves to be a positive matter and prevents the frustrations associated with ‘some’ RPGs. Then there is the element of strategy required due to health item shortages – how often should you use them? Things like this help to lengthen what could have been a pretty short game…

Screenshot for Illusion of Time on Super Nintendo

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Unfortunately, for Illusion of Time, Enix and Quintet released Terranigma. Yes, IoT is still a very good game, but unfortunately its pseudo-sequel blasts it out of the water. But do not let this put you off completely - cannot find Terranigma cheap? Head in this direction instead...

Also known as

Illusion of Gaia









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (8 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


Someday I will go out and buy as many SNES games as I can. Think I may have to start contributing to the Retro side of things at some point soon. I have about 3 games...none of which have been reviewed yet!

What three games have you got? Any retro reviews are more than welcome! I'm really in the retro mood lately, especially after playing Metal Slug and CT Special Forces 3 on the GBA!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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