Energy Breaker is one of the best SRPGs you’ve never heard of. Alongside the likes of Arc the Lad Collection, here’s another SRPG I’d recommend to any Shining Force fans who enjoy SRPGs that allow for exploration.
I unfortunately never played any of the Lufia games, but after finishing Energy Breaker, I’m more interested than ever. The games share a common developer with Energy Breaker (Neverland) and take place in the same universe. In the credits scenes, there are even a few cameos from the Lufia characters.
Energy Breaker doesn’t need to ride the coattails of Lufia though; it’s an excellent game on its own merits. Because it came out in 1996, which was rather late in the SNES’ lifespan, it’s one of the prettiest games on the console. I’m not sure if Bahamut Lagoon is better looking from a technical standpoint, but either way, Energy Breaker is a beautiful game. Its soundtrack is also top notch. Although I would never say that the surface-level stuff like graphics and music can ever make or break a game, this stuff certainly helps make your playthrough of Energy Breaker all the more enjoyable. The only problem? It’s JP-exclusive, of course, so if you want to play this game, I’d suggest using the translation patch I’ve linked down below.
The story follows our redhead protagonist, Myra. I appreciate that the game doesn’t fall into the overused RPG cliché of goody goody silent protagonist who wields a sword. Instead, Myra wields a whip. Her personality is exaggeratedly narcissistic sometimes, too, which makes for several funny moments. At one point, you can catch her admiring her own reflection in the water. At another, she voyeuristically watches some nurses in a hospital, remarking “The nurses here are good-looking…”
Because of these little idiosyncrasies like Myra’s quirky character, the fusion between sci-fi and steampunk, and the prevailing theme of rebirth after destruction, Energy Breaker is a refreshingly different SRPG in many ways, even if it sometimes falls into the familiar clichés such as elemental gem collecting to save the world. Undoubtedly though, what sets Energy Breaker apart from its contemporaries is its gameplay. On the surface, it looks quite simple, but there are two things that distinguish Energy Breaker’s battle systems.
The first of these would be its “balance” system. Balance here works similarly to how AP (Action Points) work in later SRPGs such as World’s End, Dofus, or Grand Guilds. Each character has a set amount of balance points with which to perform actions. Moving requires 5 balance; using an item requires 1 balance; attacking requires 3 balance; and different skills will cost varying amounts of balance. As another neat twist, characters who are injured will regenerate fewer balance points at the start of each turn. This creates a realistic Langrisser-like system wherein you need to pay extra attention to characters’ HP because fewer HP = fewer balance points = fewer actions per turn.
The second of these would be the elemental system. You have four different elements, which I’ll refer to as Pink, Green, Blue, and Yellow because it’s clearer than saying “Fire, Wind, Water, and Earth.” Each element has two different subsets: positive and negative. This effectively means you have eight elements total. You’ll be able to add +1 to whatever element you want every time you level up. Additionally, you can reset your elemental levels at any time, should you so desire. The reason this is important is because different elemental configurations result in your characters learning different spells. You’ll periodically find Grimoires throughout your journey and these will show you specific spells you can learn.
In a nutshell, the elemental system is essentially Quest 64 but better.
Elements each have a hard limit. This also increases every time you level up, but you can also raise it by using “Shiny” or “Dark” stones. You can never exceed your limit, but you can always rearrange your elemental configuration within those limits. It’s kind of complicated, but it’s easy enough to figure out with a little bit of intuition.
If there’s one problem Energy Breaker has, it’s that it feels a bit rushed towards the end. You stop acquiring new Grimoires after a certain point, so the game starts to stagnate a little because you’re not learning any new skills. The game gives you an option to talk with NPCs using a “Friendly” or “Aggressive” tone, but this never once makes a difference in outcomes. Items in the game are arguably too strong, given how they only cost 1 balance to use; but perhaps they could’ve been better balanced if the developers had spent more time and effort on them.
Overall though, I don’t believe that any of these minor setbacks hold back Energy Breaker from being an outstanding game.
It does a very good job at what it was trying to do. Additionally, for a 1996 game, this was an entirely unique and fresh way of handling combat; it paved the way forward for all future SRPGs with Action Point systems. Not only was its gameplay solid, but it offered some of the prettiest graphics on the console, a spectacular selection of music, and a solid story rounded out by a likable cast of characters – especially Myra.
…I really need to play Lufia at some point.
Get the English patch here: https://www.romhacking.net/translations/346/