Treasure of the Rudra
Long ago... When the world was yet wreathed in chaos... It is said that the heaven bestowed great power upon the earth and brought it unto prosperity. Life on Earth was born... Those with great intelligence, The Holy race of Danans. Controlling the seas, The Mermaids. Proud but arrogant... The Reptiles. And possessing incredible strength, The Giants. However, They did not have the Heavens' favor, and in time, they disappeared. Then... The Heavens gave birth once again. Life, 'tis said, flourished anew.
Released by Squaresoft in 1996, Treasure of the Rudra is one of the last RPGs written for the SNES. It's often mentioned in connection with two other Japan-only Square Soft games of the era: Bahamut Lagoon, and the at times very similar Live a Live. The game's main drawing point is its magic system: the player can literally write their own spells, by combining syllables with prefixes and suffixes or by plain trial and error. Rudra no Hihou is very similar to the Final Fantasy series in terms of atmosphere, gameplay and complexity.
Every 4000 years, the earth's dominant race (first danans, then mermaids, giants, reptilians and currently humans) is mostly destroyed by a creature known as the Rudra, to make way for the next species. At the start of Rudra no Hihou, humanity has only 16 days left, and the Rudra is about to be born. Four suspiciously stereotypical heroes (a fighter, a wizard, a priestess and a thief) are chosen by fate to save the earth... and all get a Power Crystal violently lodged into their heads. Each with their own friends and their own separate goals, they set out to save their planet and to discover who is behind the oncoming destruction, lampshading and subverting an impressive number of tropes along the way.
The four main characters are:
- Sion, a young knight who wants to be the world's strongest.
- Surlent, a sorcerer/scholar who tends to fall for absolutely every con trick ever (and who keeps losing his body in the process).
- Riza, a gentle young priestess on a quest to heal the earth.
- Dune, a cocky thief who keeps popping up in the other three scenarios.
Despite containing many of the standard references to Final Fantasy (there's a Cid with an airship, an Aegis shield, four magical stones, etc), the game has a surprisingly unique and intricate storyline, and no two playthroughs are the same. It's very well-written, features great music, and takes about as long to finish as a standard Final Fantasy. If you like non-standard Squaresoft games such as Chrono Trigger and Vagrant Story, chances are you'll love Rudra no Hihou.
The folks over at Aeon Genesis made a very, very nice English translation patch right here.
A warning for those about to play it using an emulator: the game relies very heavily on in-game save states. It's vital to use the ROM's actual memory slots, and the emulator's save slots after saving in-game. You'll also need to reload from the title screen each time you want to switch characters (and, to be on the safe side, be sure to read up on the game's one Game Breaking Bug in the trope list below). 
And by the way, if you leave the title screen running for a minute or so, there's a totally sweet intro movie.
- Action Girl: Foxy Erimia.
- Actually, I Am Him: Done quite a number of times by Surlent, due to his body being stolen and having to possess the bodies of two deceased people.
- Already Done for You: Lampshaded both ways by Dune: he often beats the three main heroes to a MacGuffin, but near the end, he's surprised to hear he still has to save the world: he assumed the heroes would have already done it for him.
- And Now for Someone Completely Different
- Back From the Dead: Many examples, but notably, Surlent. A few times over. ...Quite a few times over.
- Bag of Sharing: only happens after clearing the last scenario of the 3 available.
- The Berserker: Sork. He is also a Failure Knight.
- Bishonen Line: Mitra, the final boss. First he is a statue-like creature, then a large monster, then finally a humanoid being.
- Body Snatcher: Most of Surlent's plot is a long series of body snatchings.
- Bold Inflation: Giants get the caps-lock equivilant in the most recent English translation.
Surt: You WEEDY little MAN!
- Boss Remix
- Broken Bridge:
- A Game Breaking Bug: it's possible to get stuck if you do a certain sidequest too early, and again later, if you take the wrong portal out of the Netherworld. Both are due to a Broken Bridge.
- Seeing as no FAQ seems to list it... don't use the left portal at Thor Mountain after the forest bridge is broken but before seeing the events at Avdol. Trust us. You won't get back.
- The Chosen One: Riza.
- Cool Airship: Brasnir (it can also travel underwater and in space). You never get to actually control it though.
- Cool Train: The Sky train FAXI.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Culgan. He becomes a Body Snatcher in Surlent's Scenario.
- Cosmic Keystone: The Jades and the 6 Divine Treasures.
- Cult: The Rudra Cult.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Sork is very prone to this in the most recent translation, with such gems as "I hackify you, dogbreaths!".
- Dark World: The Netherworld.
- Devil in Plain Sight: Curgan, Hausen, and to a certain extent, Gomorrah.
- Eccentric Mentor: Zora, she also classifies as the Cynical Mentor.
- Eldritch Abomination: The unnamed destroyers that the Four Heroes defeated long ago; they later developed the Rudra cycle of destruction to accelerate evolution in order to create a species strong enough to resist the cosmic destroyers.
- Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: Fire<->Water, Wind<->Lightning and Light<->Dark.
- Event Driven Clock
- Evilutionary Biologist: Hausen, Gomorrah and Mitra cooked up the whole Rudra scheme to accelerate the evolution of life on Earth in hopes of eventually creating a race strong enough to break the cycle.
- Evolutionary Levels: And the one who controls the rate of it as an added twist, because he is just a pawn to The Man Behind the Man.
- Expy: While you may not notice it right away, every single party will always be exactly the same: one heavy-hitter, one magician with poor attack and lots of MP, another magician with slightly less MP but better attack, and one jack of all trades. The four POV characters are divided up likewise.
- Face Heel Turn: Captain Taurus.
- Floating Continent: The sky islands. Until Sion causes them to fall.
- Forgotten Fallen Friend: Subverted hard. Rostam and Huey, Sion's best friends, are killed off on day one. They're immediately forgotten and never mentioned again... or so it seems. Not only do they get a gorgeous optional cutscene all the way at the end of the story in which they give Sion one of his best weapons, they also get used by Surlent as his temporary host bodies for a huge chunk of the plot.
- Four Is Death: Squaresoft really did a number with this: 4 Jades, 4 Heroes, 4 Greats, 4 Rudras, 4 Divine Danans, 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 4 characters per party, etc... also inevitably leading to Loads and Loads of Characters.
- Genius Bruiser: Sion is arguably the brightest character in the game.
- A God Am I: Dune, at the end.
- Green Aesop: Sort of. The world being polluted to the point where all water is tainted is a major theme of the game, but the focus is on the pollution being a side effect of the evil rather than the evil stemming from pollution.
- Hero Ball: Oh Surlent, will you never learn?
- Heroes Want Redheads: Both Sion-Foxy and Riza-Garlyle.
- Holy Hand Grenade: Most of the Light Mantras.
- Humongous Mecha: Meifa.
- It Got Worse: Surlent's plot. First, he dies. Then his body is stolen. Then he gets to use someone else's body instead. ...which dies. So he uses someone else's body instead until he can get his own back. Which works for a while, until - wait for it - he dies and his body is stolen. And then, depending on the final actions you take during the end game, a main villain can subsequently kill and and steal his body.
- Not only that, Surlent can be fused with the Rudra that SURLENT HIMSELF CREATED through the Lago Stones if you do not give Sion the Apocalypse Blade (it's Thunder Element, which makes the final battle against Hausen easier, but can change the Rudra's properties in Sion's scenario so that the Sigmund Sword does not effect it as much normally).
- It's All Upstairs From Here: The Tower of the Giants and the Garal Clock Tower.
- Leitmotif: Each character has their own unique theme, which is remixed for overworld, boss battles, and flashbacks.
- Load-Bearing Boss: Mayura, Capt. Taurus and Mitra.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Interestingly, there are more villains and/or supernatural beings than actual playable characters.
- Lost Forever: One of Riza's sidequests can be permanently missed if you don't pray at a certain statue that's difficult to find at the very beginning of the game.
- Loveable Rogue: Dune. Cid too. And Garlyle. Quite a bunch of them actually.
- Mana Drain: "PULMORA". It drains so little that it's practically useless though. Except when the enemies use it, that is.
- The Man Behind the Man: A new one gets revealed approximately every hour. Of course, it all makes sense in the end.
- Multiple Endings: Played with: there's only one final ending, but Surlent's scenario can conclude--depending on whether you decide to give away the Sword of Plot Advancement as Sion or not--either with a traditional boss fight, or with Surlent dying. Again.
- Mythology Gag: Don't call Dune and Cid thieves. They're TREASURE HUNTERS. It's even in the flavor text for Dune's best dagger Freedom. "Call me a treasure hunter or..."
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Often. Very often. Probably most notably when Surlent manages to unleash the Rudra of Humans by putting his soul into a sword. Thanks for speeding up the death of all humans, dude.
- One-Winged Angel: Hausen and Saizou are fought later on but in transformed states.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Avdol was hit hard when Hausen broke through a netherworld gate, flooding the entire town with Netherworld spirits turning everyone who lived there into the walking dead save the innkeeper. You could talk to them safely as Surlent when he is in Huey or Rostam's Body though.
- Peninsula of Power Leveling: At the beginning of Surlent's scenario, you have access to Sakkara Desert, which has powerful monsters which give about 50 times as much EXP and money, and also randomly drop a weapon which is much stronger than anything you could get for a while. You can also go there as Riza as the sandstorm disperses later on.
- Point of No Return: Used many times over.
- Public Domain Artifact: The 6 Divine Treasures, but the three most known are the Holy Grail, The Sigmund Sword and the Holy Robe.
- Railroading: An odd example. You're generally free (and even encouraged) to visit places you're not supposed to go yet, but only once in the game do you get a choice of doing things in a slightly different order. You never get to control any of the game's vehicles, either. Of course, it's all because of destiny (and because the three concurrent scenarios have to match up, of course).
- For Example, in Surlent's Scenario, if you play that first, you can choose between Huey's and Rostam's Corpses, but if you play Riza's story and reach Sodom Castle before choosing the first corpse in Surlent's. You will only be able to choose Rostam's Corpse first, and Huey's second.
- Exploring too far can result in several Game Breaking Bugs.
- Rare Candy: Magic Leaves and Life Leaves, which increase your maximum MP and maximum HP, respectively. And if you play it right, you can find an infinite amount of them in the final dungeon. Yay!
- Reality Ensues: A few days after the other heroes have already received their jades, Surlent is still lacking his. Being a scholar, he finds it inside an ancient artifact he's set out to research. It promptly flies towards him to merge with his body... and the impact kills him. Instantly.
- Recurring Boss: Culgan remains a persistent nuisance in all three storylines despite - and sometimes, because of - dying repeatedly.
- Reincarnation: All living things are born from the same spring of life (Gafu), and return to it after their death.
- Robe and Wizard Hat: Surlent. His master Solon too.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The Grail, the Lago Stone of Humanity... actually, all of the Lago stones qualify.
- Spiritual Successor: Although the two games are very different, much of Final Fantasy V's dungeon/castle layout system is seen in Rudra no Hihou.
- Standard Status Effects:
- Fire Mantras: Burn.
- Water Mantras: Freeze.
- Wind Mantras: Float.
- Lightning Mantras: Confusion.
- Light Mantras: Regeneration.
- Dark Mantras: Pollution (Silence).
- Void Mantras: Madness (Berserk).
- Status Buff
- Status Buff Dispel: The mantra "MOONLIGHT".
- Sword of Plot Advancement
- Take Your Time: 15 days left before the end of the world. How many times can you stay in an inn? ...infinite times apparently.
- Those Two Guys: Rostam and Huey. Subverted to hell and back again. Literally.
- Underwater Ruins: Also where the Lago Stone of the Mermaids is kept.
- Verbal Tic: Each race has one. Mermaids say "glub", the Reptiles have Sssssnaketalk, the Danans have a tendency to say "Hmmm hmmm hmmm," and the GIANTS talk SOMEWHAT like Brian Blessed.
- Waif Prophet: Solon.
- Warp Whistle: The Heg Ocarina.
- Wave Motion Gun: Sodom.
- Weapons Grade Vocabulary: The magic system is set up so that you can actually create spells with words ("FIRE" becomes a fireball, "HEAL" becomes a healing spell, etc). However, if you create a spell with a word that isn't in the game's magic dictionary, you'll instead attack your enemy with the word you created.
- Weird Moon
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Captain Taurus, Gomorrah and Mitra. It turns out the Great Cycle was a way of making life strong enough to survive on its own: a race that could prevent its own destruction, and prevent being replaced by a new race, is strong enough not to need the cycle. Of course, breaking the cycle involves killing the ones who made the cycle in the first place, who happen to be the very beings who wanted the races to become strong enough to break it... essentially making every villain death a Heroic Sacrifice.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Riza calls Dune out when he wants to take over Mitra's evolution scheme.
- World Sundering
- ↑ Don't use the left portal at Thor Mountain after the forest bridge is broken but before seeing the events at Avdol. Due to a programming oversight, you won't be able to get back.