Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Five minutes of fame: GD Leen

Gorgeous SFC box art...as expected.
You probably wouldn't know by looking at it but Seta's GD Leen is a very important game. It has the distinctive honour of being the first RPG released for the Super Famicom, hitting Japanese shops in May 1991...a whopping six months after the system's initial release.

As you might expect from such an early title, it is a bit rough around the edges and lacks some of the sparkle and refinement of the later RPG juggernauts. Even so, this is a fantastic game with a lot going for it and given that it opened the door for some of the most memorable games of the 90s, I feel it is certainly deserving of some attention.

Based on the light novel of the same name, the game follows the story of Ryun, who ends up stranded on the planet of GD Leen after his space craft malfunctions. Whilst there he ends up becoming embroiled in the archetypal civil war and much generic RPG-ness unfolds.

Visually, the game draws much influence from the likes of Xak: The Art of Visual Stage, Lagoon and Neutopia, with the view point and indeed settings being quite similar. In-game cut-scenes are staggeringly pretty, especially for such an early release, with bold anime style characters and colourful environments.

The soundtrack is by far my favourite part of GD Leen and is absolutely tremendous. From the wonderfully melancholic title theme to the oddly upbeat Eules, there are a number of signature tunes which give an early indication of just what the SFC sound chip was capable of.

Battles arrive in the usual form of random, turn based bouts and are viewed in the first person...ala Phantasy Star, Lennus etc. On the whole they're fairly run of the mill affairs, with the exception of mid battle levelling up, which always comes in handy.

Given its rather illustrious position in the annuls of Super Famicom history, I find it a little sad that this game is so rarely mentioned or praised. It may well have been quickly eclipsed by bigger names such Dragon Quest V and The Glory of Heracles III but it is a solid and very enjoyable RPG experience. It also seems that other software houses took note of what developers Jorudan had come up with story-wise, because a certain Star Ocean 2 has remarkably complementary plot.

Unfortunately, as was customary during the 16bit era, GD Leen was never granted an official translation and subsequent western release. Although a US version was mooted and discussed at one point, it seems it was dropped shortly after. Currently the game is on the books of ROM hacking legend; Gideon Zhi and his team over at Aeon Genesis Translations, progress is only at 5% at the minute but I'm hopeful that it will see the light of day in English sooner rather than later.

One final note, I picked up my copy of GD from the fantastic Tsunami Video Games. If you're in the market for great value Super Famicom games then this shop is should definitely be on your hit list!


  1. Never heard of it but it certainly looks pretty. I just wish more games of this era were action based as I find the random battles a chore myself now.

    1. I know what you mean actually, turn based was so popular at this time, wasn't it. I'd recommend Xak to you though, it's a bit similar to Ys, definitely worth a look.

  2. Its always so impressive how well You know your jrpgs. How payable is it without translation?