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Known as Card Master: Seal of Rimsalia in Japan, Arcana is the story of a young warrior named Rooks and his attempt to fulfill his destiny as the last of the Card Masters.

The island of Elemen is home to six kingdoms, which have frequently engaged in war and bloodshed. But these wars were not the greatest threat the land faced, as the evil goddess Rimsalia attempted to destroy the entire island and claim it as her own. She was thwarted by the Card Masters, an order of wizards who wielded tremendous magical power in the form of the playing cards they carried. Rimsalia was sealed by the Card Masters, and peace returned to Elemen for a time. Ten years ago, however, the darkness returned in the form of Galneon, the court magician of the kingdom of Lexford, who murdered King Wagnall and seized power for himself. When the Card Masters opposed him, Galneon murdered as many of them as he could find, until a young man named Rooks was the only Card Master remaining. At the same time, Galneon prepared to undo the seal that bound Rimsalia, and return her to the world. Now, Rooks sets out on a desperate quest to stop Galneon before he can fulfill his goals and bring ruin to the world.

While this game wasn't all that original or innovative, it made up for it with an immersive atmosphere, a unique elemental system, and Crowning Music of Awesome. While it never reached the heights of the Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest series, Arcana nonetheless has an impressive cult following even today.

Tropes used in Arcana include:

  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Surprisingly averted. The quality of equipment and the prices at the inns increase with every chapter, but that's due in part to the fact that you go from the small village of Galia to the larger town of Doraf to the Hidden Elf Village and finally to the royal capital of Lexford over the course of the game.
  • An Axe to Grind: Axs, of course.
  • Big Bad: Empress Rimsalia.
  • Brainwashed: It's eventually revealed that Teefa is under Galneon and Ariel's control, and they're using her to help revive Rimsalia.
  • Card Games: All the characters are represented as images on playing cards, which gives the game a very unique appearance. Cards also feature heavily in the game's mythos. Rooks can use magical cards for a wide variety of attacks, most of which are Elemental Powers.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Salah prefers to wield maces and clubs in combat.
  • Combat Medic: Rooks is not only the strongest physical fighter in the game, but he's also the best healer.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Demon Axe, Demon Shield and Demon Mail serve as Axs' ultimate equipment, and he uses them to fight for the forces of good.
  • Dishing Out Dirt: Dao, the Earth Spirit, can cast spells to throw deadly rocks at enemies and bury them alive.
  • Duel Boss: At least one of them in every chapter after the first. Chapter 2 ends with Rooks fighting Zerel one on one, Chapter 3 ends with Rooks fighting Sauza, Rooks insists on fighting Ariel by himself in Chapter 4 and the final battle of the game consists of Rooks fighting Rimsala. In every case, Rooks only has the spirits to back him up.
  • Elemental Powers: Rooks and the spirits he can summon can cast spells to bury enemies alive, blow them away with deadly winds, or burn them with intense flames.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: Water beats fire. Fire beats wind. Wind beats earth. Earth beats water. Most of the game's strategy centers around using the elements to your advantage.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Salah and Teefa, of course.
  • Evil Court Magician: Galneon murdered King Wagnall and seized the throne for himself.
  • Faux First Person 3D
  • Five-Man Band:
    • The Hero: Rooks, who can use the cards for a variety of effects. He can also cast powerful healing magic, and is the strongest physical fighter in the game.
    • The Lancer: Darwin, an elven swordsman who also knows a lot of magic, most of which helps to weaken his enemies' attacks. At first he joins Rooks only because they're headed in the same direction, but later on it turns out that he's searching for Teefa, who he was given to protect after King Wagnall was murdered ten years ago.
    • The Big Guy: The dwarf warrior Axs is one of the Knights of Lexford, and an old friend of Rooks's father. He raised Princess Salah as her protector after King Wagnall's murder, and later joins Rooks in an effort to stop Galneon.
    • The Smart Guy: Adopted by Axs after King Wagnall's murder, Princess Salah trained as a priestess, a warrior and a magic-user. When she nurses Rooks back to health after he's nearly killed at the Balnia Temple, she decides to join him to overthrow Galneon.
    • The Chick: Teefa is apparently one of Ariel's apprentices, who accompanies Rooks on his initial journey to the temple in Balnia. She later betrays him and steals the Crystal Sword. Later on, it's revealed both that she's the missing princess and that she was brainwashed by Galneon and Ariel into working for them. When Rooks and Darwin free her, she joins the struggle against Galneon.
  • Guest Star Party Member: All the other characters join Rooks at certain times, and leave at others. At most, you only ever have two other characters in the party with Rooks and the elemental spirits.
  • Killed Off for Real: If one of your human party members die, you can't bring them back and it's Game Over. This doesn't apply to the elemental spirits, which you can revive if they're destroyed.
  • Heel Face Revolving Door: Teefa accompanies Rooks on the first part of his journey before betraying him. Then, after Rooks and Darwin are forced to fight her, it's revealed that she was in fact Brainwashed by Galneon and Ariel. She then joins them for good.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Teefa's eyes glow with a reddish tint in the first chapter. This goes away after Rooks and Darwin free her from Galneon's mind control.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: This applies to both Rooks and Darwin.
  • Making a Splash: Marid, the Water Spirit, can control water and use it to drown her enemies.
  • Mr. Exposition: Reinoll the Elder explains to Rooks that he needs the Three Treasures and the four elemental spirits if he hopes to defeat Rimsalia, and alludes to the heroic Fanas, the ancient Card Master who first sealed the Evil Empress away.
  • Nintendo Hard: A high encounter rate and the fact that you get a Game Over if one party member dies both contribute to this trope. The game's difficulty is still overrated compared to other first person RPGs though, such as the Wizardry and Megami Tensei series; enemies lack any sort of insta-death spells and there's plenty of opportunity to train your characters before each boss, meaning any deaths are generally caused by carelessness.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Axs wields large battleaxes and hammers in combat, can take a lot of physical punishment, and knows very little magic.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Darwin is perhaps a borderline example, as he's probably the strongest fighter in the game after Rooks and also knows a fair amount of magic. He also joins you in three chapters, as opposed to the other party members who only appear in two each.
  • Playing with Fire: Efrite, the Fire Spirit, casts deadly flames to incinerate his enemies.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Ariel has a number of apprentices, who Rooks and the party fight throughout the game, including the Bishonen swordsman Zerel, the claw-wearing Sauza, and the Martyr Without a Cause Karul. Subverted by Teefa, who's the first apprentice introduced and who actually joins your party.
  • The Rest Shall Pass: On approach to the final level, your companions do this, leaving Rooks to fight the Big Bad alone.
  • Rival Turned Evil: Ariel used to be Rooks' closest friend in childhood. Now, he works with Galneon to bring about Rimsalia's reign of evil.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Rimsalia herself. Galneon is trying to free her.
  • She's a Man In Japan: Although his gender doesn't change, Ariel has the more masculine name of "Alan" in the Japanese version.
  • Shock and Awe: Sylph, the Wind Spirit, attacks with lightning bolts to destroy her enemies. She can also control the winds to blow her enemies away.
  • Summon Magic: Rooks can summon the elemental spirits from certain magical cards to assist him in battle. The spirits function as additional party members, although they don't otherwise play a large role in the storyline.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: It's implied that Ariel and Galneon are like this, hoping to in fact use Rimsalia's power to establish a Utopian society.
  • Wutai Theft: Completely averted. Whenever another party member joins Rooks, they have no equipment at all and you have to go back to the shops to get their gear. On the other hand, whenever they leave all their equipment remains in your inventory, so you can then sell it in the next chapter.
  • Vendor Trash: The Golden Sword and Rococo Armor (a suit of armor made up of precious gems and metals) are pretty much useless in combat, but can be sold for a fair amount of coin at the weapons shops.
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