Every post I have on my to-do list is a huge write-up at this point, so I thought I'd just run down quick capsulated thoughts on the games I've played but not documented over these past few months.
Silent Hill 4: This is still going to be my second-favorite Silent Hill, and I like a lot of what it attempts and its "new" (compared to SH1-3) spins on the series' journey-of-the-mind psychodrama that still feel of a piece with what came before. It blows a good deal of what it's attempting to do both gameplaywise and thematically, however, with two poor decisions in the second half: a) interlacing its potentially interesting gameplay mechanics into this punishing and utterly unrewarding web where there's only one way to do a series of very difficult tasks and any deviation completely blows your game, or at least your chance at a good ending; and b) dropping the ball after Walter Sullivan's interesting first-half characterization, instead opting to switch back and forth like a light switch between his malevolent side and his human side instead of having both exist concurrently. The game has some superb ideas, and all the pieces are in place for a terrific symbiosis of gameplay and story, but it fails to sort out the last remaining unresolved issues with its approaches (and they are solvable; the finish line is right in sight, which makes the game's failure to go those last few steps such a heartbreaker). As a result, it stops short of its goals and fails to deliver fully on its ideas - but, again, those ideas are strong enough for it to merit a good deal of esteem.
Seiken Densetsu 3: I think the people overseeing the Mana series got it into their heads at some point that RPGs have to have a lot of numbers and stat screens and folderol in order to be respectable, and that the more buffers between the player and the action, the more complex and intellectually challenging the game is. Secret of Mana works in great part because it's great fun just to run around and hammer on the goddamn buttons, and Seiken Densetsu 3 in great part doesn't because the game won't let you run around and hammer on the goddamn buttons. It has this horrible automatic-blocking and repositioning system where your characters won't respond to your commands even half the time (in fact, at one point, I counted that the Amazon was acting on only one out of nine of my button presses), and not only does it make the game not fun, it makes it unnecessarily difficult due to how the characters will move themselves around and get themselves into problematic positions due to garbage A.I. commands, requiring you to keep an eye on them at all times - which is an issue when there are three separate characters to babysit. Even your main character can get utterly wrecked if you switch over to a backup chara for a few seconds to do some healing or spellcasting. Add in a gratuitously woe-choked main story, and...well, I just saw no reason to continue halfway through.
Legend of Mana: This could've been one of my favorite games, with its gorgeous 2D hand-drawn art style and fairytale pop-up-book world. Alas: a) the combat is very shallow, easy, and unsatisfying, yet, in a continuation of SD3's woebegotten design philosophy, it's very stop-and-start and drawn-out due to the extensively worthless stat reports the game forces you to open up and check and close at the end of each little skirmish, and b) despite a perfectly amiable anthology-style storyline following the day-to-day adventures and tribulations of a bunch of creative, vibrantly-designed fairytale characters, the game forces you to finish one of three "central" storylines bolted onto the proceedings in order to finish, and they are all utter misery-porn dreck with unlikable characters, no-win dilemmas, and unsatisfying resolutions.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon: Blows an interesting elemental+special-attack combo mechanic due to absolutely ridiculous difficulty, and I've been through that Axe Knight hallway in Stage 5 of the first game.
Terranigma: I recall the opening to Roger Ebert's review of Joe vs. the Volcano where he "realized a wondrous thing: I had not seen this movie before. Most movies, I have seen before. Most movies, you have seen before. Most movies are constructed out of bits and pieces of other movies, like little engines built from cinematic Erector sets." In its first few hours, Terranigma is refreshingly, arrestingly original, and the bulk of what follows, though colored a bit more by RPG conventions, continues in that vein. To paraphrase from further on in Ebert's review: it is not an entirely successful game (though it succeeds way more than it stumbles), but it is new and fresh and not shy of taking chances. It's in contention for the best action RPG on the SNES, and it has perhaps the most poignant ending to a game I've seen.
Chrono Cross: Continued to have absolutely no plot in its first half, then switched over to a totally nonsensical perspective-switch for its second. It's kind of stunning how ineptly the story is written and told in this game. It'd be worth breaking down and studying the myriad ways the narrative or lack thereof went wrong, and how the writers might have come to the conclusions and made the choices they did. It's a breathtaking failure.
Soul Blazer: Pretty fun so far! The combat system is limited (at least in my early going) but breezily fun, and it has that winningly humanistic & charmingly animistic touch that Terranigma did.