The story of Treasure of the Rudras is (loosely) based on Indian mythology that states that the world will be "refreshed" every 4,000 years by having the dominant race wiped out and replaced with a new one. So far, the Danaans, the Mermaids, the Reptiles and the Giants have all had a go, and each has been kickbooted after 4,000 years (though not permabanned apparently, as representatives of each are still running around all over the game world). Now it is the turn of the Humans, and as the game begins there are only 16 days to the end of the 4,000 year cycle. You play as four characters who have had Jades set in their bodies through various mysterious circumstances, which apparently give them a chance to prevent the destruction, although at the outset of the game you really have no idea how.
Rudra's appeal hinges on two major gimmicks - each of the Jade-bearers has their own path through the game, and you can switch between them at any time. So, say, at the point in the story where one group accidentaly makes a bunch of continents fall out of the sky, the other groups will suddenly see a bunch of giant rocks about to fall on their noggins.
The other unique aspect of the game is the magic system. Basically, you create your own spells by inputting names, and most words that you can enter have at least some effect. This does mean that you can look in a FAQ and give yourself the best spells in the game right off the bat, but reigns are put on this system by the fact that you start off with very few mana points and gain new ones slowly. Elemental weaknesses are also heavily emphasized; attacking a monster with something it is not weak to usually has mediocre results even for a badass spell.
In all other wise the game plays like a typical console RPG. The engine seems to be an odd hybrid of that of Final Fantasy 5 and 6, all the more odd because this game actually came out after FF6 did.
Keita Amemiya was brought in to handle character design for this one - this guy is known in Japan for creating a lot of TV kids action shows like Power Rangers and Kamen Rider. Internet nerd lore tells that when this game became a critical/commercial flop, Amemiya got himself permabanned from ever working with Square again. I don't even know if that is true, as I've only heard it from random amateur websites with no citation (as usual), but if it is, it seems a little harsh. Amemiya may have had something to do with the characters looking nice but being flat and unmemorable as far as personality. I doubt he was personally responsible for the murky plot, however, or the high amount of random encounters and staunch boss difficulty which seems to be what puts most people off to this game.
Personally, it wasn't even the difficulty that turned me off to this game. There are some ruthless bosses, yes, and they require a bit of grinding in preparation (though still nothing on the order of a typical Dragon Quest game). They are manageable, however, because they all basically follow the same pattern - they are strong with one element and use badass spells exclusively from that element, so you equip armor and use buffs appropriate to defending against that element, and then one character spams a mass heal spell while the others pound away with attacks and spells of the opposite element. Grinding isn't even all that necessary, as there are a lot of side excursions you can do to get bonus loots, and if you keep up on those (and fight all the random battles while on them) you usually wind up powerful enough to contend with the bosses without doing tedious "walk back and forth" level building.
What killed it for me was the fact that, around game day 11 or 12 for each character, every time I returned to the game after a break I found that I had to peep a FAQ just to remember where the hell I was supposed to be going next. This was a combination of an obtuse "make shit up as it goes along" plot, and simply the fact that the characters and dialogue were usually so boring that I only half paid attention while they were rambling on. It wasn't always my attention span, though, as the game is pretty bad about giving pointers as to the next location sometimes.
To the credit of the game, there is a lot to like. The magic system is pretty fun to play with, at least at first. Both the enemy and character sprites in battle are really fluidly animated, remarkably so for an SNES game. This is all the more impressive given that some of the bosses take up half the screen. The soundtrack by Ryuji Sasai is also quite good throughout the game, with some really memorable and ipod-worthy songs.
Even the good stuff kind of gets dragged down, though. For some reason, everything past the second page of your spellbook gets deleted each time you turn off the game, so you have to enter all those spells again each time you start it up. The chapters for each character are also completely linear and scripted, save being able to pass items around (at a huge premium) via a shady merchant, and you end up wishing they had interwoven them in a bit more of a dynamic and interactive way.
I really cut Rudra a lot of slack, and probably spent more time with it than it merited. I was actually enjoying the game at first, until the plot progression got bogged down and tedious, and boss battles turned into the same pattern over and over again. I stuck with it for a while though, as my one great hope was that the story would show me something new and maybe a little challenging, along the lines of a Quintet game. It never does, though. The characters are stock fantasy archetypes down to the core (Sion is Valiant Knight, Surlen is Wise Wizard, etc.) and the plot winds up in a rather disappointing (and Power Rangers-esque) way.
* Translation patch by Aeon Genesis
* Gameplay Video