E.V.O. / Enix / Super NES
Given that it's published by Enix, you'd think that EVO was made by Quintet -- philosophical / evolutionary themes, a mix of action and RPG elements, and a darker / more morbid tone than the usual SNES game. But nope, it actually comes to us from Almanic Corp., an obscure developer formed by Technos expats that only produced a handful of games for various major console publishers in the early 90s before folding up, EVO and the Wonder Project J games probably being the best-known of their output.
The theme of the game is that you'll basically play out the Cliff Notes version of the development of life on Earth, starting as a fish and progressing through a series of land mammals to finally becoming a human. This is all ordained by Gaia for some reason, who is a hot babe, and apparently we're doing all this for the right to pork her for eternity or something. It's a really weird premise, and also a dark one as you basically plow through every level eating everything in sight to stock up "EVO points" (basically EXP) for upgrades that give you better stats and new abilities. Some creatures make it easy to eat them out of spite or self-defense, like the jellyfish that initially offers helpful advice then immediately tries to kill you, but there's an awful lot of doe-eyed innocent creatures you'll also need to gobble up to make it in this rough-ass world.
Graphics are pretty basic, even by SNES standards, but there's a surprisingly lush orchestral score accompanying the action. Granted, it sounds like a ripoff of the Dragon Quest overworld themes while you're in the initial underwater level, but when you get on land it establishes its own identity. Gameplay is pretty smooth and well plotted-out for the most part, which is easily the game's greatest strength.
Unfortunately, it falls into an overall repetitious pattern of grinding on easy enemies over and over for long stretches to get enough EVO Points to take on a hard boss blocking your progress. That's pretty much all the game does in each level, over and over again. Even after you've upgraded as much as possible, some of the very difficult bosses may still kill you 20 times and require save scumming to get past. And each new level sets you back to zero, forcing you to fill out a whole new upgrade path.
The level-grinding is effectively padding to try to disguise the fact that the game's levels are extremely short and sparse and there just isn't anything else to do. It still has some potential and is interesting as a tonally atypical SNES title, but I suspect most people will find the action too tedious and repetitive to bother completing the game.