This is the fifth game in the Aretha series and the second one for the Super Famicom. This is very much like Aretha 1, which may not be a surprise given that this was released just a year after the first game. The system is almost exactly the same, with some minor graphical improvements and the major improvement of actually showing damage numbers. Most of the monster graphics are reused from the first game, and the characters are mostly the same as well.
(Some sites claim these SFC games are remakes of the Aretha GB games, but this is wrong. They take place in the same world as the GB games many generations in the future and are completely new games.)
It has the same "B level RPG" feel as the first game. It's rather short and can be played through in a couple of days. You level up quickly, the dungeons are not very complicated, and there aren't too many points in the game where you'll be confused about what to do.
Just as in the first game, magic plays a major role. MP restoring items are cheap, so there's no problem having Ariel and the others use magic every turn. Ariel has a spell she learns early on that cancels all random encounters for a while, so whenever you feel like you're strong enough you can progress through the dungeon with no problems. I'm not completely sure about this, but unlike the first game I don't believe that using magic helps you learn new magic.
The "soul crafting" system returns from the first game but it's just as opaque as the first one, and much less important. You gain elemental souls from beating monsters, which can then be used at Mistform crafters to make items. But there's no way of knowing what kind of items you'll get, so it's just pure trial and error. In the first game you could easily get powerful items, but every time I tried Mistform I got worse stuff or stuff that was only slightly better than what I had. So I just gave up on the system after the first third of the game or so.
The battle system has the same deal as last time where enemies can appear on the back, front, or sides. The only real effect of this is that mid-level group target spells only work on one side. But enemies attacking from the back don't (as far as I can see) do extra damage or anything like that.
The game is a direct sequel to Aretha I, although it doesn't really require knowledge of the first one to follow. Ariel is a queen, but she gets a letter from Kyle (a warrior from the first game). He and Doll (a magician from the first game) wandered into a new world that's in the depths of the Earth (sort of a hollow world concept). They were defeated by some powerful enemies and Doll is near death, so Ariel heads out to save them. With the help of a warrior Todd, she reaches the Gaia Crevasse and falls down to the new world thanks to an avalanche.
Ariel quickly meets up with Doll, although if you've played the last game it's pretty obvious this is an impostor. But Ariel goes with him to Zecht Castle, where the Demon Lord Arken is. They fight Arken,but Kyle comes in and reveals the fake.
The party then proceeds to a tower to rescue the real Doll, unfortunately he has sustained a serious injury and the next step is to cure him, but to do that we need to search out the sage Milon. A thief Jabrong joins up, and in the next area we find Zopild, one of the strange Zoppi creatures that were in the previous game as well.
Milon can heal Doll, but we need a moon crystal from a nearby tower to do so. Once this is recovered, Doll is finally able to recover, King Arken tells us what's going on. The dark forces are attempting to revive a Magic Stone Weapon from ancient times. To do this they need four magic stones. Of course now we're into the "collect X things" part of the RPG that is so common -- essentially we get a ship, then find the four magic stones in various parts of the world. Some of them require further fetch quests (like getting a compass to sail the seas, and eventually a magic rod to get a sky flier).
Other new companions join, including Yuno, a combination magic user-fighter who is pretty useful because of her Resurrection spell. She's the daughter of an old companion of Arken's -- they fought against the dark forces many years ago. Another is Minerva, a fighter.
Once we get the four stones, there's another anime/manga cliche. The dark forces have captured King Arken and we have to trade the stones for his life. Of course we immediately comply despite knowing that will result in the revival of the Magic Weapon.
The bosses starting from here often use "Mind Wave" which reduces MP to 0 for everyone; rather annoying.
Once they save Arken, the enemies cause an earthquake that dumps everyone into a pit. Ariel encounters a little dragon here who she thinks is the reincarnation of Fang (her lifelong friend from the first game). But he leaves very soon after and never appears or is mentioned in the game again.
Now we have to enter the Weapon to destroy it. At this point you can go do some sidequests to get some powerful things -- to actually enter the Weapon you have to talk to Kyle while on the flying ship, although I never saw any indication that you should do this. So I consulted a walkthrough and started following it, which ended up getting me Testament. This item has been in all the Aretha games and instantly raises your entire party's levels to 99.
The final dungeon is the longest one, and there are several bosses along the way. All the party members so far join and leave as we go so you get a variety. Eventually we defeat the dark forces, and Arken sacrifices himself to destroy the Magic Weapon.
As with Aretha 1, there's not really an ending -- it doesn't even say how Ariel was able to get back to her world. I read that there was possibly a third game planned but it never came out. The 1995 "Rejoice" game is an Action RPG that takes place in the game boy games' timeline instead.
Basically what you get from this game is a short RPG that is easy to sit down and play. It doesn't offer anything special, but neither does it have anything frustrating about it. There's a bit more depth to the story than the outline I gave above, but it's still mostly cliches.
Next up is Breath of Fire II, which should offer more.