Thursday, January 18, 2018

Spotlight: ActRaiser


It has been a while since I've done a spotlight on a game. Almost two years, actually. Today I thought I'd write up a new one on a little Super Nintendo game called ActRaiser. Check it out.


Marahna simulation mode.
My History

I think everyone has that one friend who has "everything." In my case, that friend was Matt. Matt had a Sega Genesis, and he was the first person I knew of that ever had one. After seeing it and Sonic the Hedgehog in action, I too had to have one. So for Christmas that was the main thing I wanted, and that's what I got.

However, soon I began wanting a Super Nintendo after seeing the incredible lineup of games it had. See, Matt also had a Super Nintendo, and I was becoming increasingly jealous of the games it had that I couldn't get on my Genesis. And so, the year after I got my Sega Genesis, I asked for a Super Nintendo. I couldn't take not being able to play games like Street Fighter II, Super Castlevania IV, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, F-Zero, and... ActRaiser. So for Christmas that was the main thing I wanted, and that's what I got.

I had played ActRaiser at Matt's house before. I really enjoyed the simulation part of the game, and the side scrolling action areas were pretty neat, too. In fact, I used to run around in the yard at my grandparents' house with a plastic toy sword and "play" ActRaiser before I actually had the game. I also used to "play" Super Castlevania IV with a real whip in the back of my grandma's flower shop, but that's not relevant. It is equally as cute, sad, or weird depending on the person reading this, though.

I received the game for my birthday two months after the Christmas I received the Super Nintendo. My grandma bought it for me from Toys "R" Us. I have played through the game so many times, and it still doesn't seem to lose any of its fun factor or charm. I had a blast playing through it again for this article.

The people below have many requests.
About the Game

ActRaiser was released for the Super Nintendo in 1991. It was published by Enix (in the days before Square Enix) and developed by Quintet. Other games by Quintet you might have heard of or played before include Illusion of Gaia and Soul Blazer.

You basically control God, though He is not named as such. In the English version of the game, He is referred to as "The Master." You are trying to defeat an evil being named Tanzra, or if you're in Japan, Satan. Tanzra has sent his six lieutenants to wreak havoc on the land, and it's up to The Master to defeat them.

Areas begin with a side scrolling action area where you must collect apples to replenish your health and recover scrolls to help you cast powerful spells. At the end of the area is a boss which you must defeat. After doing so, the game changes its play style and changes to an overhead simulation style where you control an angel. Guide the angel around the area shooting down enemies with your bow while directing the people down below to develop the landscape. You have several "miracles" at your disposal including lightning, rain, wind, and more. Use your miracles to clear obstacles such as bushes and rocks, or to blow enemies out of the sky if they become overwhelming.

You can also listen to the people below. They will sometimes give you offerings which you can elect to accept or refuse. Refusing them doesn't really benefit you unless you're low on inventory space. Some of the things they offer you are critical to advance the game, such as calming music, life saving herbs, or warm fleece.

At various points in the simulation, you will have to return to the Sky Palace where you must prepare yourself for another side scrolling battle. Clearing the second action scenario will send you back to the simulation where you can continue developing your town or move on to the next.

Additional Level Screenshots

Fillmore Act 1
Fillmore Act 2
Bloodpool Act 1
Bloodpool Act 2
Kasandora Act 1
Kasandora Act 2
Marahna Act 1
Marahna Act 2
Aitos Act 1
Aitos Act 2
Northwall Act 1
Northwall Act 2
About the Towns

There are six towns in ActRaiser:
  • Fillmore, a town overrun with bushes that must be cleared by blasting them with your lightning miracle.
  • Bloodpool, a town covered in marsh that your sun miracle will make short work of.
  • Kasandora, a desert town where rain will wash away the sand and enable roads and houses to be built.
  • Marahna, a lush tropical town where a devastating earthquake miracle will help increase the landmass.
  • Aitos, a rocky mountain town where lightning will demolish stones peppering the landscape.
  • Northwall, a snowy town where your sun miracle is required to clear the land.
Each town has three different levels it goes through before the population reaches its peak. For instance, towns usually begin with houses being small huts, then graduate to a better log cabin before finally ending up and a fully developed house.

Bosses

Centaurus
Minotaurus
Manticore
Wizard
Zeppelin Wolf
Dagoba
Pharaoh Mask
Rafflasher
Kalia
Aquatic Dragon
Fire Wheel
Merman Fly
Arctic Wyvern
Tanzra, Form 1
Tanzra, Form 2
The Music

I could just type "Yuzo Koshiro" and that should be enough for you. The man did the soundtracks to Revenge of Shinobi and the Streets of Rage series. He's serious business.

Anyway, the music is top notch. The orchestrated soundtrack really gives you the feeling you're playing a grand adventure. It totally fits the game atmosphere and there's not a weak track in the bunch. There's even a CD in Japan called ActRaiser Symphonic Suite where a full orchestra performs the soundtrack. It's definitely worth checking out. You can find the tracks from it on YouTube because buying it, well... that'll cost you.

Miscellaneous

ActRaiser 2
There is a sequel simply titled ActRaiser 2 which completely does away with the simulation aspect of the game and cranks the difficulty up to ridiculous levels. I have never been able to beat a single stage in ActRaiser 2, so I can't really say much about it. I can say I don't really like what I've played of it. The Master controls very slowly and it just feels like a less polished experience overall.

Final Thoughts

ActRaiser is definitely one of the best games for the Super Nintendo. I can't imagine anyone making a list of top titles for it and not including this game. The levels are a lot of fun and have just the right amount of challenge, unlike ActRaiser 2 which is impossibly difficult and as a result isn't very fun. The simulation mode in the game is a fantastic diversion from the side scrolling action, and I'm very glad they implemented it.

You honestly can't go wrong with this game. Sadly, I think the last time it was made available was on the Wii Virtual Console. It looks like the cartridge sells for about $30 on eBay, so that's probably your best bet if you want to own the physical copy. It's not really that expensive, which is nice.