SNES A Day 16: ActRaiser

actraiser_us_box_art

Approximate Release Date: November 1, 1991
Genre: Platformer/Simulation
Developer: Quintet
Publisher: Enix

You know what they say about jacks of all trades? It fits ActRaiser perfectly.

ActRaiser is part city simulation and part action platformer. The player is The Master, a deity who has woken up after being defeated years ago by the demon Tanzra. In those years, humanity has suffered and no longer believes in The Master. So, the player’s goal is to kill demons, rebuild human civilization, and restore mankind’s faith.

Every level is split into three parts: two side-scrolling action stages and the civilization building. Directing humans to build their cities out so they can take out monster lairs and open up new action stages is the general flow of the game. These simulation chunks are the real star of ActRaiser. You can fly around and shoot down monsters that are attacking your villagers, or perform miracles to burn down bushes or put out fires. And the game is designed with a controller in mind, so everything is easy to get to and doesn’t require much precision to select areas or spells. It’s simple, but it’s fun and never feels boring or overwhelming.

The action stages aren’t terrible, just stiff. You control a statue that has been brought to life by The Master, and you wander through the linear stages and bash monsters with your sword. Much like the simulation bits, ActRaiser‘s action feels basic; too basic, to the point of being standard and uninteresting. It never quite feels like you have the control you need, so expect to get hit over and over again because you didn’t quite dodge a monster’s projectile. Bosses take quite a few hits, and it becomes mostly just figuring out the pattern and doing it over and over. But at least it looks nice!

One goofy thing about the game is the localization from Japan to North America. In Japanese, the player is God and the antagonist is Satan. That wouldn’t fly in 1991, as Nintendo of America had very strict content rules about what could and could not be allowed in the game. So, God is now The Master and Satan is now Tanzra. It’s still clear what the game is going for. The rest of the game avoided too much more localization changes, as it’s a hodgepodge of mostly mythological references and generic action baddies; the first town’s final boss is a minotaur, for instance.

With ActRaiser, Quintet decided to find out if the “two great tastes taste great together” theory holds true with city building and action platforming. To an extent, it does; the game is better for having these two otherwise-incompatible genres mesh fairly well. But neither half is fantastic, and the genericness of the action segments just makes me wish they did something more there.

But it’s unique.

Tomorrow: Are you ready for some John Madden Football?

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