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   ActRaiser - Reader Retroview  

Playing God
by Jeremy, the Duke of Otterland

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy to Medium
COMPLETION TIME
3-6 Hours
OVERALL

4.0/5

Rating definitions 

   Monsters, led by the demon lord Tanzra, are terrorizing the world, and you, the Master, must put an end to this. However, Tanzra has also sealed your powers, and to regain them, you must unseal the people of the world and help them rebuild while defeating the monsters rampaging their land. ActRaiser, the first game developed by Enix studio Quintet over a decade ago, proves to be a solid action RPG and God simulation in spite of its meager length.

   To rebuild the world, the Master must first clear various areas of monsters. Each area has two Acts, which largely resemble the levels in any traditional platform game. The Master's basic weapon is a sword, which he can use to hack away at various enemies and the bosses at the end of each Act. The Master has a certain number of lives during each Act, and when he loses all HP, the player restarts the stage at a certain point. If he loses all lives, he returns to the Sky Palace and must restart the Act. There are no consumable items during Acts, with HP recovery coming only from losing a life and from the occasional orb-holding pedestal.

   After players complete the first Act of each area, they can begin the simulation mode of ActRaiser, where the Master's angel sidekick does most of the work, and can shoot arrows at enemies wandering around that spawn from Monster Lairs. The angel, too, has HP, and when he loses all of it, he loses his fighting capabilities, and the player must wait for his life to gradually recover before being able to fight again. The angel can perform various Miracles, such as lightning, which can clear bushes and rocks on the field, and sunlight, which can dry up marshes and melt snow; Miracles, however, consume a certain amount of SP, which the angel can refill by killing enemies.

Feel the wrath of God! Bosses can be tough, but a little magic can help.

   The angel can also refill his SP by guiding the people of each area to rebuild their lands, beginning from a shrine, whose leaders regularly pray to the Master and give him offerings depending upon how far the player has advanced in rebuilding the area. These offerings include magic for the Master, increased MP, extra lives during Acts, and extra abilities for the angel, such as increased arrow power and bombs that clear all enemies in the area yet leave Monster Lairs intact. Players, however, can guide the people to rebuild in the direction of Monster Lairs, which the people will then seal upon reaching it. The monsters that spawn from the Lairs also attempt to destroy the buildings the people have constructed, so the angel must continue to keep them in check.

   The Master's levels increase depending upon how high the world's population is, with level-ups also increasing maximum SP during simulation and allowing for the use of more powerful Miracles. Before each Act, moreover, the player can select one magic spell to use; spells naturally consume MP, which doesn't recover if the Master dies. Spells are particularly useful against bosses, and can make the game fairly easy; the difficulty does somewhat spike towards the end, where the player must fight several consecutive bosses with no breaks in between, with MP loss being permanent throughout all the fights. Still, combat in ActRaiser, coupled with the simulation, is solid.

   ActRaiser, moving on, features a largely spotless, easily navigable simulation interface, and there are no menus to worry about during the Acts. The translation does contain a few flagrant errors, alongside a bit of censorship, although interaction leaves little room for complaint.

   In its time, ActRaiser was a unique experience, blending action and simulation elements, a combination that would influence Level-5's Dark Cloud series, though even today, the game stands as one of the foremost God simulators.

Mmm...arrow. And after beating the Acts, it's simulation time!

   The story is probably the weakest part of the game, largely consisting of the Master upholding the requests of the people he helps unseal and the occasional conversation with his angel sidekick. The epilogue after you beat the game is serviceable, although the plot, ultimately, could've used more depth.

   The game's musical presentation could've used some improvement as well, given the somewhat awkward instrumentation at times, although the soundtrack was perhaps one of the best in its time, with many catchy classical-style pieces, such as "Birth of the People," the main simulation mode theme. The sound effects could've used some improvement, as well, although they certainly won't get on your nerves. Overall, a decent-sounding game.

   The visuals were more than adequate for their time, with the Master being anatomically correct in terms of proportion, and most of the scenery and enemies containing decent design, even if a few foes are basically palette swaps. The simulation graphics are more than functional, as well, and in the end, ActRaiser is a pretty nice-looking game.

   Finally, ActRaiser is a fairly short game, with its playing time ranging from three to six hours, depending chiefly on how much time the player spends with simulation. Ultimately, the first God simulation, even today, stands out as one of the best, with most of its aspects, except maybe its story, being solid. The game would receive a sequel focusing entirely on the action elements, although the original was perhaps one of the first great Super NES titles, and largely stands the test of time.

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