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Posted on Feb 2nd 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (Crabmaster2000)
Posted under Actraiser, SNES, Platforming, City Simulator, Enix, Super Nintendo



When I was a kid I owned ActRaiser 2 for my SNES. I don't remember buying it or receiving it as a gift, yet somehow it was in my tiny collection. I remember playing it fairly often, but I'm pretty confident I was never able to beat a single stage in the game despite it having multiple stage options available to choose from right off the bat. Last week I decided to finally remedy that!!





ActRaiser 2 - 1993



When I booted this game up for the first time in about 20 years I was met with some familiar sounds and visuals. I didn't remember much about the game other than that triumphant title screen music and the glorious sprite of the main playable character, The Master. Definitely one of my favorite 16-bit character models. Even though much of the game is quite challenging at least you look and feel powerful playing as something that seems like a cross between Conan the Barbarian and an Arch Angel.

ActRaiser 2 is a straight up action platformer, but quite a good one. You start off in your Sky Palace which overlooks the continent that your faithful believers live on (did I mention you are a god!!), but something is not quite right. Demons have taken hold of all the major settlements on the continent and have spread greed, sickness, war and death throughout. Your goal is to stop these demons and restore peace and prosperity to your followers.

This game was quite challenging to get started on just like I remembered. It took me many attempts on various stages for about and hour and a half until I found stage I felt like I could tackle first and finally make some much needed progress on. After messing around with the unusual method of casting Magic I was feeling a bit more confident with my skills and understanding of the games mechanics and took down my first boss which raised the sunken flooded city out of the sea so that I could defeat the true source of misery in this area of the map. Once vanquished and my people freed I was feeling the tide of battle shifting to my favor and used my newly attained momentum to take down a few more demons. At no point in the game did it feel easy, but it did feel obtainable now. Now it was taking 3-8 attempts to clear each area of monsters and demons, and while that was fairly slow it was exciting every time to make progress little by little.



Slowly, but surely over the course of the weak I was freeing my faithful across the land until a new sinister looking area appeared smack in the center of the map. Surely this had to be the final stage of the game. In this area you are stripped of you magic to have it replaced by an energy ball that shoots from your sword, much like Link's Master Sword functions in A Link to the Past when you have full health, but in this game it always shot out the energy despite how full is your health meter. After completing the obligatory 16-bit boss rush I was treated to a gigantic Ninja Gaiden-esque boss encounter. After dying a couple times it dawned on my that this final battle was a lot easier than I was making it and after that I made quick for of this enormous demon.

Where ActRaiser 2 stands out for me is in it's atmosphere. The soundtrack does and excellent job of conveying different feelings of despair, anguish, hopelessness, and brutality. That coupled with the exquisite background and sprite designs make for some incredibly ambient settings. Slap an amazing looking character sprite and enemy designs and this is just an all around gorgeous game. This may make my list of best looking SNES games if I were ever to compile such a list. I am very proud to have finally crossed this one off of my childhood bucketlist.

ActRaiser - 1991



I've had never played the original ActRaiser before, but after enjoying it's sequel I thought it would be worth checking out. I had heard it had sim-like gameplay in addition to the side scrolling action areas so I was intrigued to see how those were blended together.

I was initially greeted almost identically to number 2. Triumphant title screen and a great view of the continent in need of rescue from atop my Sky Palace.  You start off with a side scrolling section that while it resembles the stages in 2 had a few differences. No wings this time means no double jump or gliding mechanics. The magic is also changed up quite a bit so that you can pre-select one spell to bring into a level with you and that's all you have access to. These stages were also vastly easier than their sequel counterparts, most being clear in the first attempt. They still managed to keep their eerie atmosphere, but 2 had obviously perfected that over this one.

Now the really cool part about this game was that after you cleared a stage you get the option to create a new population and start building a city. The larger the city means the more followers you have. By increasing your followers you also increase your own abilities (think the movie Elf and you're Santa's sleigh, which gets more power by more people believing). It's quite simple as far as sims go, but extremely enjoyable. You can have your followers build new houses, farms, and other structures (bridges, windmills, etc.). At first while the land is still overrun by monsters you'll have to get your followers to head to monster spawn points and have them seal them off to clear the land for good of these beasts. Your people occasionally need some extra assistance such as you providing miracles to clear the land of natural obstacles (rocks, trees, sand, swampland, etc) so that they can expand further and further. These people will make offerings to you as they expand and give you vital items such as spells, equipment, or technologies that you can take to other settlements to help them prosper. Roadblocks will occasionally stop your population from growing as they need your direct involvement to save citizens or defeat new dungeons/demons as they are uncovered.



This game felt so relaxing in comparison to the sequel. I really enjoyed the simple city building aspect of it and if you spend time expanding each city you'll be so powered up that any of the side scrolling stages shouldn't give you much of a challenge if any at all.

Conclusion

Both games are definitely worth playing. Play 1 if you're looking for something unique, slow paced and almost calming. 2 is for those looking for some intense action platforming challenge and second to none atmosphere. I'd happily recommend both games, but maybe not the same player depending on their preferred style of game.   






ActRaiser 1/2 songs to check out:








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Comments
 
I have not played the second one yet, but ActRaiser is one of my favorite SNES games. I love both portions where you can either just plow through the city building and get to fighting, or you can be methodical to maximize your population and find secret items that will help you in the action sequences. Can't recommend the first game enough!
 
Good write-up, Crabby!  I remember briefly playing the first ActRaiser game when a friend rented it, and enjoying the action sequences, but being totally confused by the world building aspects.  I hadn't played any games of that type on PC yet, so I didn't understand the concepts.  I think I might appreciate it more now than I did then, so that's one I should probably track down.  The sequel is right up my alley, as a straight up action game, so I will have to keep my eyes out for that as well, though I suspect it's probably a bit more expensive than the original.
 
@MetalFRO - The sim aspects of the game are extremely simplified. If you've played literally any sim game in the last couple decades you'll be able to master (pun-intended) the sim parts of ActRaiser with no problems. It was nice and relaxing for the most part, which was a nice pace change after taking on a demon!


 
Actraiser was one of the first three games I got when I got my SNES when it first released and boy am I happy I bought that game.  That is one stellar game and one of the best games on the system.  A definite must play.
 
I've always been interested in these games but have never played them.  I hope I can get around to them sooner or later.
 
I have such fond memories of the first Actraiser. The action sequences were fun, the graphics were great (love that Mode 7 zoom down from the heavens!), and the sim parts were a welcome change of pace from most of the other action games i was playing at the time. I didn't have a lot of experience with sim games so it was a fairly unique thing for me. And the sim elements were basic enough that they were very easy to get a handle on. I spent many peaceful hours just shooting demons with my bow and arrow while watching my citizens thrive and build. Plus, the music was fantastic. Thrilling in the action stages and calming during the sim parts. I still love the Actraiser soundtrack to this day.

I was super excited for the sequel, but when I played it and discovered they'd nixed all the sim stuff, I was pretty angry. I actually felt betrayed as a kid that they would take such a seemingly popular mechanic and remove them entirely. I was so mad I didn't even give the action stages a fair chance. I think I'd be willing to go back and give them a try now, but the scars from the change still sting my nostalgia-skewed heart.
 
Thanks for reminding us about these two great games!

I loved both of them and finished them back in the SNES-times. As you pointed out, the first game had this unique sim-aspect and was therefore one of the few obvoius hybrid games which were successful. The second game has merely action sequences but refined them. Like so many I wished the sim-aspect for the sequel as well, it was just fitting and created a great atmosphere and wonderful exposition to the action sequences.
 
I currently only own Actraiser 2 and I'm also fairly confident I've never beaten a single stage of it.

I can beat arcade shooters many consider more difficult, but this game shreds me.
 
The first Actraiser is still in my top 10 all-time favorite games. It was as close to a perfect game at the time of release as it is today. It was a huge part of my gaming childhood and my development as a gamer. It was the first time I actually appreciated a soundtrack and visuals in a game and although I could never beat it as a child, the balance of fun and difficulty kept me playing time and time again. When I first learned there was a second one just a few years ago, I jumped on the chance to find it and play it, (I even paid more than it was worth just to get it quickly), but was supremely disappointed when I went to play and it was nothing at all like the first. In fact, I was so upset that it was different that I still haven't given it another chance to this day. I bet it is a great game, but I REALLY want another game just like the first one.

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