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ActRaiser (SNES) artwork

ActRaiser (SNES) review


"ActRaiser blends hack-n-slash platforming with downscaled simulation to create a unique game. The stellar soundtrack and mad sick enemy design, particularly the parts that borrow from mythology, reinforce the gameplay to create an epic feel."



ActRaiser asset


Flattery will get you everywhere with me. ActRaiser must've known this because its first act was telling me that I am a god. I already knew this, but validation is a great feeling. Still, ActRaiser taught me more about godliness than I had ever known. No longer shall I classify myself as a lazy deity, one who expects fealty for nothing and chicks for free. Rather than rely on my servants while I sit on my bum, I had to be the one to dish out justice and purify the land with my own two godly hands. I had to become one unstoppable badass deity.

Godding is a full time job and requires the utmost responsibility. An irresponsible god may look upon the heathens crawling about his land and say, “Screw this, send another plague.” Not me. To clear the land of unholy beasts, I had to personally intervene. I sent a particle of myself to possess an illogically-placed warrior statue with a mammoth sword and set to work. I don't let plagues and locusts do my job, I let the edge of my blade carry out judgment. And my method of carrying out righteous indignation? Level after level of platforming. You see, the world I had created was overrun with evil beasts, and studies show that two platformer levels will clear any area of diabolical baddies.

ActRaiser screenshotIt isn't as simple as running forward and swinging my sword. Blue goblins, orange troll-monkeys and giant spectral bees don't tend to hold still while I cleave their heads from their necks. Proper timing is a skill any deity could use to effectively end the lives of foul creatures. Rather than hack wildly and risk damage from a flying skeleton, it's best to wait for an opening and strike from just the right distance at the right time. Timing also comes handy when leaping from one platform to another, or dodging the myriad traps waiting to spring and end my godliness--the beds upon beds of spikes, the quicksand pits and the slow crushing ceilings. And when hacking isn't enough, overkill in the form of powerful spells is the answer.

Every platform level ends with an epic battle against a mythical beast. They may look tough, but armored centaurs and vicious manticores are no match for a skilled god. Every boss battle requires pattern memorization and deft dodging, useful skills that can take down a boss while taking minimal damage. However, the temptation to hack away at a boss with reckless abandon is ever-present, but exercising restraint is necessary. Get too carried away and one might find himself plunging into murky water after an unexpected blow or losing life faster than he can wear the boss down. Patience is another virtue from which gods can profit.

Complete one level and you get a break from platforming. There will be another stage and another boss, but not before rebuilding society.

Time to shift gears. I put down the sword and grabbed the bow and arrow. It was time for some dumbed down SimCity meets Arkista's Ring! Controlling a cherub-like servant, I had to guide the humans towards rebuilding society on the graves of my enemies. That's right, the first platformer level was a means to rid the land of foul monsters and allow humans to rebuild on the battle site, the ultimate humiliation in defeat. Even though the simulation levels only take the barest minimum of thought, it's still not so simple as to be cut and dry. There are monster lairs on the land that generate abominations--giant bats, gargantuan skeletons and winged demons. There was only one way to deal with heathens such as these: by proselytizing my good word with an arrow to the face. Death is the only atonement for demonic bats who steal citizens or red devils who dry up fields and cause starvation. However, these beasts are only a symptom, and the disease is the lair. Only by instructing my people to build on the monster lairs could we truly be rid of the creatures.

These humans loved to raise my ire. They can seal a monster lair, but they needed my help to trim the hedges. Bushes, trees, rocks, desert, snow, marshes... All things that prevent humans from erecting homes on land. Through the use of my divine lightning and awesome sun, I cleared these obstacles and got these idiots building homes and humping like rabbits to increase the population.

ActRaiser screenshotThink about that now. More open spaces implies more room for houses, which lets my humans know that I want more screwing so there can be more babies, and subsequently more followers. More followers means more praying and faith, and I gain levels. My sword is so awesome that it doesn't become more powerful from leveling up, but I do get more HP.

These folks also rewarded me with goods as I performed more tasks for them. Let me tell you, there's nothing like having your maximum MP increase as a present for effective godding. The only irritating thing is that the citizens tended to stop me every couple minutes to tell me something that isn't a big surprise. This irritating phenomenon had been the cause of many "unexplained" earthquakes.

Just as I'd solved all their problems, exorcised the demons and raised the population, that other boss I mentioned earlier causes a ruckus. It was time to suit up again and play an even trickier platformer stage than before, hack things to pieces and engage in battles against hideous beasts. These voyages deep into sweltering volcanoes, ancient pyramids and dusty old castles wouldn't be quite as epic if not for the excellent soundtrack. Each tune revives the spirit of sword and sorcery classics and adds to the awesome atmosphere. It also boosts the fun factor against outrageous boss battles like a crystal dragon, a werewolf-sorcerer and a murder-hungry minotaur.

After beating that pesky second boss and aiding population growth to maximum capacity, it was time for me to move on. The cycle begins anew in another territory with different enemies. This also means more space, more humping, more followers, more HP. This is why I love godding!

ActRaiser blends hack-n-slash platforming with downscaled simulation to create a unique game. The stellar soundtrack and mad sick enemy design, particularly the parts that borrow from mythology, reinforce the gameplay to create an epic feel. It's an addictive title, and one I still play today. Give it a whirl and prepare to feel godly.

Rating: 8/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Featured community review by JoeTheDestroyer (August 27, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Feedback

If you enjoyed this ActRaiser review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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pickhut posted August 28, 2011:

Hey, this is a really good review you wrote here, Joe! You actually made both aspects of the game sound really interesting and work well together. I've known about ActRaiser for a very long time, but I'm actually curious about giving it a go after reading the review.

By the way, is this an error or am I missing something:

I'm put down the sword and grabbed the bow and arrow.

You also typed the word 'guide' twice in a row in the same paragraph.

Still, solid review!
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honestgamer posted August 28, 2011:

ActRaiser is fantastic, pickhut. Definitely give it a shot. It's a shame that the botched follow-up prevented the game from becoming a proper franchise that could have, with continued technological advancements, gone on to become one of the more memorable franchises in existence. I'd totally be up for a well-executed new installment on current hardware. It could be mind-blowing. The closest we've had is maybe Valkyrie Profile.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted August 28, 2011:

Thanks, pickhut! I'll fix those.

Jason:
I agree. With all of the concepts companies have used over the last few decades, a current ActRaiser would be amazing. I only played the second one a single time and wasn't impressed. I may revisit and review it in the future. I mainly wanted to hit ActRaiser before going on to a Soul Blazer review that I've been brewing for about a year now.
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Masters posted August 29, 2011:

I remember ActRaiser 2 being awesome. Of course, it totally dispensed with the god mode, and made the side-scrolling parts nearly impossible, but it had boss music and some slick visuals and was generally fun to play (if the difficulty didn't put you off).
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overdrive posted August 29, 2011:

I remember writing a review that said ActRaiser 2 was a big f-ing letdown. And that review did good in contest-like dealies, too!

Therefore, it is the ONLY voice of authority on that game.
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honestgamer posted August 29, 2011:

ActRaiser 2 had incredible visuals (for the time) and a lot of other fantastic elements, but the difficulty was a huge jump and I never got very far into it... whereas I completed the first ActRaiser quite easily. I need to go back to the sequel--which I do own--and give it another shot one of these days when I'm feeling masochistic. The difficulty really is a bummer.
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Masters posted September 01, 2011:

I remember feeling a great sense of accomplishment when I beat ActRaiser 2. But yeah, even on Easy, the game is hard as hell.
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threetimes posted September 05, 2011:

I loved this review. It had everything: funny, clearly written, and illuminated the game beautifully. Made me laugh eg: and studies show that two platformer levels will clear any area of diabolical baddies, and you maintained the god commentary style right to the end. I also felt that I knew exactly what the game was about and how it plays.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted September 05, 2011:

Thanks, threetimes!

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