Usually when you throw several genres together, it just doesn’t work, especially when you’re dealing with older titles. ActRaiser is a shining example of how it CAN work, however, throwing a qualified action game very similar to that of the Castlevania games into the mix of a God sim whereupon you also level up. This is an excellent title that should appeal to action afficianados, RPG nuts, and megalomaniacs alike.
Available For: Mobile, SNES (reviewed), Virtual Console
Release Date: 1991
Archetype(s): Action, RPG, Sim
Shit’s gone down in the world below and it’s time for your slumbering godly ass to get up and go do something about it. Enter…uh…you! Yes, you! You get to be a godly spirit that traverses into the mortal plane a la a viking statue and fuck up all kinds of demons and shit. Were it just for that reason alone, this would be a fun, classic title, but little else. Still, with Quintet and Enix at the helm (AKA Quintenix), you know this is just the beginning.
See, you can’t go everywhere yet. Nope. Shit mang, you just woke up. You ain’t ready for volcanos and causing earthquakes and shit. You gotta get some godly coffee, or in this game what’s effectively praise, but comes in the form of experience. What I mean is after you clear an area of demons partially, you get to do a slight zoom out and start to rebuild the village with a few followers, who then multiply, improve development, and all that Civ/Sim/whatevs shit.
There are many reasons to do this. Firstly, because you’re not a high enough level to go to most areas when you first start, you have to do this to level up. Second, there are still demons. See, yes, you cut out most of the demons, but you still haven’t gotten to the heart of the matter. There are demons portals about and the best way to get rid of them is to lead your followers’ development to them so they seal them up, build more, and life is good.
Well…sort of. See, these demons do all kinds of shit to fuck up your village, so you have to move around your cutesy little cupid angel and fuck ’em up with your pissy little bow so they CAN get over there to seal them up. You also start out with a few godly powers, like the ability to call forth lightning to remove trees and stuff, but eventually get the ability to use rain, sunshine, and all kinds of cool stuff, again, as you level up.
Once you clear an area of all demon portals, you think that’d be it, right? WRONG. See, the followers then stumble upon the actual demon lair itself and it’s up to you, Super God, to go and rout the fuckers yourself a la another awesome sidescrolling action stage! So in a way, the sim stuff does slow down the overall gameplay, but it’s kept fun because you’re constantly involved and the payoff is leveling up, going to another demon lair that’s much tougher, and since you leveled up, also being able to go to other villages and do the whole thing all over again with new problems, demon types, and all kinds of fancy stuff.
The final reason you want to help the villagers is sometimes they invent stuff that you can’t create. So sometimes they’ll come up with stuff like bridges or whatever and you can port that to other areas that are having trouble developing because they have no idea how to get over rivers or whatever. In a way, the game constantly compliments itself with all this constant innovation.
There really isn’t much more to say other than it’s a great classic title that easily appeals to nearly everyones’ sensibilities. For the action fan, you have lots of great sidescrolling stages chock full of action, several different enemy types that rarely (if ever) repeat, great variety of environments and challenges, and excellent boss design overall. For the RPG fan, you have the ability to level up and develop both your character and the towns.
And of course, if you’re in it for just the sim aspect, well…actually, that might be a bad thing. See, with most sim games, you can continuously develop the land and there’s no true “ending” or it’s prohibitively difficult to reach. With ActRaiser, you top out development pretty quickly because you’re not meant to dwell on it too much. Things are kept moving so that both the action and RPG fans can be sated on equal levels.
As a result, I could see diehard sim fans that aren’t big on action or RPGs not liking it, but seriously, that’s pretty niche. I would honestly recommend this for anyone looking for a nostalgia trip with something a bit different that proves that genres CAN be blended, and very well, if done right.