ActRaiser (SNES) Playthrough - NintendoComplete

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A playthrough of Enix's 1991 action-RPG for the Super Nintendo, ActRaiser.

In late 1991, Enix was already an established brand in the US with their Dragon Warrior titles, but it was arguably their relationship with Quintet that first cemented their legacy in the west. ActRaiser was the development studio's first game, and it was a good indication as to what we could expect from them in the 16-bit era. SoulBlazer, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma, and RoboTrek were all amazing games, and ActRaiser served as their foundation.

ActRaiser casts you in the role of God's avatar. There's a whole uncivilized world out there, and there are a few ways in which you can provide a supportive hand to those that worship you.

The first is in clearing out lairs of evil monsters so that people may settle the land. Diving head first from Heaven in full mode-7 glory, your spirit possesses a stone statue of a "divine guardian," your corporeal form. In this form you'll handle the action stages - in typical platforming fashion, you run about swinging your sword and screaming "Hah!" at your enemies as you pick up items and run forward until you reach a boss battle.

Once you've killed the boss, you assume your angel form and supervise humanity's progress as the game shifts gears to its simulation mode. This mode, superficially resembling SimCity, has you performing favors for and receiving offerings from followers at a temple built in your honor. As you cultivate an ever-growing population, it is your job to lead them to evil so that they may learn the importance of humility, virtue, sacrifice, and self-sufficiency. Sometimes they ask you to do mundane things, like to clear the land of ice or trees so that they may build, but more often than not, these acts of divine intervention are what gives the game its personality. You save a young runaway boy with a loaf of his mother's bread, spread the gift of music to ease malcontent, and show mercy to those that forget you as they seek an easier path in life. A lot of these events are unexpectedly touching considering the simple way they're presented.

Once the villagers have sealed the enemy dens in the area, you must return to the earth to seal the source of the evil so that you can move on to the next region and repeat the cycle. Once all six regions are cleared, you head to "Death Heim" to tackle the ultimate evil incarnate, and if you're lucky, you might eventually get to bask in the glow of your creation.

ActRaiser is an odd-duck, no question. Few games have tried to marry such disparate genres as the action-platformer and the god-sim, and far fewer have succeded, but ActRaiser is not among those casualties. It is perhaps the shiniest, most pristine unicorn you will ever see of this variety. We're talking God-tier levels of glistening here, no pun intended.

(Not to mention that it must have taken an act of God to get this story approved by NoA given ActRaiser's overt focus on religion and the nature of mortality!)

The platforming sections were some of the classiest examples of the style yet - level layouts are logical and they flow well, and the controls hit the bullseye: the animations are slowly and deliberately timed, and the precision they lend the inputs lead to some supremely satisfying moments. When you have one notch of your life gauge left at a boss and you perfectly time leaping into a crouching sword sweep for the killing blow, it's a thing of beauty. the graphics in the action segments. The backgrounds look fantastic (the Filmore forest is a classic, but check out the background during the minotaur fight!), the color afforded by SNES's VDP made for some truly impressive bosses (that Pharoah head in particular is a standout!), and your hero's animation is wicked smooth. The simulation scenes don't match the same level of spectacle, but the detail looks good as your tiny subjects go about their lives. The soundtrack is probably the most impressive aspect of the game, though - Yuzo Koshiro does for the SNES with ActRaiser what he did for the Genesis with Streets of Rage 2. In 1991, this soundtrack didn't seem possible, yet there it was, epically blaring from a tinny mono TV speaker!

If only the sequel would have followed the same format!

Whether you're looking for a progressive look at the portrayal of religion in games, a showcase of artistry, or just an all-round damned good game, ActRaiser is a winner.

If you've browsed my SNES playlist, you might have noticed that I had already done a recording of ActRaiser. However, the video was only recorded at 30fps, the aspect ratio was wrong, and I never reached the highest level. All of these things have been addressed with this new upload.
No cheats were used during the recording of this video.

NintendoComplete () punches you in the face with in-depth reviews, screenshot archives, and music from classic 8-bit NES games!
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