Game Overkill – ActRaiser
I played ActRaiser once. It was a long time ago. I didn’t beat it. I don’t remember why I stopped playing, since I recall enjoying it. I mean, I REALLY enjoyed it. It had platforming sections that I remembered being more than solid, combined with some civilization development/god sim stuff that I thought was even more fun than the platforming, which is saying a lot coming from a guy who doesn’t typically like sims.
Unfortunately, as the saying goes, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. After finishing the first two towns, I didn’t recognize the third, which leads me to believe that was where I stopped playing the first time around. The third town is also where my enjoyment levels started its rapid decrease.
The game starts off fine. An easy platforming section, with some form of mini boss, followed by the first civilization development section. Not having a manual or any clue what it is I was supposed to do didn’t stop me from easily and quickly finishing it. I moved my little angel dude around, shot the bad guys with his little bow and arrows, and told the townsfolk where to build the houses and stuff. It was fun and satisfying, with how little effort it took for me to learn how to play. This is followed by a second platforming section and a final boss.
And then I beat the second town. When I got to third, I realized that it’s the same thing every time. The platforming sections were essentially the same and VERY easy. That’s not to say that they’re poorly done, in a sense. The controls are solid, but it lacks variety. The enemies in these sections, from one town to the newt, usually total a handful or two, while they mostly only differ in look. They essentially have the same “moves”: walk around, throw something, fly around, jump around. The early enemies only do one of those things, while the later ones up the difficulty by combining two of them. As a results, the levels quickly become unmemorable. Just to prove it, here are screenshots of 8 levels and I defy anyone who has played this game to identify which towns and bosses they are associated with. I sure as hell can’t do it, and I just finished the game last week!
The bosses are a little more fun and varied, but they are either painfully easy or painfully difficult, with the difficulty assigned seemingly randomly, as the most difficult bosses are not the last few.
Luckily, the city building parts are better. Rizzard Core agrees:
ActRaiser is amazing because it combines two unlikely genres: the god game and the action/beat-em-up. I’ll be honest, the god portion of the game is much more enjoyable to me and I’m sure to many others, despite the low-quality graphical icons of that overhead view.
It’s just a game that’s a ton of fun…raining lightning down upon cities and people who’ve stopped worshiping me only to rebuild something bigger and better to obtain more power…it’s ADDICTIVE.
I agree with him that the game is noteworthy for combing two unlikely genres. I also agree that what he calls the god portion is the more enjoyable of the two, but I would never call the game or any part of it “addictive.” The city building sections suffer from the same issue as the platforming sections: a serious lack of variety.
The city building sim really doesn’t offer much. You can do two things. One is decide in which direction you want your worshipers to build the city. Not what type of building though. The game does that for you automatically, so you don’t need to worry about having enough food or houses and stuff, which is a shame. The whole thing is just too easy. You can’t even do it wrong. In other words, you cannot get “game over” during the sim part of the game.
It might not sound like a big deal, but there a couple of ways I assumed you should be able to have your game end badly and permanently while building you town. While you’re telling the townsfolk to build whatever you want in a particular direction, there are enemies flying around. They can attack you and attack your town. They vary in strength and what they do, but not by much, since there are only 4 enemies. You read that right: 4. By the third town, you’ve already encountered 75% of the enemies. There are 8 towns. Do you see how this could make it seemingly fun at first, but quickly boring?
Anyway, these enemies can attack you and you have health, but if you run out of health, the only thing that happens is that you are unable to attack the enemies, nothing else. You can’t die. Meanwhile, the enemies can kidnap the townspeople and destroy crops and buildings. It doesn’t really matter though. You can kill everyone and destroy every building and crop yourself if you want. They’ll be back. You can take as long as you want and it won’t matter. How boring.
All of this is really too bad. On paper, the concept sounds amazing. I don’t know the details behind the game, whether the developers had crazy deadlines, ran out of money, or had hardware limitations to deal with, but I do know the game left me disappointed and wondering why it failed to deliver something I know could’ve been absolutely amazing. With more depth, more options, this game could’ve been something absolutely unforgettable instead of what it is: a quirky, unique, yet ultimately slightly bland game. It deserves to be on Game Overkill, but more as a novelty item, as a game you have to try once, not because it’s incredible or great, but because there isn’t much else like it. On that note, I recommend you go play Herzog Zwei immediately after and get a taste of what this could’ve been. If you don’t know Herzog Zwei, you may be seeing it here at some point. Maybe.
Ultimately, ActRaiser landed in 137th place. A little high for my liking, but what do you think? Have you ever even played it? Let me know what you thought. Until then, I’m still playing a bit of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, but I’ll be moving on to one of my all-time favourite games very soon: Shining Force.