Monday, 6 August 2012

ActRaiser (SNES)

ActRaiser Super Nintendo europe title screen
By request, today I'm going to find out what ActRaiser is.

It seems that the US, Japanese, and European versions of this are all slightly different, though I'm not really sure what was changed. I do know that the European version I'm playing has an extra 'Action mode' available, which I'm not going to pick. Plus they've given the game a difficulty select screen, though like usual I'm just going to leave it on the the medium setting.

The game starts with our hero waking up in the clouds, choosing a name, then being told that the Earth's been entirely taken over by monsters and it's probably his fault somehow. Oh hang on, he said the 'earth' not our planet 'Earth', so humanity might actually be doing alright, somewhere else amongst the stars...

But yeah, monsters all over the ground, that's still pretty bad, I should probably do something about that.

From this menu I can move my sky palace, observe the people, select magic, and fight monsters. Also I HAVE A SKY PALACE! Not enough games let you fly around on your own air fortress.

Anyway my angel friend tells me that step one in the plan to reclaim the earth and restore my power is to destroy all monsters, so I'll pick that option first.

I was wondering how we were getting down to the surface. Wasn't really expecting the guy to just take a leap out of the window. Doesn't look like we have a parachute either.

Oh, I see! I'm controlling a godlike energy being who can possess statues!

This looks alright so far, though I'm surprised at how much parallax scrolling isn't going on there in the background. SNES games tend to have a few layers moving at once, but this just has one flat background layer. Also I get to use my 'forest level' label again!

Crap, turns out this monkey thing takes more than one hit to kill, and this old statue I'm piloting is a bit slow to swing his blade. I'm going end up losing health on every enemy if I'm not more careful.

Hey, there's a thing up there in the tree. I wonder what that does.

Turns out the things in the trees have pick-ups inside that give me health, points, or a 1up. But that only does me any good if I can reach the bloody thing. If this godlike being is so all-powerful, why can't he grab the branch and pull himself up, huh?

Nice looking trees though.

I hate fighting evil trees, with their creepy faces. Especially when they drop mini-heads on the floor then spit fireballs at me when I'm distracted. I've only been playing the game for like a minute and I'm already getting my ass kicked.

Great, I managed to kill the tree with one hit point remaining. Then I took a couple of steps to the right and got him killed by walking into a wasp. Back to the start of the level then.


TWO LIVES LATER.


I'm finding it almost effortless to get my poor statue killed off. Either the game's pretty difficult, or I have a natural talent for sucking at it. At least the developers were decent enough to give me infinite continues, to spare me the shame of never making it past level 1.

It's funny how even the good trees look like miserable bastards in this. Those I guess if I had to carry a life-size statue across spiky thorns I'd be grumpy too.

And then I'm almost instantly killed by this 12 foot tall half-naked centaur knight. He may be only half horse, but he's a total ass. I mean look at that health bar compared to mine, and I can only chip away one tiny segment at a time, while he can smash two of my segments away just by walking into me. That's 24 times I have to hit him with my super slow-motion sword attack, compared to just 4 times he needs to hit me.

Okay yeah, there's probably a pattern to him I can figure out. The game is nice enough to respawn me reasonably close by so I do have a shot at managing this. But damn it's demoralising.


EVENTUALLY.


After a few more attempts, the boss is dead and the humans can start to rebuild!

And it seems that I'm the one doing the rebuilding, or at least pointing them in the right direction. Not such a simple platform game after all it would appear.

The villagers can't build houses on squares with bushes in, and they're too lazy to clear them away themselves, so I have to use my lightning to blast them into splinters. The bushes I mean, not the villagers. Where was this power when I needed it on the platformer stage?

While my little dudes expand the town along the line I marked out, these bats keep flying out from the sinister circles on the map to harass my angel, who basically acts as my cursor. Which is a bit annoying really, especially as I can't do anything about it.

Hey, I can shoot the bastards with arrows! And every dead bat recharges my magic, giving me more lightning power. Well this certainly changes things in my favour.

Uh, I like your enthusiasm, but I think you might be getting a bit ahead of yourselves there. I mean these monsters ain't a pushover, they kicked my godlike ass more than once, so I don't even want to know what they'd do to you guys. The word 'bloodbath' comes to mind.

Actually it seems like my little dudes are more than a match for the forces of evil. They're destroying the monster generator, hopefully meaning less bats flying around and annoying me. I think I'll swoop in with my angel and give them some air support.

They give me presents too? These guys are the best! I'll take the magic, the bomb, the bow and arrow, and the... uh... bridge. Hey, you never know when you might need a bridge.


LATER.


With the monster generators sealed, it's time for another high altitude jump to take down the final area boss and free this land from evil once and for all. Until the sequel.

Aww, I'm controlling the same type of statue. I was hoping for something more interesting this time. They must have copies of this thing lying around everywhere interesting just in case I want to take a trip to the physical plane to smite some evil.

Helping out the villagers on the sim level got me a level up, which added an extra two hit-points to my bar. Two hit points might not sound like much, but that's just because it's not. I can lose more than that just trying to get close to these little imp bastards that throw knives at me. But hey, it's a small step towards ultimate power.


LATER.


And then when the level's finished beating me down time and time again, the level boss decides to join in. I'm sure there's a trick to him like with the other boss, but he shut my hero down so fast that the only pattern I've been able to notice is that evil doesn't wear pants.

All is not quite lost however, as I have a cunning plan. I can make up for my lack of skill by building a second town in a different to get some extra levels for my hero. The game's non-linear, so I can just take my sky fortress elsewhere and take on another level. I love this thing by the way, from now on I'm deducting 10 points from any game without a sky fortress.


SEVERAL STUPID DEATHS LATER.


The only flaw in my scheme is that I have to win the first level of the new area before I can move my people in and start the sim level. I'm actually doing much better than usual though, and I think I can actually avoid this lemon & lime flavoured boss indefinitely. Though with only 275 seconds left on the clock I should probably start thinking of ways to hit him back.

FACE THE BURNING RIGHTEOUS OF MY FIRE MAGIC, ABOMINATION, oh great he's jumped off screen. Well that was a total waste, I only had the one shot and I missed.


LATER.


Crap, that was a bloody dumb thing to do. Took an unintended dip in the purple instant-death water with a badly aimed jump, and threw away one of my lives. The problem I'm having here is that this boss is really good at jumping around, and I'm basically not. My statuesque deity has enough control of his jumps to stop moving forward, but that's about it. I can't do anything complicated like turning around, even to slash at an enemy behind me.


LATER.


Well that fight took longer than it should have, but the thing's dead and his territory is now mine to take and cover in worshipful humans. This particular region introduces marshland that I need to dry our with my sun power.

This new group of townsfolk couldn't figure out bridge technology by themselves, but luckily I just happened to have one in my pocket. See, you never know when a bridge might come in handy.



SOON.


Cheer up you miserable peasants, see I'm watering your crops! You should be bloody grateful seeing as I have to skip through several message boxes every time I use a power. I even turned your lake blue again, though I guess you will have to think of a new name for the place now. 'Bloodpool' doesn't seem very appropriate anymore.

Oh come on, please stop whining and get back to building, I need the population to increase so I can get my level ups, and I need my level ups so that the bad men will stop kicking my head in.

13 hit points. I suppose this is the best I'm going to get out of here until I take on the area boss and give the villagers something to smile about.

Into the fray once more then.

Oh that's a funny trick. Turn the lights out while I'm jumping why don't you?

Okay, I've decided. These stretchy skeleton monsters are the most annoying little assholes in the game so far. I think I'd actually take less damage here if I jumped through the electricity blocking my escape and just ran away.

Fuck. I saw that pick up on the left and hesitated on the lift a second too long. By the time I noticed the trap it was too late for me to get out of it. Insta-killed by spikes!

Well fuck doing all that again, my patience has all dried up. The villagers can stay miserable, I'm going off to unlock another area.

Motherfucking fireball monster bastards! Go rain fire on some other deity, I'm not in the mood.

Well... fuck. I haven't even got the faintest clue how to beat this guy. Time to play something else I think.


I think despite the sim levels, this game's more for the type of player that likes a proper platformer challenge. People looking for some world building gameplay with a bit of platforming on the side could be put off by the awkward controls and tough as nails enemies. Plus there's a boss waiting for you on every single level, and they make you really work for your win. I was only on medium difficulty and the game still whipped my ass. I mean more than these games usually do.


With infinite continues, non-linear levels, alternate routes, etc. there's a lot to like about the game. But I just didn't like playing it much, and I've got no interest trying to get any further in it.


If you've played the game yourself and want to share your thoughts, have an idea on what other games I should check out, or just want to point out all my spelling mistakes, feel free to leave a comment.

5 comments:

  1. The 2nd game is an even tougher platformer, without the sim elements at all.

    I actually kinda liked this game though I did lose to the boss rush at the end. I don't know when you get the spell, but the Magical stardust spell is really good for most bosses, especially if well timed. If you can get that, you can do better. There's also ways to get a higher population count from towns (converting fields from corn to wheat I think) or building everywhere to help get your levels up.

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    1. There's even a boss rush at the end? Damn, like the poor player hadn't suffered through them enough already by that point.

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  2. I had this on Virtual Console it was pretty rad

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  3. I really enjoyed this game when I bought and played it about 10 years ago. Now, after reading your review, I want to pull it back out and play it again. Maybe you could try it on Easy.

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    1. Hey, you were the one who told me to play it, so you've got no one to blame for that but yourself!

      But yeah I think if I ever try it again it'll definitely be on easy. As far as I can tell, the difficulty modes mostly affects the health you get from pick ups and the amount of hits it takes to kill enemies, with European easy mode enemies being more like the ones you'd fight in the other regions. Raising the hit points is never really a satisfying way to increase challenge in a platformer in my opinion as it just slows the game down.

      I reckon they should have left the enemies the same, and brought over the alternate level design from the Japanese version for hard mode. If the rest of the levels are anything like the one I tried, I think people would have been satisfied with the level of asskicking they'd been receiving.

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