Are you awake?

Something feels different when you start playing ActRaiser. There doesn't need to be an overworld for a side scroller, surely. What do I need assistance with? Just give me a sword and point me towards the enemy.

There's a reason for all this and I suspect it will be both interesting and irksome.

Fun Times

From the start, or the start of the gameplay at least, ActRaiser feels so-so. Side scrolling hack and slash platforming action across a simple little stage that ends in a boss fight against a lightning striking, lance-wielding centaur - what's new there, right?

What's new is that that we're not just a generic action hero, oh no. We are a God, and our people need support so that they may once again flourish throughout the lands (indeed, we are weak because they have lost their faith in us, so we better turn that around sharpish). The introduction starts to make a bit more sense as we are transported to the overworld, floating above it and deciding what to do with it all.


ActRaiser turns into a city building simulator, or really a 'tell people to do this while you make sure they are safe as it gets done' simulator. An angel - your assistant, really - floats above would-be cities taking care of monsters until the population can deal with them themselves.

So long as you provide the means to clear the area with lightning strikes or dry up the marshlands, the people will grow crops and offer you supplies for your platforming journey, as if they know that that's really what you want to be doing. It's what you need to be doing into order to rid the world of monsters and be able to spread your followers out across the land, certainly.

Source // Flying Omlette

This part of the game is tedious. It put me off playing. I stopped and fired up YouTube instead, I was having none of it.

Your assistant does everything apart from shooting monsters via a menu, which, while simple to navigate, insists that you read far more text than is necessary in order to get something done. You can't build on a desert tile, for example, so you'll need to unleash a spot of rain on the land, at which point the following occurs:

"This is the rain tool. It'll allow you to build on deserts."
"Thanks, can I use it?"
"Do you want to use the rain tool?"
"Yeah, please, I would."
"Where would you like to use the rain tool?"
"Right here, where I've been hovering for the past minute waiting for the rain tool. Thank you. Let's try getting rid of the next tile."
"This is the rain tool. It'll allow you to build on deserts."
"I know, I have another ten squares of this shit to clear, can I-"
"Do you want to use the rain tool?"

Imagine that, for everything. Then imagine having followers begging for your attention, if not to show off their abilities then to ask you to perform little side quests while you wait (there's a lot of waiting) for the city to flourish. Then imagine doing that for five or six cities, desperately hoping for a sidescrolling section to wake you up again.

Final Word

After a boss gauntlet and some out of nowhere philosophy class, ActRaiser finishes and you wonder why it's on the list.

To be fair, there aren't too many games that have tried this and managed to pull it off to some degree. It could never make each part of the game as good as the other, and players are bound to like one part over the other, but the fact that it tried and succeeded is to be commended.

The music is great, but that's not enough for me to want to try it again. I started watching it, soon started played it at twice the speed and still found it slow. It is a quick game, an afternoon's worth if you're good, but there are more unnecessary text boxes than there are stars in the night sky.

For what it tried to do, ActRaiser must be played. You've got to see what it's all about first hand. But to put the time into it requires dedication that I just don't have for this title.

Fun Facts

There is an 'Action' or 'Professional' mode that is unlocked either right away or after completing the game, depending on which version you're playing. This mode allows you to play through only the sidescrolling sections and is still not enough for me to want to play ActRaiser again.

ActRaiser, developed by Quintet, first released in 1990.
Version played: SNES, 1991, via emulation.
Version watched: SNES, 1991 (SaikyoMog)