GSJ10: Raise your act to heaven and pray

ActRaiser! Man, what a great game. I rented this and beat it several times back in the early Super NES days, and its dual-genre design never really struck me as remarkable until the sequel came out and stripped away the simulation portions. You don’t love what you got, I guess… but no, I don’t think that’s it. Back, once upon a time, I think we just took it for granted that games didn’t have boundaries and that anything goes. Smashing random ideas together wasn’t necessarily a good idea, which is (I’d imagine) why so many developers stick to tried-and-true genres and combinations these days.

ActRaiser was one instance where it worked. The action and simulation portions, taken separately, were good but not great. It was the combination of the two that made this game so notable. I was really bummed when Square renewed its ActRaiser trademark a few years back… for a mobile port of the game. Bleah.

Quintet was so talented. I really wish they’d been able to keep it together after the 16-bit era.

16 thoughts on “GSJ10: Raise your act to heaven and pray

  1. Yeah, I gave it a replay a few months ago and — damn, what a great game, and I’ve never really played anything else quite like it.

    The sequel may well be the most disappointing game I’ve ever played. It’s one thing to release a mediocre platformer; it’s another to release a mediocre platformer as a sequel to a much better game.

  2. I have fantastic memories of playing ActRaiser in the early days of the SNES. The graphics and music were mind-blowing for the time, and the hybrid gameplay really held up. Good times all around.

  3. Every time I imagine a modern sequel to Actraiser I always think of it being done by a western developer. They could actually have the modes interact.

    For example, your second action mission in each town could be set in the actual town you build, so if you want to do more platforming make sure you quake the huts so they build mansions.

    Maybe at the end of the first action mission the enemy tells you he’ll return with an army of monsters, so while you’re building the town you have to train the villagers to fight, like in Seven Samurai, then when the enemy comes you command them in an RTS fashion while you still control the god-warrior directly to fight the boss, a bit like Pikmin.

    Unfortunately, despite the fact that these scenes would be inspired by Japanese products, Seven Samurai and Pikmin, I still think nowadays a western developer would better handle all the overlapping game modes.

  4. Finally, I think it would also be cool if an Actraiser sequel had a more multicultural feel. For example, each country would have a different image of god, so each one would build a different statue that would control differently, and thus have a different kind of action level with different mechanics and goals. One would be a man, another might be a horse or elephant, another would be a giant bird, another would be a whale, etc. This could also deepen the plot a bit by having different cities clash by thinking they worship different gods. At some point you’d reveal that you’re the only god and that you control all the statues, bringing all the world’s religions and cultures into harmony. Only the people who worship Tanzra would really need fixing.

  5. I finally played Actraiser when it was released on Virtual Console. I love it despite the last gauntlet of bosses, which is bullshit-y and lazy. But it did come out in 1991, so that’s similar to complaining that Zelda 1 didn’t have a tutorial.

  6. I remember thinking what a fascinating game this was when I rented it as a youngun. Maybe a little too fascinating for me to save up and buy it, but fascinating nonetheless. I much preferred Quintet’s Illusion of Gaia, my favorite SNES game back in the day.

    And then there was Granstream Saga. If I remember correctly, Parish has a pretty scathing review of that somewhere on this site. Man, do I love those scathing reviews Parish used to do.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love this site – but whatever happened to ‘spite’?

    • Negativity is a commodity on the Internet. A while ago I realized that insight is far more precious than vitriol, so that’s what I aspire to.

      • Ah, but they aren’t so mutually exclusive. I’m not advocating spite for its own sake (maybe I am), but it was your insight that set apart your negativity from the rest of the internet’s.

        Case in point: your Xenosaga review. Maybe a little venomous, but far more insightful than anything else I’ve read on the game. Did I nod my head along? Yes, but I’m also a big FFVII fan, and still enjoyed that old spiteful review too.

        Keep doing what you’re doing. I just enjoy your writing most when you’re singing a game’s praises or ruthlessly picking it apart. Which, admittedly, is not really viable for most games.

    • Actually, I wrote a pretty scathing review of Granstream Saga for the site, possibly the one you’re thinking of. It’s still be hanging out in the wiki section. Should be linked from my author profile.

      Of course, seeing as it’s the first thing I ever wrote here, it’s not really one I’m particularly proud of…

  7. I liked the simulation thing, but I remember everyone hating the sequel for not having it-and for being a real pain to beat. Plus, I think the hard setting was designed so you could not win. I kinda feel bad that no one played Populous-at least on the SNES-because Actraiser got there first.

  8. Oh, I loved ActRaiser. I played and beat it several times. To this day, it’s a “comfort game” that I go back to when I don’t feel like slogging through my backlog of games I have yet to play.

  9. The last two Quintet games were licensed games — one based on the Orphen Scion of Sorcery franchise, and one based on the Beet the Vandel Buster series (an unfinished comic, which is sometimes called Adventure King Beet). It’s kind of like a good band that ends its career with a pair of cover albums.

    What are the people from Quintet doing now? I wonder. Some of the people from Technos Japan went on to remake some of their classic games…

  10. First game I played to finish on an emulator. I tried out a lot of other games I missed, but this one had me hooked with it’s alternating gameplay styles. I bought it recently on Virtual Console, so emulation’s not all bad then, right?!

  11. I saw this entry, and immediately had to play the game. And then I read the article after beating it. It does make me long to see more in this vein.

    I almost want to go through Actraiser and Terranigma again now. Illusion of Gaia not so much.

    • Hey now, what’s so wrong with Gaia? Mediocre, maybe, but the game’s atmosphere has always stuck with me the past decade and half or so.

      But I’m not afraid to admit that this is probably just the nostalgia talking.

      • It’s just more frustrating than the other two. I never had much fun with it, even though I like the atmosphere.

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