Actraiser was a pinnacle title in the SNES era. It was a defining video game, and is regarded as one of the single greatest games of all time, and not without good reason. It’s unique combination of God simulation and sidescrolling action were a new breed, and has not since been seen again. While not the most difficult game by any means, it’s held the test of time quite enviously.
Actraiser casts you in the role of a God, Sir [Insertnamehere] - You will save the land of its evil monster reign, and create life in a series of different modes of gameplay. From your Sky Palace, you will choose a battleground, an area of land you with to combat the monsters and begin human life. Initially, you cast yourself down in a human warrior form reminiscent of Thor bearing a winged helmet, long blue tunic, and broadsword, in order to fight off all of the monsters in the land. Each act has you finishing off the area with a boss fight in the form of an epic beast, from minotaurs, dragons, and fierce animal hybrids. While the boss fights begin a tad difficult, you soon learn the pattern of your enemy, and with earned magic and brute force you can easily take them down. Levels themselves aren’t all that difficult, and are riddled with power-ups for your sword and magic abilities to aid you in your quest. Once you’ve taken out the monsters headquarters, you can now move away from the gorgeously colorful 2D sidescrolling action to a birds eye view God simulation mode. From here, you will control your angel, who is essentially your right hand man in a series of events with a set amount of skills to help provide a peaceful land for your people to live in. The people will build homes, farms, and eventually cities. They will learn from you as you protect them by battling off enemies from the skies with a bow and arrow, and seal off monster lairs and make them homes. Performing miracles is essential to life, and for destroying rocks or unnecessary bushes, or sand, you will be rewarded with the peoples findings, be they bombs to destroy enemies, new magic, or things you can bring to previous cultures you’ve saved and created, like music and wheat.
For the most part, there’s no real story save you creating life and defending your people that the player is ever told outside of the instruction manual. Every so often however, small sub-plots among the people will arise, be they missing men and children, plagues, or feuds, you will deal with these through your menus with your angel counterpart. Your menus are a one-button press, and are very easy to navigate through as you command your people to expand and build, as well as perform the aforementioned miracles. Again, since you’re a God, the most part is aiding your people from the sky and watching them. You’ll notice neat little things like farmers farming, or children walking the dog - it’s difficult to see anything from the birds eye view, but you are looking down from your Sky Palace. This is all very easy, and time consuming, but shockingly addictive. Every province has two action acts, and before you can partake in the second one, you must help the people reach a great goal, like creating cities, and bringing music to themselves - after this, you are able to fight again. However, I found myself continuing my building, and helping the people grow fields and such. I complete my province, filling it with people even before I help them again. It’s a very addicting game, despite its ease.
In both the simulation and Castlevania style action sequences, you will notice backgrounds that stick out to you, some more gorgeous than others, but all of them suiting and acceptable. The overall look of the game is clean and polished, but the music is what stands out. Orchestral symphonies play as you battle your way through the evil waves of enemies, and help cultivate land. Memorable tunes that, should they be taken out of their MIDI format, would make excellent Hollywood soundtracks for an epic film.
Actraiser was an early SNES game and will forever stand out in video game history. That it’s now available for 800 points on the virtual console justifies anyones Wii purchase. It’s a defining game in video game’s history, and is well worthy of a next gen sequel. Until then, I’ll be playing this well aged sim/action hybrid for a long time.