Hello all! Last week , we checked out this incredibly divisive, Twin Peaks-style game.
This week, we dive way back into the SNES era for one of my favorite video game soundtracks of all time. Also, the game itself is pretty awesome and unique.
CREATE ORDER FROM CHAOS!
ActRaiser was a game developed by Enix before they were Square Enix. Essentially, ActRaiser tells a story of a war between God and Satan (names changed to "The Master" and "Tanzra" respectively for the American release). As far as story progression goes, it's your basic "kill bad guy's followers/henchmen, then kill him at the end" formula.
What makes ActRaiser unique is the two wildly different modes of gameplay it presents. ActRaiser is both a side-scrolling platformer and a "god game" where you create a civilization in an overhead view.
So, sometimes it looks like this:
And, other times, it looks like this:
It's certainly unique, and the two modes mesh better than you would think. If there's really a complaint, it's that, honestly, neither mode is exactly deep by today's standards. The simulation mode is pretty entertaining and requires a little thought, but it's easy to figure out. The side scrolling mode consists of you fighting enemies...and little else. It's not deep, but both modes are engaging and fun, likely because the game remains fresh due to switching it up.
In the side scrolling mode, you can expect to find similar gameplay to other SNES side scrollers like Super Castlevania IV, only faster. As an animated angel statue, you jump and slash your way through a variety of excellently designed enemies, set to an amazing, epic soundtrack (more on that in a bit). There's nothing new or unique to this mode, but like I said, it's still fun.
In the simulation mode, you control an angel (think of him as a kind of mouse pointer) and plant buildings and roads to connect them. You also need to make use of miracles to help the population and curb the flow of monsters that spawn on the map.
This is all displayed with a beautiful art style that's firmly lodged in high-fantasy despite the heavy religious overtones of ActRaiser. You run into a variety of demons, winged...things and huge bosses. What's interesting is the color pallette. The game could've easily been colored in a bleak, drab fashion, but everything is bright and colorful. It's an interesting choice to me, and a brilliant one at that. The simulation mode looks great, too, if a little sparse at times.
Ah, but now we come to my favorite part of ActRaiser: the soundtrack.
The soundtrack to ActRaiser was composed by Yuzo Koshiro. If, by chance, you recognize that name, you'll probably begin to see why this soundtrack is so good. Yuzo Koshiro composed the soundtracks to games like the early Ys games, Streets of Rage, The Revenge of Shinobi, Shenmue (which I wrote about a couple weeks back), and many, many others. In fact, he's still going, composing for Etrian Odyssey and the recently released Persona Q. So one expects ActRaiser to impress.
And impress it does. I was gonna post a couple of songs for reference, but honestly, I find it difficult to pick just two. So I embedded the whole soundtrack here. The opening theme is all sorts of majestic, then there's the action-fueled Bloodpool, the vaguely Castlevania-sounding Fillmore...it goes on and on. There's such a variety here on display, and yet it maintains a cohesive theme throughout. It's one game soundtrack I can listen to independently of the game itself. I mean, it's so well composed. It sounds years ahead of its time. It's by far the thing I like most about ActRaiser.
Seriously, while I spent a lot of time raving about the soundtrack (it's so good you guys) the rest of ActRaiser is, of course, a classic. It successfully blends two very contrasting forms of gameplay, tells a solid tale, and it's still a blast to play. It's so fun to listen to also, and I swear that's the last time I'm mentioning the music.
Next week-I write about a classic PC space combat sim that's just recently been re-released.