Act Raiser - Reader Retroview  

Control, Control, I Must Have Control!
by JuMeSyn

10-15 hours


Rating definitions 

   The action-RPG is hardly an unknown quantity, and was well known even in the early days of the SNES. Act Raiser represents something different in the action-RPG canon, however. Its action parts play identically to many action games of the time, with only the barest concession to RPG norms. Its non-action parts seem more at home on a PC than a console thanks to their concentration upon building, quite in line with Sim City or its ilk. The concept is stronger than the execution, unfortunately, as the unpleasantly loose controls during the action portions are irritating enough to drop the potential playerís enjoyment considerably.

When Hallmark cards fight back. When Hallmark cards fight back.

   Act Raiserís story gains a point for not having been tried in a Japanese RPG before. The player assumes control of the Master (also known as God, but Nintendoís censure rules at the time forbade this being explicit), former ruler of the world but recently stripped of his powers and forced to conquer back the world while rebuilding it. The Master is aided in his twin tasks by his Angel, a flying Cupid-like being that has the task of directly aiding the people of the world as they repopulate the land from demons. There is no character development whatsoever, and the Master never says anything. Developments among the idiot citizenry might constitute plot twists to a retarded monkey that had never seen such things before Ė to no RPGamer experienced in any fashion with story will these little situations be compelling storytelling.

   Interaction is quite different in the two halves of the game. During the sequences with the player in control of the Master play is exactly in the fashion of any number of 16-bit action titles. During the portions which find the Master overhead looking down upon the world, the Masterís faithful Angel servant will flit about fighting demonic adversaries trying to destroy subjects in cities. The Angel controls imprecisely but acceptably, though the player will more than likely wish the Angel could speed up from time to time and/or shoot faster (the Angel shoots arrows to combat the enemy with). When the Master must aid the Angel via natural events or direction of the citizens to build in a certain direction, menu controls work after a bit of familiarization. The Master, unfortunately, controls less well. Action games require decent control to assure a player of the absence of cheap deaths. Act Raiser has these in spades. Enemy patterns are easy to decipher but hard to dodge consistently thanks to the mushy controls. The first area boss is a good example of this: the boss simply jumps down, throws a blade at the Master, then jumps up again to repeat this. If the Master could jump consistently dodging this attack would be easy. As it stands, only at the absolute apex of a jump will the blade be dodged, and judging the timing for this is incredibly hard. Also the Master moves slowly compared to bosses, which means many cheap hits will result. Considering that another fault of the action game is present, in that the Master has no moment of invulnerability after taking a hit, getting hit over and over again and dying inside of seconds is quite probable. The only method of dodging this hazard is to use a spell, which makes the Master invulnerable while its effects rage. Spells are used a finite number of times per stage and serve as a Ďspecial attackí rather than anything like most RPG magic uses.

The Master declares his hatred of Chinese New Year float parades in the only way he knows how. The Master declares his hatred of Chinese New Year float parades in the only way he knows how.

   Act Raiserís visuals are dated but functional for the time. They were clearly created in the early years of SNES software, but with that limitation made clear they work at what needs to be done. The Angelís portions bear a resemblance to Sim City and the Masterís portions vaguely resemble any number of side-scrollers from the period. Audio is done by the renowned Yuzo Koshiro, although this is not one of his best soundtracks to my ears. It is still better than many others however. Sound effects are typical early SNES fare, with nothing distinctive.

   The challenge comes almost exclusively from the Masterís playing zones. The Angel can be incapacitated quite easily, as it transpires, but upon waiting a bit the Angel will revive enough to resume combat. Experience gained via increasing the population in the Angelís sections will translate into levels gained for the Master, although levels mean essentially a longer life bar and nothing more. The Masterís sections play identically to many action games, complete with two extra lives. RPGamers with no skill at action games, particularly those with control issues, will have trouble aplenty here. Action-appreciating players will still curse the controls aplenty. There is nothing whatsoever to obtain after completion of the title, save perhaps raising citizen population more.

   Act Raiser succeeds in standing out from the crowd of SNES RPGs by melding an action game and a simulation game together. If it did this in a more effective fashion, its overall grade would be higher. As it stands the Ď3í grade is representative of the joys and tribulations a player will experience, for the action controls are indeed that curse-inducing while the overall package is unique enough to warrant a look.

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