ActRaiser 2 - Reader Retroview  

Raze This Act
by JuMeSyn

Nominally about 90 minutes


Rating definitions 

    Act Raiser was hardly perfect, but remains unique in the pantheon of RPGs even today. Act Raiser 2 dispenses with the elements that made the original unique, in the process removing any hint of an RPG from the proceedings. By giving special attention to the faults of Act Raiser 1 without leavening them through unique play methods, the game is left as a platform title with infuriating controls. And as a platform title lives or dies based on its controls, the overall package is downgraded to nothingness.

    The story is utter junk in Act Raiser 2. Tanzra has been resurrected and it is the player’s job, as the Master once more, to beat him into the dust. The angel that was responsible for protecting the citizens during the simulation segments of the first game is now just a text deliverer. He will mouth silliness about the cities of the landscape below, and give some flimsy justification for the Master’s journeys downward to cleanse the land of evil. Anything that might have been intriguing about this is neutralized by the incredible inanity of what the angel says.

This screen shows an unavoidable hit coming up (by landing on the enemies).  Get used to these. This screen shows an unavoidable hit coming up (by landing on the enemies). Get used to these.

    Remaining from the first game is the aspect of the Master floating above the world on a cloud. The player will float around until a location name pops up below, and pressing A will have the angel speak some boring facts about the location. If it is a city, nothing else can be done. If it is an actual level the Master will be transferred to it. Six levels are available at the beginning, with a second level in each area accessible upon beating the first. The final area is opened once all the others have been conquered. The only part of the game that does not conform to standard platform title practice is adequate, no more.

    Once the Master is in a level, platform usages are observed at all times. The Master has a sword and can swing it in several directions, can jump and double-jump, and has special attacks in the form of magic spells. Enemies throw themselves and projectiles at the Master constantly, along with certain environmental hazards showing up. The Master can block some projectiles with his shield, though since many enemies use attacks that hit from more than one direction this is problematic. There is no experience or money in this game – the Master is as strong in the first level as he will ever be. The Master has a set number of lives to attempt each level with, and if he loses all of them will be sent back to the cloud where the angel says ‘You have been defeated.’

    Regular jumps are okay. Double-jumps are not. The Master has wings now, and these are used in the double-jump to achieve further height. There is a way to glide (hold Up while double-jumping) but this will not grant the distance necessary to cross many gaps, forcing the player to use the other variants of the double-jump that control less than ideally. Being hit while double-jumping will of course cause the Master to fall out of the sky, often right into something that will hit him again. Enemies reappear if the player scrolls the screen just a bit, making many areas incredibly frustrating. The Master’s movement is also slower than it should be, considering that dodging attacks is often advisable but incredibly tricky to pull off.

I see a bat melded with the first boss from R-type…. I see a bat melded with the first boss from R-type….

    Magic is used by holding the attack button for a bit until the Master flashes red. There are a fair number of spells that can be used depending upon what the Master is doing at the time, though most of them are unnecessary. The problem with magic lies in how often it can be used. The number of magic spells usable at the beginning of a level does not reset if a life is lost, meaning that the player could get into a situation with a boss of having used all magic in learning the boss’s strategies and then being unable to exploit them.

    Act Raiser 2 comes with three difficulty settings, though even the easiest is not simple. Raising the difficulty means enemies have more health and do more damage, plus the Master has fewer magic spells and fewer lives to use in a level. Later levels have bottomless pits and enemies that respawn in midair with projectile attacks, making them incredibly unpleasant to play even on easy. There is also a level with random lightning attacks that take two seconds to dissipate coupled with crumbling platforms. Bosses are sometimes easy to defeat, sometimes insanely annoying (such as the one that can create a shield the Master must hack down over and over). Anyone who likes masochistic challenges is welcome to take this game on. There is no save feature either – passwords must be taken down if one wishes to play the game in chunks.

    If one can play through the game in one sitting without dying, it would probably require around 90 minutes. Considering all the dying and restarting that will occur, however, six to seven hours will probably be necessary for the easy setting. There is no hidden content whatsoever save that which can be accessed with codes.

    At least the visuals are nice. Act Raiser 2 looks good, with the Master animating well and enemies looking impressive. Some levels have nice background and foreground animations as well, though the insect nest level with plenty of foreground animation can be a pain to see. Sadly the visuals are the best thing about the game. While the music is decent, the sound effects are terrible. The Master’s utterance upon swinging his sword never changes, and it sounds rather like a cat having a hairball. The music cannot rescue the sound department.

    Lovers of sadistically frustrating platform titles are welcome to investigate Act Raiser 2. Lovers of the first game are bound to be disappointed, indeed to despair. Lovers of RPGs but not platform titles are advised to stay far, far away. Act Raiser 2 is an unpleasant exercise in how not to construct a platform title.

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