Actraiser is a game that was originally released in 1993. It is an action-adventure game with role-playing elements and a strong focus on story. The player controls the protagonist, who must rebuild the world after it has been destroyed by a great flood.
Actraiser Renaissance is a game that was released in the year of 1988. It is an action platformer that has been remastered for modern consoles. The game received mixed reviews from critics, but it still holds a lot of nostalgia for many people.
When I evaluated the game SolSeraph in 2019, I actually ended the review with the following statement:
“In any case, I doubt Square Enix plans to re-release Actraiser in any form…”
It wasn’t insane to believe that Square Enix was happy with never bringing Actraiser back to life in any manner, shape, or form at the time, or even up until a week ago. Despite the fact that the game is adored among vintage gamers, it has never been a commercial success. It’s nothing short of a miracle that Actraiser Renaissance exists. However, there is a catch: Actraiser has always been a strange game, combining action platforming with city construction. SolSeraph attempted but failed to revive the combination. Let’s see whether it was an issue with that game specifically, or if such a notion has just outlived its usefulness.
In a 2021 game, pre-rendered visuals are used.
Actraiser, which was first published in 1991, combines classic 2D action platforming parts, in which you control a deity statue that has come to life, with city construction and administration, in which you control an angel supervising the growth of a primitive society that worships you. The game’s cult reputation was fueled by the contrast between these two totally different genres, as well as Yuzo Koshiro’s superb music, even though it didn’t have much of a cultural effect at the time. It makes sense to bring it back to a new audience with a full recreation of the original, but you must first realize one thing: Actraiser Renaissance is a low-budget game. Square Enix didn’t give Sonic Powered much money to rebuild the game, and it shows.
Actraiser Renaissance makes a bad first impression. You are met with one of the most unusual visual styles seen in a contemporary videogame when you first step into the shoes of the resurrected deity statue in the first 2D level, Fillmore. It’s all… pre-rendered. Like Donkey Kong Country or the original Mortal Kombat games, for example. Everything is 3D assets converted into sprites, whether it’s the main character, opponents, or level components itself, and it doesn’t look nice at all. It doesn’t help that the game has some strange frame pacing problems, with some reviews reporting that it skips every sixth frame, resulting in a strange glitchy effect, a Unity engine fault.
Actraiser Renaissance seems like a mobile game because of these static conversation parts.
Actraiser Renaissance as a whole isn’t all that bad. Other 2D levels include less pre-rendered objects and a higher proportion of hand-drawn sprites. When you’re floating above a town with your angel guide, it doesn’t seem that terrible. It works well with no problems. There are no animations or voiceovers in these parts, due to the creators’ likely mobile gaming expertise. Dialogue sections consist of (well-drawn) static pictures talking to you through barrages of text. It isn’t perfect, but that isn’t a problem. That’s why there’s a skip button.
These city administration portions are lengthier than in the original Actraiser, although they aren’t very bothersome. There are new sidequests to do, as well as a slew of fresh new tower defense parts, although the latter are so simple that I didn’t mind. Sure, it takes a bit to get back into a full-fledged 2D platforming segment, apart from brief battles against “Spawners,” but it’s well worth the wait. There are also some completely new 2D levels that are superior than most old Actraiser levels in terms of design. They also have fresh new songs on them. In relation to that…
If you thought Yuzo Koshiro’s music sounded amazing on a SNES soundchip, wait till you hear the same songs performed live by an orchestra. The music for Actraiser Renaissance is as follows. What was previously great now sounds much better. Battles with bosses sound considerably more tense. The title theme is reminiscent of a heavenly hymn. The attention to detail is exceptional, to the point where the handful of new songs created for this remake (I did say new levels, didn’t I?) are available in both orchestrated and SNES-style versions, which you can choose between in the settings menu.
The tower defense portions of Actraiser Renaissance will not appeal to everyone. To be honest, I didn’t mind them.
Actraiser Renaissance is a strange creature. It isn’t very aesthetically appealing, and it takes an age before it gets really fascinating, but if you stick with it for the first couple of hours, you’ll discover why the half-dozen individuals who played the original in the 1990s still like it. However, a game of this magnitude deserved a remake with a little larger budget. With that said, if the game sells well enough, Square Enix may decide to make a real sequel to Actraiser, which we’ve been waiting for since 1991. By the way, I’m intentionally disregarding Actraiser II’s existence.
It’s a jumble. Because to its pre-rendered graphics and jerky frame tempo, the first level makes a bad first impression. Later on, though, things improve. Even though it seems to be low-budget as heck, the game looks appealing during its city administration portions.
Even if the platforming portions are somewhat hindered by frame pacing problems, they are functional enough. Simple controls are included in the city management portions, although they are inadequately taught throughout the game’s lengthy tutorials. Not everyone will like the tower defense portions.
The orchestrated version of Yuzo Koshiro’s reworked music is nothing short of spectacular. The original SNES-style music is also included.
The Renaissance of Actraisers is… intriguing. Despite its ugliness and dubious design choices, it maintains the qualities that made the original so popular among vintage fans. All you have to do now is get through the first few hours, which are really terrible.
Final Score: 7.0
Actraiser Renaissance is currently available on PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices.
PS4 was used for this review.
The publisher supplied me with a copy of Actraiser Renaissance.
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Actraiser Renaissance is a 2D action-adventure game that was originally released in 1993. The game has been remade for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. Reference: actraiser renaissance wiki.
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