ActRaiser was an early launch title for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) which was made available on the Wii Virtual Console (VC). You take the role of the \'Master\', who had been sleeping for hundreds of years after he had been badly injured by the evil one called Tanzra. The Master had kept the world peaceful and in harmony, but Tanzra, his eternal enemy, gathered his six guardians and nearly defeated him. After this rest, the Master has been healed, and he intends to restore the ruined land. Only the stone statues the people from long ago made in honor of their Master remain as evidence of the once-thriving society. It\'s time to take the world back from the clutches of the evil one!

What kind of game is this, and how does it play?

ActRaiser is somewhat interesting to categorize, but it\'s part action/platform, part simulation, with some RPG elements thrown in for good measure. The game starts you off in your sky temple, where you can take a look at the world from an \'in the clouds\' view. After this, you choose to free Fillmore (the first area) from all monsters. This is what is called the Act I action sequence. Your character inhabits a stone statue, and you then go through the stage in a side scrolling manner where you run, jump, and slash with your sword to defeat the monsters, including an end of stage boss. After you beat this level, it brings you to the first simulation part of the game. The simulation mode has a lot of meat to it. You start with two people, your servants, and you help lead them to build up a town. In the process of building up a town, you control not only your own actions which include miracles like lightning, rain, wind, sun, and earthquakes, but you also control your angel, which looks somewhat like how a baby-style angel is pictured in popular culture. This angel can shoot arrows at any of the several different enemies that can appear in lairs throughout the map. If left unattended, each lair will spawn one of several different types of annoying creatures, ranging from Napper Bats to Giant Skulls. Your angel can also alert you of something on the people\'s behalf, as well as help you direct the peoples\' building direction. After all lairs are sealed and other requirements are settled, you can try to finally defeat the guardian of the area to help the people truly be free forever. This battle is called Act II, and is the second side-scrolling section in each level. After you defeat the guardian for this area, you are returned to the simulation mode. Sometimes there are a few things left to do after this second simulation mode, but not always. It is best to try to get as much population as you can before moving onto the next area. The more people you have, the higher your level, which means more hit points to survive those pesky action sequences. Also, in several of the areas your people can uncover new magic spells for you, additional magic points, and even more lives, all of which are again used in action sequences. Then you proceed, through the sky palace, to the next area. After defeating the guardians in each area and raising a sizable population for yourself, you are ready to take on Tanzra in his lair. You can see how both modes are interwoven, which really adds to the depth of this game, and makes the simulation mode a lot more fun. I\'ve never been one for those Sim City-style games, mostly because I found little purpose to my city building other than building a city. Here, you have a goal as well as tangible benefits to making sure you have the best living arrangements for your subjects as possible.

How are the graphics?

ActRaiser was a Super Nintendo launch game, so the graphics are not the best on the system. However, they do feature some good looking backgrounds, sprites, and utilizes some mode 7 effects as well. Some of the animations are a little stiff, but that could be somewhat intentional considering your character is an animated statue. Overall I would say they are pretty good, and most importantly for a Virtual Console release, they age exceptionally well.

What about the sound and music?

The sound effects are decent; some of them are definitely trademark ActRaiser - for example your character\'s slash makes a \'hah\' sound that you won\'t soon forget. Wink The music, however, is something else entirely. This game has some of the best music in the history of video games, or at least in the 16-bit era. It\'s really that good. It sounds like an orchestra is playing for you. This music is so highly regarded that Yuzo Koshiro\'s masterpiece was played by a live symphony orchestra in Japan, including an extremely rare Symphonic Suite CD performed by the Shinsei Nihon Symphony Orchestra. It belongs with Final Fantasy, Zelda, and other classic game music soundtracks. I don\'t know how to give this music a higher compliment. There are several very fast-paced, intense action and battle music themes like Fillmore (my favorite) and Bloodpool, some excellent mood setting music like Aitos and Northwall, and some nice, calming music like the different simulation musical themes. If you enjoy game music, this is definitely one to turn up.

How appropriate is this game for Christians?

Now here is where things get complicated. There are no real problems with language or sexuality. There are some enemies that look like skulls, ghosts, reapers, dragons, or demons. There are also some that look like they would come out of history or mythology, like Centaurs, Minotaurs, Serpents, Wizards, or Pharaoh-like enemies. All in all, they are enemies. There is a fairly clear good vs. evil mechanic in this game, which is a plus. Your character is basically supposed to represent God. Yes, it seems to be a form of literary license, or allegory, on the Creation story. In the US version, references to God are substantially toned down, so a young player would probably not catch it, but anyone paying more attention would eventually pick it up. Especially in the ending where though not said outright, it\'s pretty obvious. The evil guardian demons and Tanzra also seem to be references to the fall of Satan. Many of the other six \'guardians\' seem to be references to ancient Pagan religions. The Master is also a weaker \'God\', in the sense that he was defeated and almost killed hundreds of years before. He is also limited, in that he needs power from worshipping people in order to be able to defeat evil. He also needs to take the form of an animated statue in order to battle his evil foes. Even still, the Master does create life, restore peace, and help the faithful people through miracles. As a player, you can also be somewhat cruel to the people by destroying their buildings, and even killing some of them through miracles or allowing some of the creatures in simulation mode to kill them. The game kind of rewards you as well, as once your civilization reaches level 3, any old structures do not increase in population as much, so destroying them allows the people to replace them with better structures, which raises your level. There is also no commentary on the issue, which I see as good and bad. Zapping your people with lightning bolts seems mean, but in another sense a deity (or God) would always know what is best for his people, so perhaps they should take what happens to them as it is. It\'s one of those thought provoking moments that this game has a few of, if you are mature or aware enough to see it. ** This paragraph contains spoilers - you have been warned. ** Other topics that do come up are issues of reincarnation and irrefutable destiny. One person sacrificed himself for their town, and that was his destiny, while in another it is mentioned that people were reincarnated from the previously peaceful era of the Master\'s first reign. One interesting and thought provoking issue is that once everything is going well for the people, they stop asking things of the Master, and eventually stop praying to him altogether, as the shrine is empty. It makes you think about what peace and affluence do to us in our own society and how conveniences can draw people away from God to the point that some don\'t seem to \'need\' Him anymore. ** End of spoilers. **

Overall & Conclusion

ActRaiser is a very fun game with a lot going for it. It also has some things going against it. The game itself is fairly short, though after you beat it there opens up a more difficult \'Professional\' mode, where you go through only the action sequences one after another. The main game itself is not extremely difficult. There is little reason to play through it again either, since there are few significant choices that would warrant another play through, unless you want to just for fun of course. The appropriateness issues are definitely deep and complex. It\'s difficult to recommend - or not. Consider carefully whether or not these things mentioned above are acceptable in your home. However, if you decide that they are okay, the game is a treat and a lot of fun to play while it lasts. It\'s long been considered a classic for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Appropriateness Score: Violence 6.5/10 Language 10/10 Sexual Content/Nudity 10/10 Occult/Supernatural 3/10 Cultural/Moral/Ethical 8/10 Appropriateness Total: 37.5/50 Game Score: Game Play 17/20 Graphics 10/10 Sound/Music 10/10 Stability/Polish 5/5 Controls/Interface 5/5 Game Score Total: 47/50

Overall: 84.5/100


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