ActRaiser: Of Silent Gods and Naked Cherubs
We eyed each other. Neither one of us saying a word. I knew from the start this would be a difficult battle to win because experience was not on my side, but power was. The prophets had sung of this moment and I would not disappoint them. The words danced on the tip of my tongue and I uttered with a thundering voice (that only a 13 year old can manage), “I evoke the right of NINTENDO POWER!”. (Pause for dramatic effect). “What?” the clerk responded. “I said I evoke the right of NINTENDO POWER”. (Pause for awkward effect). “Listen kid, I know what you said but I really have no clue what you are talking about”. I stood there speechless.
How could this old man of 23, this PHILISTINE not know what I was referring to? It specifically states in my issue of Nintendo Power that Super Mario Bros 3 is one of the greatest games on the NES. IF that is so, why was this FUNCOLAND employee only willing to give me $6 dollars as a trade in? So begins my first foray into the seedy underworld of video game trade-ins. I had walked in with a system, 4 controllers, a light gun, 24 games, and a Game Genie. What I walked out with was a used SNES, 2 games, and crushed 13 year old optimism.
ActRaiser was the first game I ever received on the SNES. At the time I really didn’t know too much about it only that the box cover looked cool (you can never go wrong with lightning shooting from the sky) and that I really couldn’t pronounce the name correctly. After getting home I hooked up the SNES to my 12 inch color monitor, slapped the cartridge in and wept with joy at the sights and sounds that awaited me . No more of that kiddie 8-bit crap. I had seen the future and the future was 16-bit.
ActRaiser was an interesting fusion of action/adventure and a light sprinkling of RPG elements. All I know was that ActRaiser was good. It was damned good. The game requires you to control The Master as he returns to a world that no longer believes in him. The first section of the game requires you to descend from the heavens (in awesome Mode 7 fashion) and enter the empty vessel of the protagonist. These sections involved a heavy mix of sword play and magic spread across frozen tundra, dark forests, sun-baked deserts, and lush swamps. During these sections, you must cleanse the region from the clutches of mythical monsters (both land and air based) that have invaded the lands. Nothing was more satisfying that blowing through these beautiful captivating areas only to be met with almost certain doom at the hands/claws/jaws of screen filling bosses.
By proceeding, you come to the city building aspect of the game. In this area, you take control of a nude little cherub whose only weapon is a bow and arrow. During this section of the game, you must protect the new inhabitants of the land as they try to rebuild society. This area of the game really made me question my life. While all the other kids were in their backyards pulling the wings off flies or spraying the water hose at the dog I was safe indoors decimating my budding community with acts of God. You see, in ActRaiser, you must destroy your village before you can build bigger homes and larger fields. To do this, you are required to hit towns with earthquakes, wind storms, lightning, and rain; all the while protecting your citizens from the perils of winged enemies and their own brain-dead stupidity. Feeling the need to constantly burn down huts for no better reason than to cause distress is one of the most satisfying experiences of my early years. Why did I do these things you ask? I really don’t know, maybe because it was fun? Another interesting aspect of the city building is that it requires you to obtain items and materials from other towns and passing them on as offerings before towns can be fully developed. This gave you a better feeling of connection to your worshippers and that your actions truly altered their lives.
For its time ActRaiser displayed some of the best graphics the system had to offer with vibrant colors, detailed environments, and huge bosses. The music was a collection of fast tempo beats and relaxing melodies that fit in perfectly the level locations. All in all, ActRaiser was a wonderful gem in the early years of the SNES and a game I consider one of the best. Now excuse me as I head back to town. The stupid little bumpkin townspeople want me to help them grow wheat and the only way I can think of doing that is with fire. Just like in real life!
Released on the SNES, December of 1990
Published by ENIX.