ActRaiser Renaissance review: raise one for a great remake of a 16-bit classic

1990’s ActRaiser is unique. Most online video games released in the late ’80s tasked you with conserving a princess from a dragon. ActRaiser states, “Hey, would you intellect playing God with the people dwelling on the demon-scarred land you just liberated? They are really squishy and helpless. Thanks, you are a peach.”

The game’s developer, Quintet, was quite special, as well. The moment a department of Enix prior to the latter joined with Squaresoft in 2003, Quintet was powering a whole lot of SNES-era RPGs that are nonetheless fondly remembered now, this kind of Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma. They’re all solid adventures that share a canon, albeit vaguely, and deal with some very hefty matter make a difference, which includes colonialism, poverty, and the slave trade. Alas, Quintet disbanded when Sq. Enix was born, and most of its crew scattered to the winds. There’s been a Q-shaped hole in my coronary heart at any time considering that, so I hope I can be excused for yelling like a madwoman when ActRaiser Renaissance made a surprise debut at the September 2024 Nintendo Direct presentation.

My elation swiftly gave way to hesitation. On the net markets are swarming with medicore “upgrades” of common games. ActRaiser Renaissance also struck me as a cynical 2.5D reskin of Quintet’s exceptional motion activity/town builder. I picked up the recreation in spite of my fears, and felt aid as they dissipated one by just one. ActRaiser Renaissance is aware what its resource material is all about – particularly, gratifying action sequences, pleasurable town interactions, and sequence breaking like a drunk time traveller.

You engage in by ActRaiser Renaissance as “The Learn,” i.e. God. You awaken from a deep, healing rest to uncover the demon who set you in the floor, Tanzra, has been throwing a millenia-very long home bash for his monster homies. You should rise up yet again, undertake a warrior avatar, and defeat Tanzra more than the head. But initially, you must regain your shed electric power – and practically nothing boosts a god like a hearty bowl of religion soup.

A warrior jumps to avoid fireballs in a forest in ActRaiser Renaissance

By clearing the land of monsters and viewing around the humans’ fledging settlements, you can experience their faith like a divine tapeworm. The very first phase of town-constructing in ActRaiser Renaissance consists of finishing an motion-platforming phase, which features combating a manager at the end of it. Then the Learn beams a proverbial Adam and Eve down to the freed land, where by they toil, make, and multiply. Therefore goeth the creating/sim part of the recreation.

ActRaiser Renaissance’s city-building sequences get place from a prime-down point of view. The segments are overseen by your cherubic angel servant, who has a true mouth on him. The angel directs the townspeople on how they ought to create their roadways, which in turn encourages them to farm crops, assemble homes, and establish factories. Thorough cultivation of your cities indicates a better population, and that indicates much more religion for you to bulk up on like a winged Popeye on a holy spinach binge. You are not able to get too relaxed on your cloud, however. 1 city will not likely deliver almost more than enough faith for you to gobble down. You have to have to journey to other monster-infested lands and clear them out by way of more platforming sequences.

The facet-scrolling action in ActRaiser Renaissance might feel significant and awkward to an individual raised on the magnificence of Hollow Knight or Celeste. But if you grew up enjoying 16-little bit platformers, ActRaiser Renaissance feels like coming house. The Master has a clumsy heft that is a little maddening, which is accurately how my aged bones like it.

A warrior fights a minotaur in ActRaiser Renaissance

That explained, it is effortless to respect the modifications builders Sonic Driven and Square Enix made to the Master’s moveset. The new upward and downward slash moves are welcome additions, as is the Master’s skill to backslide away from threat. The action stages in ActRaiser Renaissance are reasonably tricky (trace: the unique SNES localization bumped down the difficulty, which is what you’ll practical experience if you established ActRaiser Renaissance on “Straightforward”), and they are greater than the initial game’s stages. Just about every amount also holds collectables that can electricity you up forever, so if you need a enhance versus a tricky manager, all you need to do is delve a tiny further into the crevices just before you.

ActRaiser’s make-fight-establish cycle was satisfying in 1990, and it holds up in ActRaiser Renaissance. In particular, Sonic Driven have additional an admirable amount of articles to the city developing sections, which now demand you to defend them in scheduled tower defence sequences. This is exactly where ActRaiser Renaissance splits me. Just hearing “tower defence” will make me groan, and my heart fell when I realized I might be making towers and gates to strike down the rabble that oozes about the game’s townships. But I grew much more fond of these interludes as I collected extra Heroes – tale-centric warriors anchored to each city – and obtained the ability to whisk them into other towns’ skirmishes. (What did the indigenous warrior ghost Migrana think when I teleported her from her frigid homeland to combat in the blazing dunes of Kassandora? I don’t know! Sounds like a entire lot of Not My Dilemma!)

An angel hovers over a town under attack in ActRaiser Renaissance

ActRaiser Renaissance’s graphics admittedly make the video game appear to be tough around the edges. It does not glimpse poor, but the boss sprites in certain lack the imposing dimension and fat of the primary SNES roster. It really is really quick to judge ActRaiser Renaissance on a handful of screenshots, but there are also charming visible facts that shouldn’t be forgotten. The townspeople are endlessly active in the sim parts, and you can watch them as they reduce wooden, do laundry, till fields, and pet canines. A righteous people today indeed.

Tower protection controversy aside, Sonic Powered have successfully captured the fulfillment of “cultivating” your own toughness by means of your persons. And when their populace plateaus, it truly is time to blast their fields and residences so they make even larger, better fields and residences, and elevate your individual degree cap accordingly. As an individual who grew up only being aware of the God of the Aged Testament, I can enjoy what the Master is all about.

An angel hovers over a desert in ActRaiser Renaissance

Most importantly, ActRaiser Renaissance isn’t going to limit you to siphoning a person city at a time. As extended as your concentrations are satisfactory, you can convey to one particular town to acquire a hike when you bounce off to obtain the following Promised Land. Then you can return to deal with your very first flock’s difficulties every time you like. In point, this “town surfing” becomes important later on in the adventure. A single city may perhaps obtain by itself stricken by a plague that can only be healed by herbs in a faraway tropical settlement. You happen to be normally staying encouraged to battle and shift and develop, and it all melds into a wonderful gameplay loop.

When Quintet disbanded, a lot of of its developers sadly light from the business. ActRaiser Renaissance is as a result the get the job done of a total new personnel (barring legendary composer Yuzo Koshiro, who returned to revise his epic soundtrack while incorporating a slew of new tunes). It truly is generally worrying to see a beloved house fall into the palms of a new workforce, but Sonic Driven have finished ideal by ActRaiser. And that’s important, mainly because Quintet’s catalogue justifies to be remembered and revisited. With any luck, ActRaiser Renaissance may herald but a different renaissance for the likes of Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma.