Quintet’s cult classic is reborn with a new interpretation that expands its game content.
One of the biggest surprises of the last Nintendo Direct on September 24 was the very unexpected announcement of Actraiser Renaissance , the return of one of the most beloved Super Nintendo games and the first work developed by the now-defunct Quintet company. Now it is Square Enix that owns this license and the one that has brought back the original classic with more than just a facelift. The Sonic Powered studio has been in charge of the remake , a small Japanese developer who usually works on games for portable and mobile consoles, something that can be seen in the finish itself.
ActRaiser was released in 1990 for the Super Nintendo and belongs to the console’s first batch titles, but despite this it became a cult game. Even today it is still unique and very original – ActRaiser 2 improved quite graphically but lost some of that originality – with an anthology soundtrack. Its visuals haven’t aged as well, so bringing it back to our times with a new look is a great opportunity to do it justice.
The fight between Good and Evil
Actraiser Renaissance is presented in the best possible way, with an introduction sequence that perfectly sums up the story that we are going to find, and also does it with an animated style that looks great. The game puts us in the shoes of the Lord of Light – to whom we can put a name, as in RPGs – a deity who comes down from his Celestial Palace to take the form of an old statue and help the poor villagers of the six regions of the world, which are threatened by the hosts of Tanzra, the fearsome Lord of Darkness. At our side is the Angel, whom we must also control in order to recruit the six prophetic heroes and defeat the forces of Evil.
Everything we’ve seen anticipates that this will not be a simple remaster of the original ActRaiser with some scanline filters , but rather a full-fledged reinvention. The designs have been renewed and it shows off some magnificent illustrations that go beyond promotional art , as we will see that they are used for the characters and the backgrounds of the conversations, as in the KOEI games. The interface, the logo have been renewed and content has been added that expands the experience without altering it.
The animated intro scene is one of the greatest visual successes of this ‘Actraiser Renaissance’.
The jug of cold water comes as we enter Act 1 of Fillmore, at which point we discover the new graphics for the action and platforming sections. We are very sorry because the intention shows that it is good, but the chosen style only shows that Square Enix did not want to risk too much with the budget and this was initially going to be a mobile-only game. Backgrounds and enemies are pre-rendered and have a somewhat inconsistent effect , because they don’t seem to be even in high resolution, the interface is somewhat sharper. It looks like a graphic section halfway between Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, which he cannot reach. The animations also seem somewhat dated, as if trying to follow the same movement of the original Super Nintendo, being more gory on the breakable objects.
However, the game responds well and is faithful enough, so we will soon be forgetting about this setback because it hooks as it did in its day . In fact, they have added enough elements to the gameplay, the first of which is the variety of attacks: now we can make strong attacks in fall, steps backwards, cuts upwards and even a combo of three swords that ends in a lunge. Magic uses a MP (Magic Points) bar instead of going for uses — the spells can be executed even in the air—, and we can collect gems on the stage that will give us bonuses to the attack, greatly improving the experience. The last level of these power-upsIt gives us the possibility of resurrecting once, something that is represented by changing the color of the Lord’s aura – a detail clearly inherited from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night -, which goes from blue to green and then to yellow.
The action and platform sections will remind us more than ever of a certain vampire slayer saga.
The levels are not exactly the same either, they are expanded and changes have been included such as statues of the Lord of Light, which heal our vitality and serve as a midway checkpoint . This does not mean that the game is easier, as it continues to have the dreaded knockback for damage that used to cause most deaths at the time. The bosses are something simple, but some of the levels will surely be repeated, since there are many open fronts by which they can hurt us. Once we complete these acts, we will be able to access new areas in the regions of the map, although we will have to first level up to be able to access them.
The birth of the town
As in the original game, among the platforming action sections there is an act that is reserved for the Angel: the god simulation sections . This is where we are going to find the biggest difference with the Super Nintendo title, but in our opinion all the additions that have been made in this part are logical improvements that make it a much more complete and balanced game. In addition, the drawing distance in these parts makes the pre-rendered graphics do not clash so much, the same as happens on the world map, which allows us to move with the Celestial Palace and presents very cool details, such as clouds in real time or a view of our built cities.
Most of the time we will spend in the strategy and construction sections, as complete as they are addictive.
Once we establish the territory for the temple, we will have to make the city prosper, first with the construction of houses and roads, later with fortifications. Here we will control the Angel to guide the people in the construction or to clean the land, for which we will have to use miracles : rains, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes or sunlight to drain swamps. During this period we will be attacked by some winged minions that start from the lairs that open in the ground, but we can use the Angel’s arrows to easily keep them at bay, as if from a shoot’em up.it will be. We will have to close the lairs themselves as we progress with the villagers, at which time new action sections will open, a kind of bonus stage in which we only have to attack with the Lord of Light the nuclei that these monsters generate . These meetings are affordable —although they get complicated—, but they help break the slower pace of cities.
Also as in the original the villagers will speak to us with their prayers in the temple, only now there are more conversations . At first it is a bit overwhelming, the tutorials are constant and they interrupt us every two by three to tell us something. Later this calms down a bit, although it continues to have redundant texts, especially what the Angel tells us as we progress, which is the same in all areas. In spite of everything, when we get used to its rhythm it is more enjoyable, and although the story is not memorable, it does serve its function of entertaining in the search for heroes.
To the simulation mechanics are added the conversations that lead us to recruit the six prophetic heroes.
The biggest addition in this part is the wave missions, small tower defense style battles – probably inspired by SolSeraph, the spiritual aftermath — that put our defensive tactics to the test. Besides that they fit perfectly with the construction mechanics, the truth is that they are not generated, but we intervene commanding the heroes, using miracles or placing palisades, which are added to the forts and towers that we have built before. The objective in this case is usually to keep the temple standing, protect specific buildings that they ask of us and destroy all the demons. This adds one more layer of depth, the downside is that they take a good part of the game time – especially if we have to repeat them, since they are not always easy – and perhaps they would have worked better if there were only three or four missions per city, but except for that small imbalance it is one of the parts that we have enjoyed the most, it is just as entertaining.
The map is very well recreated and incorporates some real-time effects, such as moving clouds.
Music is one of the most important elements of the game, and not only because of its quality, but because of the amount of changes it brings . The game menu itself includes a section called Music that serves as the classic sound tests , to unlock and listen to the themes of the game. Yuzo Koshiro has been in charge of the soundtrack arrangements—A mix between a baroque-style orchestra and touches of rock— and he’s exceptional, but he has also composed 15 new songs. The original SNES music can also be chosen from the menu and Koshiro has adapted these new tracks to the sampled sound of the old Nintendo machine. In addition, one of the changes that it had in the western version has been corrected, now the famous song “Fillmore” also plays in the background in Act 2, just as it happened in the Japanese. The only thing we miss is the Symphonic Suite Actraiser orchestra .
In the technical section, it moves fluently at 60 fps – with slight drops to 50 fps on consoles that can be solved by deactivating the environmental effects – and loading times can become somewhat annoying if you do not have an SSD. Unfortunately the texts do not come in Spanish, it only includes Japanese and the most common languages within the Multi-3 (English, French, German).
A holy rebirth
Actraiser Renaissance is a respectful remake of new content that keeps the spirit of the original alive . It continues to show a fresh combination of platform action and god simulation to which it has incorporated more strategy and tower defense elements that will give us around 20 hours of gameplay. It only lacked greater ambition in the graphic section – or at least to have included the original game for those who do not enjoy the new finish – and perhaps a tighter price, but hopefully this is the beginning of more license rebirths that were forgotten in the last.
We have carried out this analysis thanks to a code for PS4 provided by Koch Media.
Edgar S. Fuentes
Its still original combination of action, platforming, RPG and god simulation.
The renewed art for the backgrounds and the illustrations of the characters.
Yuzo Koshiro’s soundtrack, with royal instrumentation in all its glory.
Graphically, it risks very little, the animations and effects are out of tune.
His numerous texts have not been translated into Spanish.
Actraiser Renaissance is the modest reinvention that brings to mind one of the immortal games of the 16-bit era, now with much more content and hours of gameplay but with the fidelity it deserves