(“I know it’s unexpected, but our people in Fillmore have something to tell you.”)
ActRaiser isn’t particularly innovative, nor is it an overlooked masterpiece by any means, but it’s conspicuous for being the first truly accessible console-based god game, a subgenre of artificial life\simulation games pioneered the year prior by Peter Molyneux’s Populous for the PC. The reason for this is so simple, it almost feels like cheating: the potentially off-putting simulation portions of the game were seeded with a copious number of side-scrolling platformer levels, effectively making ActRaiser appealing to two very different subsets of gamer.
Not unlike Maniac Mansion and Monster Party, ActRaiser was the victim of Nintendo’s staunch censorship policies: in this case, the inclusion of any overtly religious material. In the original Japanese version of the game, the player is quite clearly labelled God and the overarching nemesis Satan; for the North American release, these names were changed to The Master and Tanzra, respectively, and in the game’s English documentation, a point was placed on the fact that The Master was eminently mortal. This runs counter to the exceptional - and exceptionally divine - supernatural powers acquired by the player, not to mention the underlying basis of the game, but in practice does little to detract from gameplay. As The Master, the player must assist worshippers in rebuilding a world wracked by evil forces, and this is accomplished in two ways: by clearing each region of demons and monsters with the assistance of an archery-inclined cherub, thus allowing the populace to thrive, and by descending into heroic statues scattered throughout the land and personally taking up arms against said creatures.
ActRaiser is currently available on the Wii’s Virtual Console. A mobile port was released by Macrovision in 2004, containing the first three platformer levels and skipping the game’s simulation aspect completely. Like ActRaiser II, this port is largely considered a critical failure in comparison to the game that spawned it.
|(The game’s soundtrack, composed by Yuzo Koshiro, received GameSpot’s Best Music award in 1993. A portion of the score was arranged into a medley by Koshiro and performed at the second annual Symphonic Game Music Concert in Leipzig in 2004.)|