Actraiser Renaissance – Nintendo Switch Review
Developer: Sonic Powered, Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre(s): Action, Simulation, Strategy, Role-Playing
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on Steam, PS4, IOS and ANDROID)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 24/09/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
The original Actraiser was one almighty game. Originally released back in 1990 on the SNES (aka the Super Famicom) the game mixed action-platforming with a pretty in-depth world builder. Actraiser managed to capture your imagination and gave you the tools to literally play God. Since the initial release there’s been a less than memorable sequel – Actraiser 2 – then a few decades of slumber happened to our Lord of Light.
Jump forward to 2021 and developer Sonic Powered have brought Actraiser Renaissance – a full remake – to the Nintendo Switch. With RPG power house Square Enix acting as Publisher, what could go wrong? *Spoilers* not a lot!
Let’s Play God!
The story to Actraiser Renaissance is your typical ‘Good Vs. Evil.’ You take on the role of a nameless benevolent God who’s descended from the heavens to take on the resident bad guy and his legions of minions. To do this you’ll have to help the local population expand their territory whilst tackling everything that the Dark Lord, Tanzra throws at them – and you. The Dark Lord isn’t acting alone and has divided this world into various sectors. These sectors are controlled by a unique boss who acts as Tanzra’s governor.
While the story isn’t particularly memorable, its world and inhabitants are. Throughout your journey your many followers will rely on you to protect them from harm and lead them into battle. You’ll certainly become attached to these villagers as you guide them from nothing to their eventual freedom.
When playing Actraiser Renaissance the game plays out via two distinct ways. First off is a traditional side-scroller that’ll see you controlling your deity’s physical self in the real world. These locations play out much like other side-scrolling adventure games, with each level ending with a typical boss battle. The other gameplay mechanic is more of a world builder. This sees you switch to playing as your advisor – a very talkative angel – as you’ll direct how your followers live their lives.
The aim here is to expand your influence within the region as well as building your settlement. The Dark Lord’s minions are of a constant threat within this mode, but to combat this your angel helper comes equipped with an infinite amount of arrows to shoot at them. Once the settlement is ready to tackle the threats, in the form of monster lairs that spawn at intervals, gameplay then switches back to the side-scrolling aspect for you to attack.
In addition to building the settlement, you’ll also have to fortify it too. This is done by placing forts of various capabilities that’ll act as watch towers during the all out attacks by the Dark Lord. It’s during these moments that Actraiser Renaissance turns into a somewhat tower defence as you’ll be commanding your champion as well as utilising your own powers to slow the enemy down enough for your towers to defeat them. These moments aren’t particularly entertaining or interesting and come the game’s ending they’d have outstayed their welcome tenfold. There’s certainly a degree of strategy involved that’ll see you micromanaging both your own skills and your champion’s whereabouts at all times. Yet, if you build enough towers you can essentially ‘turtle’ the enemies into loosing every battle.
The overall presentation to Actraiser Renaissance is a bit of a mixed bag. For the most, it’s a vast improvement over the 1990 original. There’s some gorgeous anime style visuals that represent both your champions and villagers during conversations. The dialogue text is also well-written, with each member of the cast having plenty of input to the current situation. The champion characters also have a great degree of backstory to them which will see them explain both their past and motivations in joining your side. It’s a nice touch that certainly humanises everything that’s going on. Each district of the world is also unique and features a variety of different landscapes, themed buildings, and villagers.
However, the side-scrolling segments are the game’s biggest issue. Everything from the backgrounds to the enemies during these segments are pre-rendered. This means that while these segments handle fairly smoothly, they’re also pretty ugly. Enemies often look very pixilated with a ‘rough around the edges’ feel to them. Level design also suffers from the same issues with everything having a rough – almost – unfinished feel. While it isn’t enough to hamper the experience it is a bit of a poor show considering.
With this remake, Sonic Powered have fully revamped the control system. During the side-scrolling parts your character has an expanded move list which is greatly improved over its predecessor. Holding the analogue stick in various positions will grant you various thrusts and slashes which can be combined together to make some hard-hitting combos. There’s also a handy back-step dodge move that’s been added, which certainly comes in handy quite frequently. While these new controls do make for a fluid combat experience, the poor visuals give everything an unnecessary ‘stiff’ feeling.
For the most, Actraiser Renaissance is a fairly well done and competent remake of a retro classic. The game does a solid job of mixing two vastly different gameplay genres to create a fun 15+ hour game. Developer, Sonic Powered, have done a superb job in keeping the spirit of the original whilst bringing modern enhancements to the game. Both the enhanced move list and improved ‘God Mode’ offer something new for fans of the original – as does the extra world that takes place after the game’s end. Equally, Actraiser Renaissance also has its down points. This is mainly within its presentation which doesn’t make a great first impression. Whilst it’s far from being perfect, Sonic Powered have certainly captured the essence of Actraiser and this remake is certainly going to gain a cult following.
4 out of 5
Actraiser Renaissance is out now and can be purchased from the Nintendo Switch eShop by clicking here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.