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Actraiser

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Reviewed by Brian Kerr Actraiser is a special game. It is an over-head Sim City / Populous style game on one hand, and a side-scrolling dungeon hack on the other. These disparate modes of play combine to form a single and coherent whole, something that "combination games" rarely achieve. The story of Actraiser is very simple, yet powerful. You take on the role of someone who has been displaced from his world by an evil demon, Tanzra. At the beginning of the game, the earth is covered with Tanzra's monsters, and it is your job to destroy these monsters and guide your people as they build a civilization across the globe. In each region of the earth, you will have to fight an action segment in which you slay the demons and a generic side-scrolling Boss enemy. After this, you will have to guide your people as they build cities, research new technologies (such as fishing, music, and mountain- climbing). This segment of the game consists of directing the peoples' building, performing miracles to shape the land, collecting and using offerings, and listening to your people.

Graphics 30 out of 42

The graphics in Actraiser, while not exceptional in any way, do a decent job of conveying the mood and atmosphere of the game. Dungeons and castles are appropriately creepy, and pastoral town scenes are refreshing and happy/cute. There are little graphical touches that add a lot to the game--for example, in a mountainous area, wild horses will roam around, or in a city, you may see a little boy walking his dog. However, nothing is perfect, and the battle segments suffer from that good-old recycled background problem. It doesn't detract from gameplay, but after a while you'll start thinking "Man, I've seen that beautiful foggy-moonrise-over-a-lake before."

Music and Sound 40 out of 42

Actraiser really raised the bar for SNES soundtracks, and to this day the music is refreshing and enjoyable. From heart-thumping action tracks to bubbling romances to slow, solemn dirges, the classical soundtrack fits with the gameplay and can hold its own as a music CD. One minor complaint is that some of the songs are too short--they are really nice, but some of the battles or town-building sequences are loooong, and hearing the same 2-minute song looped over and over can get annoying. The sound effects are very good, too. They are very substantial and lifelike--you won't find many of the ever-popular Nintendo Beeps in this game. Fundamentally, all that can be said about the music and sound in Actraiser is that it adds a lot of charm and character to the game, and that is the highest praise that can be given a soundtrack.

Game Challenge 25 out of 42

Actraiser is not a difficult game, but you won't blow through it in one sitting, either. It is long and varied, and it is challenging in that you are constantly confronted with lots of options as far as building your town and beating back the monsters, but it's not *hard* to the point of frustration. I give it such a low challenge rating because there are a few magic spells that the Master can find early in the game that are extremely powerful, and make the boss battles a joke.

Game Play-Fun 35 out of 42

Wow, this is a fun game! Although both town-building and side-scrolling get boring after a while, Actraiser is paced such that you won't be doing either one long enough at a stretch to get upset with them. As you progress across the world, there is a genuine feeling of accomplishment as your people develop and share technologies and art, and the citizens of the towns are individualized enough that you actually remember some of their personalities and deeds long after you beat the game.

Frustration

As I have stated above, Actraiser is not a frustrating game. It is hectic at times, and always very fast-paced, but never non-responsive or difficult to the point where you want to chuck the controller and scream.

Replayability 20 out of 42

The basic story and gameplay is always the same, but if you play through it several times, you'll find some more hidden items or whatnot Whether that's worth your time or not is another question.

Game Value 42 out of 42

Definitely pick this game up, if you can find it! It is a great game to play through at least once, and it is innovative enough that it still holds its own against more new-fangled titles. It's also a loong game, one that you won't beat in a single evening (well, I suppose you *could*, but it'd be a long evening). One other thing--the game is worth the price of admission, to me anyway, because it actually has a bittersweet/sad ending rather than the archtypical Happy Ending.

Overall 32 out of 42

Actraiser is cool. It will appeal to almost anybody--the RPG fanatic will love the storyline a pseudo-religious themes, the action gamer will enjoy the hack-n-slash portions, the Sim City crowd will like the new spin on their favorite genre.

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