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Remake Request: ActRaiser

Posted by Damien McFerran

Playing God

Back when the Super Nintendo launched in Japan — where it was of course known as the Super Famicom — it was accompanied by some truly remarkable titles. As a young (and loyal) Sega Mega Drive owner at the time, for me personally it was torture to see the likes of Pilotwings, F-Zero and Super Mario World all receive rave reviews from the various magazines which were around at the time. It was abundantly clear that despite my intense affection for Sega's amazing arcade-focused output, I simply couldn't resist jumping into bed with its rival to experience these groundbreaking titles.

While Nintendo's 16-bit powerhouse hit the market with a selection of highly playable releases, one game caught my attention like no other, thanks in no small part to the fact that it was given extensive coverage in the popular UK publication Mean Machines upon its launch in Japan. Quintet's ActRaiser was simply unlike any other game I had experienced; while it combined two famous genres — the world-building setup made famous by Populous and the traditional 2D action platformer — the final package was simply stunning. It felt like a revolutionary concept at the time, fusing these two totally dissimilar styles into one cohesive and amazingly entertaining whole.

Not speaking any Japanese, I was forced to wait until the North American edition of the game was released, at which point I promptly purchased a rather flimsy converter cartridge and booted it up on my PAL Super Nintendo console. The hours I had spent pouring over reviews and previews of the Japanese version hadn't diminished my desire to witness the game first-hand; from the opening notes of Yuzo Koshiro's iconic soundtrack to the titanic battle at the game's conclusion, ActRaiser impressed me in a way that no other SNES title managed to do at the time. Even today, it holds a special place in my heart; all too often developers try to mix up different game styles to create something fresh and unique, but here it didn't feel contrived or forced — in ActRaiser, it made perfect sense that before you could cultivate the land and allow your people to prosper, you had to clear away the evil forces which had taken over. The two game modes complimented one another — and the narrative — perfectly.

ActRaiser's impeccable presentation is all the more remarkable when you consider its status as a launch title. Developer Quintet — which would go on to create the equally brilliant Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia/Time and Terranigma — had, in my mind at least, captured lightning in a bottle. ActRaiser 2 was sadly stripped of the world-building feature and as a result ended up as a gorgeous but ultimately shallow action title, and while similar themes of destruction and rebirth would be explored in Quintet's aforementioned "Heaven and Earth" RPG trilogy, for me they never hit that sweet spot in the same way that ActRaiser did. It was — and arguably still is — a totally unique venture.

Today, ActRaiser has been largely forgotten by all but the most seasoned of gaming veterans. A poor mobile phone port (which removed the Populous-style sections) was released to almost complete apathy in 2004, and the title arrived on the Wii Virtual Console three years later, but the property — along with Quintet itself — has remained dormant for years. With the status of its creator currently unknown (no official word has ever been issued, but Quintet appears to have disbanded around 2002) and with publisher Enix now part of the Square Enix stable, the chances of another ActRaiser seem rather unlikely — which is a shame, because the title was arguably ahead of its time and would be ripe for remaking with today's technology.

The best we can hope for is a Virtual Console release on the Wii U, but what I'd really like to see is a full-blown re-imagining with the original developers involved. The world-building sections could be controlled using the touchscreen of either the 3DS or Wii U, while the action sequences could be produced in full 3D — or, to keep things truly authentic — in 2D with enough opulent, high-resolution artwork to make George Kamitani blush.

Looking back through the history of gaming, it's clear that many retro titles are remembered fondly for their technical impact or the sheer addictiveness of their gameplay. Personally speaking, ActRaiser sticks in my memory as a game which tried something totally original and succeeded. Ironically, when the two game styles are viewed separately from one another, it's less impressive — the platforming sections are good rather than great, and the "God" portion of the game is a lot more simplistic than Populous — but the combined package is more than the sum of its parts.


Screenshots kindly supplied by Hardcore Gaming 101.

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User Comments (45)

Deadstanley

#3

Deadstanley said:

Enix published a ton of great RPGs for the SNES that I'd love to see Square-Enix either remake, build upon as a series, or re-release on the virtual console. Such a great company. I always thought it was a good move to merge with Square, but there really haven't been any Enix style RPG offshoots since they merged.

I'm referencing ActRaiser, sure, but also 7th Saga, Robotrek, Brain Lord, and Paladin's Quest.

Shiryu

#4

Shiryu said:

This is till up to this day one of my favourite SNES games ever, I replay it often and the Game Center CX episode where Arino challenges this is also one of my favourite episodes of the show. Of course Yuzo Koshiro's music score is the thing that left in me the most lasting impact, as you can hear right here.

ricklongo

#6

ricklongo said:

Ironically, my first experience with ActRaiser came near the end of the SNES lifespan (the N64 was already a thing, unless I'm mistaken). Nevertheless, it was definitely unique and engrossing. I'd love to see more games like it, and the gamepad possibilities are huge.

XyVoX

#7

XyVoX said:

I vividly remember importing a Jap snes into the UK along with Actraiser,Pilotwings & Super Ghouls & Ghosts and my god was i blown away by this new Nintendo console, but that music was literally jaw dropping back then let alone the unusual gameplay took awhile to figure it out i can remember that, O boy did i enjoy my Snes so much quality.

Deadstanley

#9

Deadstanley said:

@Jowy Taito had the Bubble Bobble characters which they've moved into Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble games, the 3DS version in particular is the latest I know of. Not sure about anything else from Taito though.

LeasTwanteD

#10

LeasTwanteD said:

A remake or new ActRaiser could possibly do quite well on the 3DS (maybe best in the eShop). It'd be the right target audience imo.
I'd be fine with just getting Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia/Time, Terranigma and ActRaiser 2 on the Wii U VC though.

Stu13

#11

Stu13 said:

I rented this as a kid expecting nothing but a platforming action game and my mind was completely blown when I played it. Once I was old enough to have a job, it was one of the first few SNES games that I bought for myself at the local flea market.

WanderFan91

#12

WanderFan91 said:

If ActRaiser really does get remade, that would be interesting. Personally speaking, though, I would much rather see Quintet's five other Nintendo 16-bit be re-released for the current gaming generation; seriously though, the fact that they haven't been released again once (for different consoles, the Virtual Console service, or as full-blown remakes) just shows complete negligence towards these really good games, imo, and it's a crying shame because they're some of the most memorable titles on the SFC/SNES. ActRaiser's fine, but I think it's the Gaia trilogy's turn (as well as ActRaiser 2 and to a lesser extent Robotrek) to step into the light of today's gaming crowd, and finally be given a chance. Until then, I've got the cartridges to play at home.

Spoony_Tech

#13

Spoony_Tech said:

This was one great game and like Damien said the others just didn't live up to the first. I can only imagine what this would look like by todays standards! We can only dream I'm afraid! :-(

audiobrainiac

#15

audiobrainiac said:

Aw MAN I wish i had this game in some form, preferably on my 3DS. A remake would be cool on Wii U :)

LDXD

#16

LDXD said:

Remake yes!!! Release original on virtual console yes!!!
Nintendo why are you not putting games like this on the eshop?

KARNOVsSTACHE

#17

KARNOVsSTACHE said:

Such a great game. Love the cut scene when you shoot down to Earth. Hoping we at least see a VC release... along with a VC release of "E.V.O. Search for Eden".

GN004Nadleeh

#19

GN004Nadleeh said:

awww you said it out loud and nintendo never listens to it's fans and now we will probably get a remake of part 2 instead

LunarFlame17

#20

LunarFlame17 said:

Oh man that game was soooooooo good. I was so disappointed that ActRaiser 2 stripped out the world-building elements. Such a frustratingly dull game compared to the outstanding original.

sleepinglion

#22

sleepinglion said:

I concur. This was one of my favorite SNES titles back in the 90s and is still one of my go-to's. The score is so rich... check out the orchestral version online (YouTube, torrents if you don't tell anyone), it's gorgeous. I've never played anything like it since and hope it finds new life on the Wii U VC.

unrandomsam

#23

unrandomsam said:

After doing the last bosses on Illusion of Gaia/Time I have no desire whatsoever to revisit them. (Still pretty fresh in my mind how ridiculous the last one is).

I have only played Soul Blazer out of the rest.

ZeroZX_Dev

#24

ZeroZX_Dev said:

@SirQuincealot The game is half platformer, half god sim.
You can only play the platforming levels when you: a) visit the area for the first time or b) have to beat the boss of the area.

joeb1kenobi

#25

joeb1kenobi said:

I remember frying on this game for hours as a kid, listening to metallica -and justice for all. A remake would be fantastic!! I love my 3DS but definitely would rather play a remake on the big screen via WiiU, utilizing the gamepad for the sim areas is a great idea!

Stargazer

#26

Stargazer said:

Loved this game. I still love this game.

I enjoyed the sequel as well (so pretty) but I never beat it. It was too damn hard, and I missed the world-building aspects.

Ben_Rage_V2

#28

Ben_Rage_V2 said:

This article put a big smile on my face. Actraiser was one of the more memorable SNES games for me as well. I probably completed it two or three times. I remember reading about the game for the first time in Nintendo Power magazine. The pictures in the magazine looked so awesome. At the time I didn't have a SNES. But as soon as I got one Actraiser was one of the first games I had to play. A 3DS virtual console release in 3D would be an instant buy for me. Hell, any of the Enix RPG's of that day would be most welcome.

Ryno

#30

Ryno said:

It's cool to see that others have a similar feeling about Actraiser. Since it was close to being a SNES launch title I remember reading every preview I could find on that game. I ended up renting it from Blockbuster a couple of times and ever since then it has been cemented in my mind as one of those special SNES games. I would love to see a remake as well.

Ryno

#31

Ryno said:

@Damo: I really enjoy these type of topics about bringing up classic and often times forgot about retro games and discussing them in some capacity and I think it is a great idea for this site. Would love to see more!

DamoAdmin

#32

Damo said:

@ueI We only added the game to our database today, which is why it has no details or assets. We're working on it.

DreaddJester

#37

DreaddJester said:

Probably the only Super NES game that came even close to as many play hours as I had on Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire.

Actraiser and Romance I played for hours on end. I can't even remember how many times I played through Actraiser to be honest....... One of my all time favorite games.

Dpishere

#38

Dpishere said:

Although I have never played this game, seeing all of these positive comments certainly tempts me to pick it up on the Wii VC! It is a very intereresting sounding game and I can see why people would have such fond memories of it.

Agent721

#39

Agent721 said:

From your article to god's ear...this is truly one of the best hidden gems of the SNES era. It blew me away at the time due to the mix of two different genres and remains one of the best games I've ever played. At the very least, I hope it gets the Wii U treatment, along with some of the other Enix games such as the Dragon Warrior series. I think it might be time to fire up the Wii and give this game yet another go!

Refurin

#42

Refurin said:

Actraiser has long been in my top five games. I don't know if there is any other game I have played start to finish so many times. A remake would be a no-brainer pre-order.

Stuffgamer1

#43

Stuffgamer1 said:

This is definitely a classic for me, and I do very much want to see it on Wii U VC at the least...but we still have NO Squenix Wii U VC support outside of Japan so far... sigh

odd69

#44

odd69 said:

I have fond memories playing this when it first came out, good stuff! I would love to see a remake

sigma

#45

sigma said:

The game is definitely a masterpiece and played it a lot, a remake for 3ds would be a dream come true. Still have great memories of those enix games
Actraiser, Soulblazer, Illusion of gaia ... damm those nice music tunes ...
Enix please... contact the god if he is available for a remake or a third sequel Actraiser "The New World"

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