Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Actraiser: One Godly Game

I remember the time vividly: it was 1991, the successor to the ridiculously popular Nintendo Entertainment System was just released, and the gaming world was ready to see what the Super Nintendo Entertainment System could do. In November of 1991, Enix, who up to that point was primarily known in America as the folks that made the Dragon Warrior series highly popular, released a game with an extremely interesting concept that would become a critical success. The game I am referring to is Actraiser. The plot in Actraiser focuses on a deity known as "The Master" and his efforts to rebuild his world after it is destroyed by monsters. In an effort to restore order to his world, "The Master" dispatches his servant, an cherub, to deal with smaller monsters while he focuses on using his power to make the land livable for his followers. Whenever "The Master" encountered a great evil, however, he would simply have to come down to Earth to combat that Demon and remove the affliction from the land. The levels where players assume control of "The Master" are old school side scrolling goodness, while the simulation areas are highly reminiscent of Sim City. Actraiser is also the owner of one of the greatest video game soundtracks ever. It's like they crammed a CD into the SNES whenever you played the game. A major point of controversy surrounding the religious symbolism in Actraiser, especially since Nintendo took such a strong stand regarding religious symbols of any kind (this explains why the US versions of the Castlevania games on Nintendo systems). As a younger kid, I didn't notice it, but now I can fully see the influences of Christianity and Monotheism in general on the bulk of the game. Unlike a lot of early 16-Bit games, Actraiser has aged exceptionally well. The sequel, Actraiser 2, was an okay game, but it was never as popular as the first game, and is a bit of a collector's item now. Actraiser will always be considered one of those franchises that if ever handled properly could have had a long run as a franchise, but alas, Enix decided that RPGs were better suited for them and they abandoned the Actraiser series, which is an utter tragedy. Maybe Enix(now a part of Square) can find it in their hearts to bring back "The Master" for a new adventure.

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