Another day, another significant anniversary for another celebrated video game. The Super Famicom launched in Japan three decades ago last month and knowing the incredible catalogue of classics birthed in the bloody 16-bit console wars, you should brace yourself for a barrage of 30th anniversaries over the next few months/years (all designed, we’re sure, to make us feel old).
Today’s is a bit special, though; a particular favourite among Team NL staff. Coming from Quintet — the developer behind such classics as Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma — and published by Enix, ActRaiser was an ambitious genre-mashup that incorporated side-on sword-swinging action with an altogether more intriguing overhead RPG ‘god’ mode in between the more standard platforming stages.
These two two distinct styles of gameplay were tied together with Yuzo Koshiro’s fantastic soundtrack. The famed composer’s music from the game and some unreleased pieces are getting a lovely vinyl re-release, and Koshiro has spoken to Famitsu about his work on the game three decades on:
Ayano Koshiro has also been commenting about the anniversary on Twitter, citing the game’s unusual mixture of (arguably average) platforming with the spicier ‘God Game’ elements as the result of a sudden course correction midway through development:
Ayano Koshiro on Actraiser:”we were making an RPG for launch but when it looked like it couldn’t be done in time, we suddenly changed course & made Actraiser. none of us had made a console action game before, so sorry to everyone who died from glancing the side of a spike trap”🇯🇵 https://t.co/JqocSk2IuL— GSK | https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ab_mn (@gosokkyu) December 16, 2020
ActRaiser is a game with quirks, and it’s far from perfect, but there’s something in its odd meld of genres and that soundtrack with makes it greater than the sum of its parts. In an era when remakes are all the rage, it’ss a game we’d love to see reimagined by a passionate, talented team. ACE Team’s SolSeraph made a very deliberate attempt to recapture some of ActRaiser’s lightning in a bottle, but failed to divine what made the original so special. Even Quintet’s own sequel couldn’t live up to the promise of its predecessor.
No, ActRaiser remains alone; a strange and wonderful experiment which no-one’s quite been able to repeat with any success. If you’ve never played it, we encourage you to track it down (oh how we’d cheer if it were to suddenly appear as part of the Nintendo Switch Online SNES catalogue!) and give it a go. It’s one of the 16-bit eras real gems, and although there was certainly no shortage of those, it still manages to stand out in the crowd.
Happy birthday ActRaiser! Let us know below if you’ll be Raising a glass to this one and squeezing in a session over the next day or two.