It’s been my personal philosophy that ANY idea can work if you make it work. Case in point: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES. My God, someone actually walked into a studio meeting, with balls so big they must have been tracking in dirt from outside, prepared to convince New Line Cinema to do a live-action movie (and sequels) about four mutated turtles who act as crime-fighting ninjas and save New York City from a gang of rival ninjas, and such. The good lord, in all his might and majesty, smiled upon the testicularly disturbed individual and, thus, the film was underway!
Although talks with Steve Allen to play the role of Casey Jones were entertained but ultimately denied due to scheduling conflicts (“I’ll do this movie when I burn in hell!” Allen was quoted as saying, predicting that he would not be available to shoot until late 2000), the movie would go on…and on…and on…and on still until the movie was kidnapped by gay rodeo clowns who demanded $1.3 million plus a vial of Abba turd for the movie’s safe release. Nancy Reagan held an immediate press conference addressing the issue in which she adamantly stated “We do not negotiate with terrorists. I don’t care if they’re butt pirates from the Bahamas who cure cancer through sodomy, we do not negoti–
Oh, shit, this isn’t my TMNT review—it’s ActRaiser.
…actually, I could salvage most of that.
Umm…anyway, ActRaiser was Enix’s version of TMNT…not…so much in terms of story or…graphics or anything like that…or…anything at all. It was more about Enix taking that philosophy to heart as they planned to make their first SNES game a half-action-half-God-sim (man, I still can’t say that without my eyebrows slowly raising towards the heavens) with clear allegories to Judeo-Christian monotheism. Enix, back in the day, was always doing stuff like that—sorta the videogame version of a David Lynch upstart.
So, you’re saying to me, “Hey Meteo, I’m under the age of 14, and I don’t even have the attention span to finish my question. Am I going to like this….” Game? Probably not. ActRaiser, though a reigning champion in classic gaming history, did not age well. You really have to have been there when it was NEW to really like this game.
The ludicrous idea of an SNES game being half-action and half-sim… fucking eyebrows…works as competently as it can. You hover in the Sky Palace over countries that are all afflicted with a horrible evil. As soon as you start a country, THE MASTER teleports down to a 2D, arcade-style platforming romp through whathaveyou until you beat the boss. Then your secretary, a nice, plump little cherub, takes over to cleanse and rebuild the city through God sim. You protect people, order them to build houses and clear roads, and use magic spells to aid your construction, and, once the town is built up, you go through one more level and boss to cleanse the country once and for all.
That’s all there really is to the game—it’s not nearly as complicated as it might sound (and definitely not as complicated as it was when I was eight and literally, legally retarded), but the format does warrant a hard-won, acquired taste to it. The gameplay is not hard, nor is it very special apart from the main “gimmick” of sharing genres. The graphics do their job and nothing more—the level design, about the same. The gameplay of the action sequences is classic, arcade-style platforming, and they are a lot of fun to play, but the God sim sequences break up the focus so it feels like the gameplay doesn’t flow consistently. As much fun as it is to play two genres in the same game, what you REALLY want are those damn platforming levels (you do get a PROFESSIONAL setting, which lets you play without the God-sim breaks, but then what’s the point of the God-sim breaks if the main reward of the game is to be able to play without them?).
OK, I saved the best for last. If I got through this review without mentioning the music (and I nearly did), I would have to be put down like a raging elephant in a whorehouse. The soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro is the real reason this game is a classic; everything from the prayer songs to an interpretation of Fox Studio’s famous duh-duh-duhhhhhh motif really brings a competent game to life. You could, I guess, just download the SPC soundtrack, but the real way to enjoy it is to just play through the game like God intended.
Overall, and because it’s almost 2 a.m., this game is fucking awesome to those of us old enough to vote, even though the kids won’t understand why its so great.
Oh, umm…and, it’s a sterling example of that old philosophy that “ANY idea can work if” blah blah, etc.