Review by seocwen

Reviewed: 06/27/06

Forget That It's a Sequal. By It's Own Merit It's One Thing Alone: Crap

The original Actraiser was indeed a rare treasure of the 16-bit era. It was as though the good people at Quintet had taken two rather crappy games and somehow fused them into a single great game. Clunky action and clunky sim united at last to create a novelty as such as the world of games had never before seen. It was unique and new and altogether refreshing. But of course, I'm reviewing its sequel so let's forget about all that.

It's true it deviates from the path of its lofty predecessor, but this I can tolerate. Zelda II: The Adventures of Link was not at all its forbearer, but if we can forgive it that, it was still a pretty good action game in its own right. Likewise, as much as I might have resented seeing the 2D play mechanics of our beloved "Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past" tossed for the 3D mechanics of the N64, can any of us doubt that "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" was the high point of that system? I'm not so stodgy that I can't stand to see things change. I believe a game should be judged not by its franchise, but by it’s own individual merits.

As for Actraiser II, it's simply awful. It's an unbearable, completely unplayable monstrosity. But alas, this is a risk we always run by buying a new game... It's not the story, or the graphics or even the music I'm offended by, it's that the gameplay mechanics are simply garbage. People have called the game too difficult, and indeed, even on easy mode your HP will tick away faster than the timer. But then, I don't think it's fair to call the game hard when its difficulty stems from shoddy controls and poor level design. Metal Storm, there was a game that made full use of our poor gamer thumbs! What we have in Actraiser II is a game that punishes us simply for playing it.

The fact that this "Master" fellow you’re playing is supposed to be God only leaves me further frustrated. Where’s my Old Testament wrath? I’d sooner worship the damage terrain than this sad little winged Conan. The nigh omnipresent damage terrain can be relied upon with full faith to slaughter the Lord All-Mighty, so I’m left wondering, why hasn’t he abdicated and put some quick-sand in charge of the world? This game is so sad you might as well take damage completely at random for no reason at all. Of course, that’s exactly what appears to happen until you take a closer look. "I see," You mutter in frustration, "The fire I've been walking through all along doesn’t do any damage but this other fire with the shoddier animation does. Great…"

The first thing you'll notice playing the game are its inferior controls. Your character shambles about like he's wearing anvils for his shoes, a shame indeed because I'm sure those great big angel wings on his back could have been a great help to him. They’re fine so long as you’re looking to glide straight into your enemies, but otherwise they’re utterly useless. Shame that. Overall, our hero’s just plain sluggish and every move he makes is an awkward one. Unfortunate indeed considering you've got floating, gliding and diving to master before you can manage much of anything.

And these enemies everywhere don't go down with a single slash like in Ninja Gaiden or Castlevania; they just keep on plodding through you and doing damage until you've given them enough strokes with your tinfoil blade to finally get bored and disappear. Thus, when a monsters goes to jump on your head, there's no avoiding it. Cut before it lands or not, it's still getting its damage in and maybe second hit of more before you've cut it enough to get it to leave you alone. Add to this that there are veritable swarms of such enemies hopping about at any given time and you'll begin to understand how futile it is trying to avoid damage.

The bosses are even worse. In the first Actraiser what you'd typically do is run up to your opponent and start hacking at them without regard to how much damage you took because their HP would deplete faster and you could count on them to die first. Not a great design choice really, but it worked. You could use strategy too I suppose, which might be a good idea when you fight them all again leading up to Tanzra, but as for Actraiser II, you can pretty much just prepare yourself to die. Mere sub-bosses will drain several of your HP with each hit so there's no point engaging them in a battle of attrition. As for their attack patterns, well, they’re just too crazy to ever expect to dodge them. Like the giant cloud thing which sucks you into the spikes at the edge of the screen. There's no avoiding it, you can walk against the current, you can float, you can do anything you want; you're still going straight into the spikes and watching as your HP gets rapidly drained away rapidly.

As someone's who's beaten Ghosts 'n' Goblins both times through, I can deal with hard games. But this, this is simply ridiculous. It’s a game where you’re the one getting killed, not your enemies. And isn’t that just such a novelty?

The only reason I don't give the game a 1 is because besides the game itself, everything else is right fine. The story and concept are solid, the music’s okay and the graphics are superb. But then, who cares how it looks if you'll never want to play it? A sprite ripper might want to give it a look, while using a game genie codes and save states galore, but otherwise this is simply a worthless unplayable abomination of a video game.

Rating: 2

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