Review by Heed44utmost
ActRaiser 2, not ActRaiser part 2
ActRaiser 2 has constantly been written off as a sub-par sequel to ActRaiser. I'm one of those who consider ActRaiser one of the SNES's greatest masterpieces, and it is understandable how that game can be a tough act to follow. ActRaiser 2 as a result is a difficult game to rate. It alienates the casual player because of its difficulty, and it alienates the ActRaiser fan because of the lack of "sim" mode made popular by its predecessor.
What is left for the player in ActRaiser 2? The first order of advice to one actively seeking this game is to let go of the sim element. It's gone. Because of the constraints of plot, there is no need for the sim element that was present in ActRaiser 1. ActRaiser 2 cannot be judged as a partial sim/partial platformer because that's unfortunately not what is programmed into the game. It is not feasible to attach this stigma, and it's best to just move on and examine the game for what it is, a solid and creative platformer.
Plot - 9/10
ActRaiser 2 is the prequel to ActRaiser. Watching the opening film will allow the player to see The Master (controlled by the CPU) in his battle against the satanic Tanzra as they clash in Heaven. This beginnings represents the fall of Tanzra from grace as seen in Christianity and sets the stage for the story to flow in game.
That game revolves around the revenge plotted by Tanzra as he works to corrupt the civilizations of man on Earth with the seven deadly sins. Each sin is represented by a boss character who is corrupting a certain kingdom. It is the Master's job to use the sky palace and save each kingdom by going down to Earth and defeating the sin's manifest. The Avarice Dragon, for instance, will terrorize his kingdom by sending his citizens to jail for not paying incredible taxes. The Pride Demon orders his citizens to construct a tower of science into the sky to reach the Master's Palace. With the defeat of the seven sins, the game culminates into a final confrontation with Tanzra in the very bowels of Hell itself.
Gameplay - 9/10
The most obvious issue is that the simulation mode from ActRaiser 1 is gone. Because the original ActRaiser calls for the restoration and reconstruction of the world and ActRaiser 2 only calls for the preservation of it, there is no way for the simulation mode to make its return when given the context of the story.
Letting go of the sim mode, there are 7 Kingdoms, with 2 Acts each bar the final, for a total of 13 stages and one final boss zone. Many consider ActRaiser 2 to be very difficult, but "difficult" isn't really the right word to describe it. Difficult would be unforgiving, 30 minute stages with no checkpoints, limited continues and no passwords. ActRaiser 2 is very forgiving. The stages are very short. They are challenging, but their short length calls for the player to strategize at certain choke points and truly learn the layout and best course of action. As a result the player doesn't just play the short stage, but learns the short stage. Continues are infinite, providing as many opportunity to strategize in different ways across these challenging levels. Bosses range from easy to difficult to cheap, but the magic scrolls in the game allow for quick disposal of them in tight situations.
Another issue of the gameplay commonly addressed is the awkward control. Many people complain about the Master's slippery movements. I believe the set up was done almost perfectly. In ActRaiser 1, the Master had few moves, and controlled clunkyly. In ActRaiser 2, he now has wings, and the ability to use a shield and glide. Many people claim the gliding system is detrimental to the play control, but once it is mastered, it adds so much to the master's evasion and movement. ActRaiser 2 calls for many combinations of moves to be used, as a downward stab is always preferable in damage to a straight up swing, and "hang time" with the blade will do more damage in a place it is left out as oppose to where the swing was started. ActRaiser 2 calls for attention to detail, and mastery of a very creative angelic setup to succeed at the higher difficulty levels.
Difficulty - 7/10
ActRaiser has 3 difficulty settings, Easy, Normal, and Hard, with Easy mode ending prematurely. The greatest difficulty in ActRaiser 2 is the initial difficulty. It is recommended for a player to start on Easy mode, as finishing easy mode is actually more of a challenge than the jump from Easy to Normal. One could jump straight into the normal game, but the strategy involved and control mastery needed over some pits and choke points might overwhelm a first time player. The Hard mode is a refreshing challenge, but is definitely not recommended for a first time player, even a very seasoned one.
Sound - 7/10
Yuzo Koshiro gets an 7/10 here, and yet he disappoints. I say he disappoints because although the music in ActRaiser 2 is good, the music in the original ActRaiser was just phenomenal. ActRaiser 1 had The Birth of a People, Fillmore, Bloodpool, and Sacrifices. ActRaiser 2 has some good music, but nothing as gripping or cinematic as in the original. The sound effects for damage will be familiar for the Enix fan, as they are recycled in many other of Enix's SNES games.
Visuals/Graphics - 9/10
ActRaiser 2 is a beautiful game. Although the levels are short, the environments are fantastic. Areas range from a the back of a giant tortoise, to a desert of mouths (yes, mouths), to a surreal dreamworld, to a castle of solid gold. The developers did very well crafting the game's lush environments. Boasting more levels than the original ActRaiser, there is more opportunity to show off the clever and beautiful design skill of these artists.
Overall - 9/10
ActRaiser 2 when judged as ActRaiser 2 and not ActRaiser part 2 gets a 9/10. The game has a steep curve, and grows on the player with time. At first glance it may be a frustrating game, but a consistent dedication to it will have it seeming better and better. ActRaiser 2 is unfortunately one of those sad cases of SNES games gone under appreciated.
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