Review by ClessAlvein05
This has been a presentation of the Department of Redundancy Department
Enix's "direct sequel" to the original ActRaiser is vastly worse, and the worst of their major "angel hero" games, if not one of their worst overall. While it has strong graphics and sound, its gameplay is inconvenient, excessively hard, and not in any way entertaining after the first few minutes. You'll just get driven insane by its difficulty, and it won't get fun playing areas over and over.
The audiovisuals are nothing to complain about. The graphics are flashy, colorful, and generally smooth. (One weakness is the world map, which is blocky and rough around the edges, although the mode 7 effects are decent.) The bosses and even normal enemies are very large and detailed, although the animation is a little choppy at times. The coloring is meticulous; there are very few solid blocks of color, everything is properly shaded in its environment, and even the health bars for both you and the enemies change in pigmentation along with the levels of energy. There are rippling flames, rays of light, layers of clouds, and perhaps most impressively, a scene where you have to rotate around rippling blue layers of bubbles and the controls keep spinning. The emphasis on detail goes down to the text; the game uses the same pretty medieval-style Enix fonts that are in the original, in Soul Blazer, and in the Dragon Quest/Warrior games. Graphics score: 8.5/10
The sound effects are also largely borrowed from the same solid Enix stock in those games, from the yell when you are hit, to the sound of damaging and destroying an enemy. All but one or two of the music tracks are exceptional; the orchestrated style is dramatic, uses good instrumentation, can neatly segue between slow and fast tempos, and there are tracks that pay homage to the original themes. (No 20th Century Fox theme ripoff this time...heh.) A very few segments and whole songs are slightly boring, but the number I can listen to on .spc's for minutes on end more than makes up for this on balance. Audio score: 9.3/10
Unfortunately, once your angel statue gets touched by the spark of light and you have to actually start moving around, the game spirals downward. The game difficulty goes well above and beyond the "tough but fair" standard, up to insanity, even on the easy level. You must conserve your health through dense networks of enemies, lethal or near-lethal spikebeds and lava pits, up until you get to the miniboss; then, once you find the weak points while avoiding its large damaging body and all the surrounding objects, you must continue to preserve your energy up until an even harder, larger boss. You also face a slowly ticking timer which, while normally not too bad (it gives you 30 extra units in a new area of a level, and in some areas you can run it up to 99 by walking back and forth between areas,) can kill you if you wander around and get lost looking for side areas and powerups. Some enemies can be reasonable if you use smart attack and defense patterns (the twice-as-powerful downward stab, the 3x-powerful diagonal stab, and the magic powers you may or may not save up are especially helpful,) but they generally, along with the brutal double-jumps you must brave, will drive you insane. The play control in these jumps and other motions, like attacks, tends to be very sloppy; you'll swoop into diagonal flight or downward flight when you least expect it if you don't get the hang of it quickly, and then before you know it you'll get knocked into a pit by a flying enemy that suddenly appeared while you were flying.
The game has absolutely no replay value, provided you can even get through it (the fact that you have to beat it at the highest difficulty in order to get the proper ending doesn't count as "replay value" due to the exasperating nature of the game.) Worse than the difficulty is the fact that after a few levels you'll find yourself going back to the map over and over again and spinning around into the next level thinking "Am I done yet? Am I done yet?" in spite of all the refreshing audiovisuals--it's so repetitive. You'll be exhausted from playing it just once; the replaying of all the bosses and mini-bosses near the end, while it may work in some games, will just drive you crazy here. There are passwords so you can take a break after each of the more exasperating missions. Overall gameplay score: 3/10
If you REALLY liked both the original and the spiritual sequels, AND don't mind the massive changes that this game takes from them, I guess it wouldn't hurt to find this game for cheap. But it's not something you should expect to wow you more than with solid audiovisuals for the time.
Product Release: ActRaiser 2 (US, 11/30/93)
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