Review by Misterbum
Reviewed: 11/01/99 | Updated: 11/01/99
I think I'm the only one who liked this game...
Enix has always been one of my favorite companies. They've been right up there with Square, Working Designs, and Konami for as long as I remember... that is, until when they announced they were going to "quit" releasing games in America. Good thing that Star Ocean came out, huh? Back in the heyday of the Super NES, the combination of Enix and Quintet brought some of the best games on the system. SoulBlazer was fun (and I bought it for only $10!), and besides being one of the first games released for the system, ActRaiser remains one of my favorite games of all time. Somewhere nestled between all of the madness was ActRaiser 2. The sequel came by surprise and seemed to go buy without much fanfare or notice at all. Why is this?
ActRaiser 2 is a much different game than ActRaiser 2 in almost every respect. The only real similarity the game has with its predecessor is its story. You still are "The Master", you still have an angel friend (actually, you have a couple and they look more like people than naked toddlers this time around), and you still are helping out all of the peasants of your land. That is where all similarities end though.
As far as I can recall, this is THE only straight-forward action game ever released by Enix. To the dismay of many, they completely removed the signature "sim" mode that made the first ActRaiser such an original game. True, the sim mode was not all that original, but combining it with an action mode gave the game a nice little "two-games-in-one" feeling. What possessed Enix to drop the sim mode and beef up the action mode, I'll never understand. I forgave them though.
So why is it okay that they took out the sim mode? To start, they really did take the time to make a quality action game. The control elements are simple, yet effective. In the first game, all you could really do was crouch, jump, slash, slash while crouching, jump slash, or cast a magic spell. In Act2, "The Master" now has a set of wings! He not only can do everything he could in the first game, he can also slash upward, stab downward, double jump, float, fly, and perform a crushing downward thrust while flying, amonst other things. And about spell casting... In the original, you could equip yourself with one spell at a time. You were limited to this one spell unless you left the stage and picked a new one from the 4 possible. Not only that, but magic was not a very necessary part of the game. In Act2, "The Master" now has a multitude a spells available to him, you know them all from the start, and every one of them is possible to cast when you want to regarding you have sufficient spell points. By holding the attack button you charge yourself into magic casting mode. When you are fully charged, the spell you cast is determined by when exactly you release the button. It sounds kind of confusing and is a little hard to get the hang of at first, but it soon becomes second nature. For example, if you release the button while standing still, you shoot forth a fire wave. If you release it while crouching, you do an Earth crush. Release it while holding up and you will shoot energy balls in an upward arc. This magic system is unique, and fits the game well.
In addition to the death of sim mode, the insane challenge level was another qualm some people had with the game. The game does not kill you with cheap shots or hundreds of monsters, but with what has to be the most unforgiving control I've ever had to master. Much like in the first game, the control of "The Master" isn't as fluid as some would like it to be. The jumping is hard to get used to, and the flying takes quite a while to master. Except when flying, "The Master" moves rather slow and clunky. If it's fluidity you're looking for, you won't find it in this game! This doesn't necessarily mean that the control is bad, it's just different. It's a matter of patience and familiarizing yourself with when and how to pull off the action you want.
The graphics are great. Simply put, great. Every area has a specific theme and the attention to detail in every setting is without flaw. Forests are lush, green, and cloudy. Backgrounds have multiple layering, and monsters are never underwhelming. Nothing was spared in creating the look of this game. It really is that good...
...But once again, the music is what really shines. I must admit, the soundtrack of the first game is better than the one in this, but the first's is a hard act to follow. Yuzo Koshiro shows that he can do it all with his haunting melodies that fill the world of Act2. All of the music fits the mood, and although all of it isn't memorable, none of it is bad.
It was a disappointment to some, but I feel that this game was given a bad rap. If you are a patient gamer and love beautiful action games with loads of potiental, give it a whirl.
ActRaiser2 - Super NES - Enix - Action
Graphics - 10 Music/Sound - 10Play Mechanics - 9 Playability - 7
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