Review by Rememberance
Ugh, what have they done to Actraiser?
There are few times sequels surpass and are better than the original. Most of the time, the sequel is there to ride on the coat tails of it's parent and try to milk the fan base that made the first so great. Actraiser was an interesting and inventive God sim/Platformer that actually kept you wanting to play, even with horrid music and a few gameplay problems. Actraiser2 however, seems to have come up with the idea that "Gamers are stupid. If we just take everything good about the first and make it bad and make the bad good, we're golden!" Sorry guys, but no, that's not how it works. Keeping the good and inventive and working on the bad parts is a good idea. Gutting a great game and throwing together a bunch of powers and power ups a good game does not make.
In Actraiser, you were a god, a master of all you saw. You were called upon to save the innocent and rebuild your world. Your worshippers called upon you to save them and when you did good things, built their cities and tried out a few powers, you were rewarded. More life, more spells, stronger weapons and magics. It was good to be a god. In Actraiser2, gone is the god sim, gone are the days of building up a civilization and going through Acts to kill monsters. In Actraiser2, you're a glorified gladiator with wings. The story is pretty cliche. Instead of the big demon from 1 actually being destroyed, you, as a God and defeated once by this demon already, decided "I'll just wail on him and beat him near to death and well, that's good enough. I won't actually destroy him." and so the big demon was just beaten and sent on his way. His 13 Generals and Lords however, didn't like this. So they heal their fallen boss and decide to wreck havoc on your world. Ugh. Why you decided to just hit him *the demon lord* hard and not finish him off is beside me. I mean, if I was defeated and put to sleep for eons, I sure as heck wouldn't just beat you soundly and then put you in time out. However, that's just me. How the story pans out in Actraiser2 is much better than in 1 as far as I'm concerned. Yes, the premise is very cliche and makes no sense, but how it plays out in the game is much better. Instead of villagers just randomly asking you to save little Teddy or clearing up a lake, now you see the demons at work and what they've done to your civilization. This is very welcome from the near nonexistent story in Actraiser1. Now, if only the rest of the game built upon instead of broken down.
Actraiser2 tried to build upon the platform aspects of the first game. Unfortunately, this is a case of high expectations and very faulty implimation. You start with the ability to fly, cast all spells, full health and being able to block and attack upwards. Some of this was sorely missing from Actraiser1, like the ability to attack and block upwards. However, starting with all these great things lessens just how great they are. There's no sense of accomplishment like there was in Act1. Instead of being happy and feeling proud when you found a new power up or spell, now, you just have them all at your disposal from the start. Not to mention, in Act1, magic was simple and easy to use. Pick your spell and use it. If you had the MP, good for you. If not, well, wait till the next act or find an MP booster. In Act2, however, if you're standing still, you do a spell, if you're jumping it's another spell, if you're gliding it's yet another spell. Hovering? yup, another spell. Falling? Yet another. You can't use the gliding spell while standing still, nor can you use the gliding spell while falling. To mention the fact that you must first power up to even use the spells at your disposal, which is a real hindrance in boss fights where the difficulty has been increased 10 fold from Act1.
The controls are very sloppy in Act2. When you glide, you can't stop at will, instead, you either fly head long into enemies or you hover and still get hit. Yes, you can attack while gliding and hovering, but the lag from pressing the button to actually pulling out your sword is horrible. Most of the time, you're just going to get hit. When trying to land out of a glide, the Master now flaps his wings in a stopping motion, opening himself up to attacks for a long time, usually 3-5 seconds. If you're forced to land near enemies, say good bye to a large chunk of your life. The gliding does open the game up for more exploration, but all in all, it just makes an already difficult game that much harder.
One of my big complaints with Actraiser1 was the difficulty. It was relatively easy to go through each act, reach the boss and just wail away, especially if you had built up a bit in the god sim part of the game. However, the difficulty was scaled, which was a good thing. You hit for one damage, most enemies hit for one damage. Now, you hit for 1 damage and monsters hit for 2, 3 or even more each time you get touched. Going from 8 health to zero just for touching the tail of a monster is insane. Losing 4 life for touching water is ridiculous. Instead of just pushing the power of bosses up a notch, instead they make each monster much more difficult, bosses nearly impossible to hit and take off half your life. If you don't have magic *which most of the time you won't, mid bosses being that cheap* you're just out of luck when it comes to the main boss.
Finally, and it's a minor point, the hit detection seems way off in this game. Having your shield up only to have your pinky toe hit by a boulder and taking off 3 life isn't fun. Not even touching a monster only to have your life reduced to zero isn't fun.
I will say, the graphics are a bit updated from the original game, which is good and bad. The character designs and the monsters are much more vibrant and cool looking. The Master may have dumbed down and is now nothing more than an angelic gladiator, but dangit if he isn't a hotty. Most of the monsters and bosses look much much better than their act1 brethren. However, while the characters got a make over, the stages themselves look horrid. Gone are the smooth and clean backgrounds that gave Act1 a sense of individuality and uniqueness. Now we have slightly blurry and shimmery stages. They fit, but they just aren't as clean as they were in Act1. Even your little cherub buddy from 1 got an upgrade. Instead of a naked valentines angel, you now have a buff angel of... information? Seriously, your new buffer angel friend does nothing but tell you how the inhabitants of the world feel or don't feel as the case may be. Rest in peace my little buddy.
The sounds however, didn't get the same work up. Instead of "ha ah!" when you swing your sword, you get "huh!" The stage music isn't much better or improved from Act1. Enemy and environmental sounds are just as corny and out of place as ever. I will say though, the horrible dialogue sounds are gone. You no longer feel like you want to rip your own ears off. Just plug em up with something sound proof.
All in all, Actraiser2 is a grave disappointment. I was expecting good things out of this game, instead, I got a half fleshed out platformer with none of the greatness from it's progenitor. All that I loved about the first game is gone, instead replaced by a much harder, less fun and less inventive platformer. It's a shame when good series go bad, especially after just one sequel. Rest in peace Actraiser. If you find the ROM and you enjoyed the first game, by all means try this one out. You'll see just far the Master has fallen. If you somehow come across this game, I suggest looking for something more worth your time and money. It's not worth the effort. If you own the cartridge, meh, you know how bad the game already is. Sorry.
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