Mini Review: Actraiser Renaissance (PS4) – SNES Remake Is a Game of Three Thirds

Praised for being “A Game of Two Halves” in issue two of Super Play, gaming magazines like CVG and Mean Machines were consistent in applauding SNES ActRaiser in the early 1990s for combining two contrasting gameplay styles. This effective structure is preserved in PS4 Actraiser Renaissance, as this remake retains the diversity of shifting from an action platformer in The Legendary Axe mould, to following Populous’ god game bible by clearing paths to construct more advanced buildings, and contented civilisations, in a simpler alternative to SimCity.

It’s with developer Sonic Powered adding a third element of tense Settlement Siege tower defence that the tighter pacing of the original is altered, especially as a story eulogising your battle as the Lord of Light to defeat the Dark Lord Tanzra is told through incessant, but skippable dialogue text — which interrupts the flow of play.

It’s a vast experience across six Old Realms, with an extra mystery to uncover. There are difficulty spikes while managing three prophesied heroes during later Settlement Siege sections, plus an expanded move-set makes the 14 platforming Acts easier than the SNES game on Normal difficulty. It’s especially rewarding to take your overpowered, level 25 Master to feel godlike in the unlockable Special Mode, for those who desire all-action like in ActRaiser 2.

Yuzo Koshiro’s glorious re-arranged soundtrack binds the three gameplay styles together, as his majestic music shifts from dramatic to serene to elevate the package. Actraiser Renaissance also incorporates the classic SNES sound chip tunes, but any prayers that Square Enix would include the original SNES game have been unanswered.

There’s a generous amount of content, which at 20 hours is four times the completion size of the original. Since this retro remake is a game of three thirds, it’d be a disservice if followers of the original lost faith from initial impressions of the unsightly side-scrolling action, and an overly gabby god game. Yet, fans won’t be on cloud nine if a lack of support towards Actraiser Renaissance discourages Square Enix from being devoted to ActRaiser as a promising series.

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