Just a few days ago, I got this game from a friend for free since he had an extra copy. Before that, I didn’t really know much about Actraiser 2. I first heard about it a few years ago when I read about Actraiser 1 on some website or magazine (I honestly don’t remember) and at the end, the article says there was an Actraiser 2, but it omitted the god-game segments and pretty much exclusively consists of platforming levels. When my friend offered to give the game to me, I jumped at the deal almost instantly. I didn’t really care about the omission of the god-game segments. As long as the platforming levels are good, what else would there be to complain about? Well … a lot more.
Actraiser 2 was developed by Quintet and published by Enix in North America and Japan around 1993. It was released next year in Europe, but it was published by Ubisoft instead. It would be the last game in the Actraiser series. The first Actraiser game was well known for implementing both platforming and god-game segments. After you finish a platforming segment, the game would go into a city-building mode where you would help the people rebuild their village. It was an interesting concept and laid down the foundation for a potentially great series. However, Actraiser 2 removed the simulation portion of the game, and that right there really angered quite a few people. However, that CAN’T be the only reason why this game is hated so much, right?
The gameplay is simple enough. Like I mentioned earlier, the game largely consists of platforming segments similar to those of the first game, you go along the level, defeating any enemies, collecting items, and avoiding any hazards you can. At the end of the stage, there is a boss that awaits you. Defeat it and you’ll clear the stage. Before and after each stage, the game gives you an overhead view of the in-game world where the only purpose of it is selecting what stage to go to and hearing the plight and triumphs of the people that live below you. Your primary weapon in the game is a sword just like in the last game. You can also use magic just like in the last game too. To do so, press and hold the attack button until your character glows red, then press and hold one of the directional buttons and then release the buttons to unleash your magic. Some magic can be done only on the ground, while other magic can only be done while in the air. The usage of magic depends on how many scrolls you have. Each spell uses up 1 scroll and when you run out, you can’t use anymore magic unless you pick up a scroll in a level. New to Actraiser 2 is the ability to glide for a limited amount of time. To do so, simply press the jump button once and press it again while in midair. You can also attack and use magic while gliding. The controls for the most part work well, except for the gliding, which we’ll get to in a little bit.
The graphics in this game are definitely a step-up from the 1st Actraiser game. For starters, the world map has quite a bit more detail to it this time. The protagonist of the game is much more detailed and looks a lot different this time around. He doesn’t wear much but a loincloth and boots. But he at least has a pair of wings that look pretty cool. The enemies have also more of a vibrant appearance to them this time, the highlight being the bosses which are usually big, detailed, and well animated. The stages themselves also look very nice. The very first level for example, takes place in a forest and really has a vibrant and mysterious feel to it. In the first underwater stage, you can see a lot of people turned to stone around you, which is a nice touch. I’m happy to say that the animation of you zooming down to the world in a first-person view after selecting a stage is still here. I have really no complaints in this department.
The sound is this game is also another high point. The music in the game really sounds beautiful and masterfully composed. The music in the underwater levels has a really sad tone to it while the boss theme has a dramatic tone. No complaints in terms of music. The sound effects are not bad either. What I’ve noticed though is that a few sound effects seem to be taken from the first game. What I find funny though is when you die, your character makes some sort of loud growl. Nothing wrong with either though. I just find them interesting.
Actraiser is one of those games that may have great graphics and sound, but also has terrible gameplay. How can the gameplay be so terrible? The controls seem to work fine for the most part … what could go wrong? Lots of things have gone wrong. For starters, the difficulty is INSANE. I have the game on easy mode and even then, it’s quite relentless. One big reason for the high difficulty is the control. For starters, your character moves VERY slowly and cannot run or slide, making it difficult to avoid many hazards and attacks. The only way to go faster is by gliding in mid-air, which has its own problems. If you’re gliding in mid-air, it’s hard to stop until it’s too late. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up skidding and ultimately collide with an enemy. Some hazards and enemies just clearly define cheap. In some levels, there are spikes and when you touch them, you instantly die just like in the Mega Man games. I don’t mind them too much, but the jumps that accompany them are super-duper hard to pull off right. In one stage, I pretty much had to get hit by an enemy just so I could get across the spike pit with the brief invincibility. It’s that cheap. The enemies are also cheap from time to time. The sharks in the underwater levels for example, have a very unpredictable attack pattern and once they rush towards you, it’s almost impossible to dodge. These gameplay flaws really undermine a potentially great sequel and single-handedly turn the game into a frustrating pile of mediocrity.
With great graphics, great sound, and platforming gameplay taken from the 1st Actraiser, this game really had the potential to be a great sequel. But with frustrating controls, cheap enemies, and hellish difficulty, it seems that all the potential for this game and the Actraiser series is gone with one fell swoop. If you REALLY want to play this game, you can get it for around $20 or less, but even then, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you crave high difficulty in your games.
2 out of 5 stars.
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