I loved ActRaiser when I was young. I’d never played anything like it at the time. I adored the hybrid nature and what it was trying to do, even when certain bosses would overwhelm me. ActRaiser Renaissance arrived at exactly the right time. It perfectly builds on everything good about the original. More importantly, it makes the the city simulation portions even more engaging by adding RTS elements.
You’re a god. Unfortunately, you’re a deity in a world where evil took over. The task of rebuilding and restoring the world falls on your shoulders. You’ll head to different locations. First, you’ll clear enemies and bosses out. Then you will provide aid to the innocent people attempting to find new homes. Your help, which consists of miracles to clear the land and deal with troubles, advice on how to develop settlements, and clearing out of enemy spawners in monster dens can revive nations. As time goes by, you’ll drive out evil and take back people’s homes.
If someone played ActRaiser before, there are many times when ActRaiser Renaissance will feel familiar! The level structure is largely the same. The allies and enemies will too. Even the city maps, like Fillmore, have some shared geography. And the action levels might even have some 1:1 sorts of moments. The platforming portions especially pull from the original. You’re still running and jumping around, slashing a sword to cut down opponents.
However, the town management feels completely revitalized. The basics remain. You still direct your people and tell them where to build. You control the angel to shoot down flying foes. Miracles are used to clear land or deal with certain unpleasantries. But now there are actions to allow more direct engagement with people. Enemies might beset a town, attempting to raze the temple. You then have to take part in a Settlement Siege, ensuring forts and blockades block enemy paths, attack towers are in place, and legendary heroes are directed to spots where they will be useful. You need to collect resources, so you can upgrade protective facilities. There might be side quests, such as one involving bread to find a lost youth. You might need to destroy your own colony’s buildings, so better fields, homes, and workshops can be built. And when your citizens overpower a monster den, it will fall to you to directly head inside to destroy the enemy spawners so it can be sealed off for good.
It comes down to a lot more direct engagement. Which is a welcome addition. The original ActRaiser is absolutely enjoyable. But in ActRaiser Renaissance, it feels like you have even more influence. Rather than only charting a path, you’re ensuring things are organized and tidied up. You’re dealing with opponents in multiple ways. Which feels realistic, given that the forces of evil know you’re fighting back and rebuilding. And while things do start off very manageable, the new Settlement Siege portions can make you think. Not every road can have a fort blocking off enemies! You never know when a wave could include airborne foes, which makes dedicated attack towers a must.
There’s also the matter of there being so much more here. In addition to the areas we expect, more ended up added in this release. This means a new location, for one. There’s also a new boss. Additional music from Yuzo Koshiro, the original composer, is here in addition to the remastered original songs. But what I appreciated more are the extra connections. It’s not only less detached when it comes to the actions you perform. There are more interactions with people in the world. The angel you’re working alongside speaks to you. Sometimes the conversations are informative or serious. Occasionally, they’re silly. The prayers and requests from your subjects are more elaborate. The notable heroes each have their own hardships and personalities. The world feels more alive.
ActRaiser Renaissance is the definition of a pleasant surprise. From its sudden launch as a Nintendo Direct shadowdrop to its refreshing revival of the game, it’s the epitome of the unexpected. It respects the original game. Yet, Sonic Powered and Square Enix built it up to ensure it does even more in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Both people returning to it and those experiencing it for the first time could equally enjoy it. And one can only hope Square Enix will keep in mind what worked here and make any other SNES remakes as robust.
ActRaiser Renaissance is available for the Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC, and both Android and Apple iOS devices.