Review: Actraiser Renaissance – A Noble Attempt At Resurrecting The Godly 16-Bit Classic

In the lap of the gods.

The original Actraiser was a truly seminal release. Launched alongside the Super Famicom at the close of 1990, Quintet’s skilful blend of platforming action and Populous-style world-building was immediately lauded as a stone-cold classic, and it’s striking that in the 30 years that have passed since, it has never been bettered. Direct sequel Actraiser 2 unwisely ditched the ‘God Sim’ sections, and the recent ‘spiritual successor’ SolSeraph tried and failed to capture the same magic. Then, out of the blue in September 2021, Square Enix shadow-dropped Actraiser Renaissance, a full remake of the original game developed not by Quintet (that studio has long since been disbanded), but by Sonic Powered, a Japanese outfit best known for its Boku wa Koukuu Kanseikan: Airport Hero series.

Actraiser Renaissance retains the unique two-genre setup of the 1990 version, with the player assuming the role of a benevolent deity who seeks to liberate the world from the evil clutches of the Dark Lord Tanzra, who has cruelly subjugated several regions via his dutiful sub-lieutenants. Each area offers two distinct gameplay styles; first, you must take the form of a warrior character – your physical embodiment on earth, essentially – and tackle a side-scrolling action section that culminates in a boss fight. When you’ve done this, the game switches to a top-down view of the region, where you directly control your talkative angel helper. Here, you can guide the direction in which your settlement grows while using your angel to take down respawning aerial monsters with holy arrows. The aim is to locate and tackle a second side-scrolling section and defeat Tanzra’s champion for that region, bringing lasting peace and prosperity before you move onto the next location to repeat the process.

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