ActRaiser Renaissance and Why I Shouldn’t Have Played It (So Much)

The Wii’s Virtual Console was a pretty incredible thing, and one of the reasons why: it introduced me to a fair number of classic games that I never would have experienced otherwise. ActRaiser for SNES being one of them, if you hadn’t already sussed that out from the post title. I can vaguely remember reading about ActRaiser (or perhaps its sequel?) in Nintendo Power, very specifically while with my family at the drive-in theatre, waiting for a movie to start. But I never actually played it until many, many years later when it was released on the VC. And you know what? It’s a pretty cool game! Part action-platformer, part SimCity Lite, it’s got surprisingly few imitators to this day despite how well-received it was and how fondly remembered it seems to be.

Square-Enix surprised the world last year by releasing a remake of the game, called ActRaiser Renaissance. I feel a little bad about waiting over a year to play it, but there are simply too many games, you know? But I have played it now, and I thought that it was very good! It’s a very faithful remake, as it brings back literally everything I remember about the original and polishes up the presentation with fancy new graphics and a rearranged soundtrack by the composer of the original, Yuzo Koshiro. And that’s all great! There are also a ton of new features, like being able to level up your character and get power-ups in the action stages, and a new tower-defense mode for the simulation stages. There’s also an absolute buttload of extra dialogue, which, having read it all, is pretty safe to skip entirely.

Where things go wrong, however, are in the trophies (or achievements, if you prefer). While most of the trophies are awarded for beating bosses, at least half of them are awarded for what amounts to grinding levels and farming monsters.

Okay, that’s not 100% true. The ones that are for “farming monsters” are actually for completing all the quests in each town. But! The final quests in each town are for defeating a certain number of a specific monster in the region’s action stages. And there are rarely enough of the specified enemy to complete the quests in a single run. So you end up going into the stage, killing all of the enemy you’re looking for, warping out, and then hopping in again to repeat the process until you’ve got enough demon pelts or whatever to satisfy the villagers. See? Those trophies are essentially earned by farming monsters.

The level-grinding trophies are a much bigger waste of time, however.

For each region in the game, there is a hero character that plays a part in that land’s story. They also wander around the map and act as support in the tower defense mode. Each hero can level up to 20, and there is an achievement for getting each hero to level 20. However, if you just play through the story, your heroes will maybe hit level 9 at most. You’re then left to sit on the map and wait for a random tower defense “battle” to occur. Then you keep doing that until you gain enough items to level up all of your dudes and ladies. And this takes hours. Of course, I made the best of a bad situation and used all the downtime to read a book while I waited, but it’s ridiculous all the same.

And the final trophy -or, the one that I imagine most players would get last- is awarded for beating all of the action stages in Special mode (an unlockable score attack mode) on the hardest difficulty. At first, I thought you had to do them all sequentially, which seems like a literally impossible task. But you actually get to play each level individually, so it’s not so bad! Except for how on the hardest difficulty, every single enemy hits like a truck, and the only way to increase your HP is… yup, grinding tower defense, again. Leveling up your character is the exact same process as leveling up heroes, only your level cap is a whopping 99. Ninety-nine. Alas! I actually haven’t gone through with this one yet, but I have just started a new book, so…

I know I’ve been bellyaching a lot here, but ActRaiser Renaissance is a pretty darn good game, as long as you’re not a trophy/achievement hunter. The solid base of the original game is perfectly intact, and most of the additions help to flesh it out a bit more. The only real drawback is that roughly half of the trophies literally just cost time. No skill required, no fun to be had, just a straight-up time sink. But trophies are completely optional, so it’s fine! Ignore them and enjoy this video game!

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