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Video Game / ActRaiser

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Creating order from chaos since 1990.

ActRaiser is a platforming/sim game released in 1990 for the SNES, developed by Quintet and published by Enix (now Square Enix). You are a Sealed Good in a Can god named The Master (apparently the Abrahamic God, but only in Japan), sent into a nice nap after Tanzra (also known as Satan, but again, only in Japan) and his minions beat you silly a very long time ago. While you were sleeping, Tanzra and pals divided your world amongst themselves, and your godlike powers found themselves drained, due to your worshippers abandoning ship.

As the game begins, you awaken from your slumber, bent on thrashing monsters and regaining your followers, which is accomplished through side-scrolling platform action and SimCity-like overhead village construction, respectively.

A sequel was made (and published abroad by Ubisoft) which dropped the city maintenance aspect of the game. The story goes that Enix of America requested Quintet to remove the simulation segments, apparently claiming that players would not "get" them. But seeing how the simulation elements was one of the main things that made the original stand out amongst similar side-scrolling action games, the sequel was not as well received, or remembered. However, this game did pave the way for what would become one of Enix's greatest, loosest trilogies — SoulBlazer, Illusion of Gaia, and Terranigma. It's also the only representative of this whole series to be released for the Wii's Virtual Console; make of that what you will.


Sega announced a Spiritual Successor by Ace Team entitled SolSeraph, to be released on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch on July 10th 2019 with Yuzo Koshiro, who composed the music for ActRaiser scoring the new game and Jonas Kyrazes (The Talos Principle) writing the narrative.

This game contains examples of:

  • Actionized Sequel: You don't get a much better example than ActRaiser 2. The god sim portions were excised, and your character has many more varieties of attack and is a much more nimble being than the first game's.
  • Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: In the finale, The Master faces Tanzra and co. first in a cloudy wasteland, then in a starry galactic field.
  • An Ax To Grind: The Minotaur boss of Filmore Act II.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: The angel is naked.
  • Bittersweet Ending: By the end of the game, the world is beautiful, everyone's happy... and they don't need you anymore, so your temples are empty, your statue forgotten.
    • Depending on your interpretation, it might not be so bittersweet after all; if the people don't need the Master anymore, then they are truly at peace and capable of solving their problems on their own, which was the Master's goal all along. If the Master is truly selfless and benevolent, he shouldn't care that he is no longer praised if the people are happier, anyway.
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    • Actraiser 2's ending is also bittersweet; Tanzra has been defeated and the world is at peace once more, but all of the angels have died in the attempt to infiltrate his domain when the Master willingly crashes the Sky Temple into it to break the barrier surrounding it, and the Master himself has disappeared without a trace.
  • Blackout Basement: One room in Bloodpool Act II.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: In the ending, the angel makes reference to the leaders of Marahna being tempted by "the wicked mirror," despite nothing of the sort actually appearing during gameplay. The term used in Japanese, jashinkyou, was probably supposed to mean something like "religion of the evil god," which would make sense in context. However, the Japanese text only uses phonetic hiragana instead of the kanji that would have made the meaning clear. A translator who hadn't worked on or remembered the earlier part of the game must've made an incorrect guess; the kanji for "mirror" can also be read as "kyou," though the final translation leaves out the shin (god) component of the original phrase completely.
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: Lightning. Particularly when turned against your own followers.
  • Boss Rush: The final stage is a straight up fight with the six "Act II" bosses, and then Tanzra.
  • Bottomless Pits
  • Bubblegloop Swamp: Bloodpool, and to some extent Marahna Act 1.
  • Build Like an Egyptian: Kasandora Act 2.
  • Cap: Each simulation area is limited to 128 structures, which puts a limit on the maximum population. If you build, say, too many bridges, you won't be able to gain enough population to reach your character's highest level and maximum HP since you can't destroy bridges even though you can destroy outdated houses.
  • Censorship Bureau: Nintendo's policies lead to the God/Master/Satan/Tanzra name changes.
  • Chain Reaction Destruction: The bosses explode in that manner.
  • Charged Attack: The spells in the second game are activated this way, with the exact spell you get determined by what you're doing when you release the attack button: standing for a flamethrower, crouching for a shield, aiming upward for a shower of 3 energy balls, jumping for 4 balls of ice, floating for a lighting bolt, gliding for an energy shot and diving for a phoenix dive.
  • Character Level: Based on the population attained in the simulations. Many a game gets stalled out at the second-highest level when all of the town populations show "max" and no further growth can take place. See here for more details.
  • Clown Car Base: The monster lairs in the simulations. Hundreds of beasts can be huddled away in a single lair, and they won't stop popping out until you destroy them all one by one or have your followers seal them all up at once.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Aitos Act II takes place inside a volcano. Justifiable since the PC is a statue possessed by a god, though the lava itself still hurts.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Whether it's God or the Master, the game's set in a pure fantasy world.
  • Dem Bones: Mainly seen as skeletal mini-dragons.
  • Developers' Foresight: In the Bloodpool simulation area, you get an item that's used to seal a Monster Lair that's inaccessible to the townspeople. If you try to use it on a different lair, the angel avatar won't let you.
  • Difficulty by Region: The game difficulty was toned down for the US release, both in the Act and the Simulation phases. Many of the mooks in the Acts have some attacks removed, spikes don't kill the Master in one hit, and some mooks had their invincibility removed. Cities are easier to grow in the Simulation mode. Interestingly, the US version has higher population requirements for gaining levels, but because the cities grow faster and because each city has a much higher population cap, leveling up is still a bit faster in that version.
  • Difficulty Levels: After beating the game normally, the "Professional" mode becomes available. See Nintendo Hard, below.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Magical Stardust, obtained in the second area, Bloodpool. This little piece of magic here rains down a lot of stars to do A LOT of damage to everything on the screen, and can take out most bosses on its own by just a few charges. It's ineffective against two bosses, both of which have a small target area, and will most likely be depleted during the Boss Rush.
  • Dragons Are Demonic: In the second game, the embodiment of the sin of Greed is a dragon.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Invoked in the sequel, which denies you the last level on Easy mode and tells you to "Challenge Normal Mode!"
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: The Master gets a free Sword Beam powerup in the final battle, an item normally found only once before in the game. It emits an energy wave with every swing of the sword, and doubles attack power to boot.
  • Fake Difficulty: Actraiser 2 falls hard into this with it's last few stages. Starting with the Ice Palace, what was a tough but fair game suddenly becomes a quagmire of constant spike traps, unreasonably difficult jumps, enemies with way too much health, enemies whose attacks are nearly impossible to avoid, enemies that spawn right on top of you and That One Boss after That One Boss.
  • Fake Platform: Quite a few platforms fall when you step on them.
  • Fallen Angel: In Actraiser 2 we learn that Tanzra used to be a servant of the Master, but he rebelled and was cast out of Heaven as punishment. He then plots to get revenge against the master by sending his seven demon lieutenants to cause chaos in the kingdoms of man.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture
    • Fillmore - Greece (the bosses of both Acts are a centaur and a minotaur, creatures from Greek mythology)
    • Bloodpool - Medieval Europe (the castle of Bloodpool appears distinctly European in style, and the bosses of the Acts are a winged manticore and a mage/werewolf.)
    • Kasandora - Ancient Egypt (is mostly desert by the time you arrive there, and you venture inside a pyramid in Act 2 where you fight mummies, bird-head warriors patterned after Horus, and the boss looks like Tutenkhamen's golden mortuary mask)
    • Aitos - Japan (has bamboo, Samurai and Tengu enemies, an Oriental Dragon as the boss of Act 1, and a monstrous Wanyudo as the boss of Act 2)
    • Marahna - India/Cambodia/Mesoamerica (has Native American enemies, a Cambodian Temple, and a boss that resembles a Hindu god)
    • Northwall - Scandinavia (takes place in the cold north and has a giant tree akin to the mythical trees of Norse legends)
  • Flash of Pain: The enemies and the player after getting hit. Even applies to enemies which take one hit to kill.
  • Green Aesop: Thoroughly averted. Areas start out with a variety of ecosystems, from swamps and jungles to deserts and artic tundra. All will be cleared out to make room for more houses and farms. The game has an almost Manifest Destiny attitude towards the spread of your worshipers.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Your amount of loyal subjects translate directly into how beefy your avatar is during the side-scrolling portions.
  • God Is Good: The Master contains equal parts Conan, Rambo and Giuliani.
    • Good Is Not Nice: The Master can be very much the God of the Old Testament, and is perfectly capable of sending a Bolt of Divine Retribution down on his followers' heads if the offerings don't keep coming, or conduct urban renewal with an earthquake, which kills all worshippers not in the highest level of housing. This is, in fact, necessary to reach the highest level.
  • Grimy Water: The eponymous lake in Bloodpool.
  • Guide Dang It!: Reaching maximum level can feel like a Luck-Based Mission if you don't read a guide. Also, obtaining some of the offerings in simulation mode requires you to use rain or lightning at random points on the map, including on the temple itself in one area.
  • Hailfire Peaks: Aitos Act I.
  • Harder Than Hard: In case the sequel wasn't hard enough for you, a password unlocks a difficulty simply known as "202", in which just about everything kills you in one hit and most enemies have too much health to be killed in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Headless Man: The headless natives in Marahna's Act I, which have faces on their chests and jab at you with long spears. They're based on the "anthropophagi" (man eaters) that Othello talks about meeting in his travels.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Bloodpool, Death Heim.
  • Irony: The people of Humbleton built the Tower of Babel to prove to the world that they could do anything, that they earned the right to be recognized as geniuses, and that they can reach god and prove that they were equal to him... if not better than him. So much for being "Humble".
  • Jump Physics: Largely averted. Once you've committed to the direction of a jump, you can't change it, and you can't do other tricks like turning around in midair and swinging your sword at enemies behind you, either. At best you can slightly lengthen or shorten your leap by holding the respective direction.
  • Jungle Japes: Marahna Act I, with a touch of Temple of Doom.
  • Legacy Boss Battle: In the sequel, you can enter a password to fight the final boss from the first game.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Aitos
  • Living Statue: The Master's humanoid form is, well... a statue of The Master, before he animates it. Kalia, the boss of Marahna Act II, is a floating statue of a demon with six arms and a serpent's head.
  • A Load of Bull: The boss of Fillmore Act II is a Minotaur armed with An Ax To Grind.
  • The Lost Woods: Fillmore Act I.
  • Made of Explodium: The enemies explode upon death for no specific reason.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Many areas, but most noticeably the pyramid in Kasandora Act II and Kalia's castle in Marahna Act II.
  • Mana: Magic Sources for magic use in the platforming sections, and Simulation Points to use miracles in the simulation areas.
  • Man-Eating Plant: The Rafflasher boss of Marahna Act I.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter: The Manticore boss of Bloodpool Act I.
  • Nintendo Hard: Ouch, that boss rush and multi-stage final boss STINGS! As does the "Professional" mode, due to lack of magic, enemies taking more hits to kill, bosses being faster, and the absence of a projectile power-up in Aitos Act I. Doubly so if you're playing the Japanese version's Special Mode, which includes instant-death spikes and only two lives.
    • The entire sequel is also quite challenging, even on Easy Mode, partly due to some difficult control issues.
    • Most of the later bosses can be this if you don't just spam Stardust till they croak.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": The arrows fired in the Pyramid stage and elsewhere, as well as your angel's arrows.
  • North Is Cold, South Is Hot: In the north, you have Aitos and Northwall. In the south, you have Kasandora and Maranha.
  • Not Quite Flight: The Winged Humanoid player character in the sequel can glide for a short time.
  • One-Winged Angel: Tanzra, at first a disembodied head, transforms into a skeletal monstrosity when his first life bar is depleted.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Both Eastern and Western dragons are featured, as the bosses of Aitos Act I and Northwall Act II, respectively.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: the boss of Bloodpool Act II is a magician that turns into a werewolf midway through the battle.
  • Patchwork Map: Each region has its own distinct biome.
  • Permanently Missable Content: The Source of Life in Kasandora, if you don't cause an earthquake after revealing the pyramid but before beginning Act II.
  • Physical God: The Master, after he animates his statue.
  • Precursors: Northeast of Marahna is a mysterious bird-shaped island covered with trees. Many miles west, on an inaccessible plateau in Kasandora, lies a symbol of identical size and shape inscribed in the earth... Lead your people to first one and then the other, and they'll uncover the best-hidden magic spell in the game.
  • Reincarnation: Implied of the leaders of Northwall. Also, any worshipper who is killed will reincarnate, and almost every soul must be released from a monstrous form first.
  • Satan: Tanzra, who was actually named Satan in the Japanese version.
  • Scoring Points: Surprisingly relevant to the course of the game — the points you score in the Acts affect your maximum population in the simulations, and thus affect the level your character can achieve.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: The demon bosses of the sequel are the personification of the sins, corrupting the people through Demonic Possession.
    • Sloth: The People of Diligence used to be hard-working naturalists who were famous for their forest, Industen, and river, Benefic. 'Fatigue' appeared as rain clouds over Industen and corrupted Diligence through its life-sapping rain which slipped into their drinking water by the Benefic Demon Snail.
    • Envy: The queen of Altheria grew jealous of the other lands, thinking that her land is too small. She tried to expand her kingdom by building the city of Devote on top of a giant tortoise near her kingdom's shore, not counting the possibility of the tortoise trying to dive or swim away. Seeing her beloved city gone, she became jealous of everything that she couldn't get and turned into a demon, while the Flame of Jealousy burned alight even underwater.
    • Gluttony: The People of Temponia always had an abundance of food, until an army of demonic ants led by Gluttony (manifested as an ant queen) started stealing food from the city. Unable to defend themselves from the ants and faced with famine, the people desperately fought each other and died of starvation. The previously lush plain Modero became a desert, and those who died of starvation became the Gules, demonic mouths still yearning for morsels.
    • Wrath: Justinia is a city famous for its army. Suddenly the King of Justinia attacked the neighboring kingdom Favorian for unknown reasons. The People of Favorian, who felt betrayed from the attack from their allying city, fought back. As the violence, hatred, and deaths of the war grew, Almetha Volcano became active with a frightening intensity.
    • Lust: The demon of 'Deception' defeated the King of Lovaous, and put him to an eternal sleep. In his dream, the demon lulled the king with an illusion of a beautiful woman of ice, which seduced the king into never waking up and froze Lovaous in beautiful sheets of ice. The people became desperate to wake the King because the grave danger of an eternal winter soon became obvious to them: Without sunlight and heat, both plants and animals, whether on not they were conditioned to withstand cold, would begin to waste away and die which meant that hypothermia, disease, and starvation would befall them.
    • Greed: Leon was not a rich place, but its people are honest and full of gratitude. The newly appointed King Kolunikus put a heavy tax on the people and those who couldn't pay were imprisoned and tortured in the underground prison 'Gratis'. As it turned out, Kolunikus had made a deal with the demon "Doom" to get a lot of money and used the taxes to make his castle into a place covered in gold and full of treasure. His corruption was so great that the King became a golden demon dragon.
    • Pride: The People of Humbleton were very advanced and, not satisfied with worshiping the Master, sought to become Master themselves by building the Tower of Souls to reach the Sky Palace. Their most prized inventions were then possessed by demons to turn them away from their rightful Master.
  • Shambling Egyptian Mummy: In the Pyramid of Kasandora Act II, naturally.
  • Shifting Sand Land: Kasandora, complete with a buried pyramid to unearth.
  • Simulation Game: When you aren't platforming, you're Simming it up in order to regain the love of your followers. Or raining disasters upon them, depending upon your mood.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Northwall Act I.
  • Spikes of Doom: Some kill you instantly, some don't. Unless you're playing the Japanese version, then they all do, unless you're invincible from taking damage.
  • Storming the Castle: Twice, in Bloodpool Act II and Marahna Act II.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Water areas in Bloodpool Act I serve as Bottomless Pits. Possibly justified in that the lake is stated to be poisoned (and the player character is a walking statue).
  • Sword Beam: Collectible power-up in one Act (on Normal Mode, anyway), and given as an 11th-Hour Superpower.
  • Temple of Doom: The second act of each area.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: Tanzra was resurrected by the hatred of 13 demons in the sequel.
  • Timed Mission: All Acts; simulation sections are untimed.
  • Tower of Babel: The Tower of Souls in the sequel is practically the expy of it. The people of Humbleton specifically built it so they can reach the Sky Palace and become Master themselves.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Practically an Invoked Trope; maxing out your population requires you to kill your followers by destroying low-level structures, thus making room for higher-level, higher-capacity houses. Earthquakes are the best way to go about this, mostly because the highest-level structures aren't affected by them.
  • World Tree: The large tree in Northwall is a version of this, and also where the second Act of the area takes place.
    • The unique background music track for Northwall Act II is also titled "The World Tree."


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