It’s surprising to see Actraiser return after all these years. The original game launched in the West nearly 30 years ago and the series has mostly lain dormant since a sequel in 1993. Granted, the developer behind the series closed up shop a long time ago. Enter Actraiser Renaissance, which sets out to remaster the original game. At least, that’s what it claims to do. In reality, this is more of a complete remake than a remaster, even if it sticks much closer in some places than many remakes would end up doing. But the question stands: is Actraiser Renaissance worth it?
If you’re not familiar with the original, it’s a god game where you play as a god who oversees and helps direct people in settlements. The game is a mixture of side-scrolling stages and overhead sections where you guide the settlers towards growth and safety. You could call it part action game and part RTS, although the RTS mechanics are far too simple for the latter to be truly appropriate. Surprisingly, the RTS stuff is massively bolstered in Actraiser Renaissance, often to its detriment more than anything else. Simply put, this is a longer, more involved game that takes the original’s structure and makes it pretty uneven.
The earlier version of the game is eager to divide itself between sidescrolling levels and the god game management aspects. The sidescrolling is similar here, albeit totally revamped. The combat is more complex, adding additional moves, such as upward and downward strikes. You can now backdash. It feels good, but there simply isn’t much of it, even if some extremely short missions were added here and there to make sure you don’t forget it exists. There are a lot of quests now to grow your settlements. But Actraiser Renaissance doesn’t let you do most of the things similar games do. Most structures and actions are accomplished automatically by the settlers.
What’s weird is that there are things they just can’t do. As settlements grow, their level increases, but settlers in Actraiser Renaissance can’t upgrade what they build, requiring you to destroy the old ones to get them to build entirely new ones. You fly around in the overworld as an angel to facilitate this. The only thing you can build are guardhouses. This stuff is fine, if a little basic compared to similar games. But problems crop up with the game’s main new feature. Enemies can now siege your settlements, and despite the fact that you can control an angel to fight enemies with a bow during normal sections, during sieges this is totally absent for no good reason. You can still use miracles to damage them, but that uses up SP and you can only get that if workshops make it during these sections.
Instead, you need to rely on that settlement’s hero and hope you’ve placed guardhouses in the right place. You can tell the hero where to go, but they’ll walk right past enemies enroute. Honestly, I hate these sections. I think they kind of ruin Actraiser Renaissance, as they’re basically tower defense sections where you can barely do anything. I feel like this remake oversteps its bounds and damages what was so great about the original game. If you lose these sieges, all you can do is move your guardhouses around and hope they fare better next time. You can also put down palisades to block enemy movement temporarily, but they’re only somewhat useful.
I’d understand including sieges if your options had been significantly deepened, but they really haven’t been. On top of that, while the game’s visuals are high resolution and the character artwork is high quality, the levels and overworld are made with derpy-looking pre-rendered graphics that, to me at least, look a good deal worse than the original game . It almost looks like a mobile game. To put that into context, they went to remake a three-decade-old game and made it uglier. I don’t get it at all. Actraiser Renaissance definitely still has some charms here and there, but I’d rather replay the original game than this one. It’s got more content, sure, but that isn’t always the right choice. It’s not worth it for me, although series fans will simply be glad that it’s been given a new lease on life.