The charter of Jessen's "Middle School Gaming" is to provide an in-depth analysis of a specific game. It's not a review, it's a detailed account of the game's history, inspiration, production, and social impact. If there's a magnifying glass around, Jessen's the one holding it. Mainly so he can fry tiny insects.
Cerebral Games for Twitch Gamers
Released as a launch title in 1991, Actraiser was destined to be a surefire hit. It was developed by the RPG wizards Enix in collaboration with software developer Quintet, with music by Yuzo “Streets of Rage” Koshiro. Mr. Koshiro’s brilliant compositions and the Super Nintendo’s powerful sound chip belted out the hauntingly stellar soundtrack, while the dazzling backgrounds and huge, colorful sprites were a dramatic improvement over the pixelated, squat characters of NES games. All this topped off with a vivid storyline and fantastic gameplay have allowed Actraiser age gracefully, despite being released over eleven years ago.
Borrowing heavily from elements of mythology, the story of Actraiser begins extravagantly as a war between personifications of good and evil: the demon Tanzra and our protagonist, known simply as the Master. The two deities were engaged in a monumental struggle for power, climaxing in a battle where the Master was severely weakened and narrowly slain. Minions of the demon Tanzra overran the land until all followers of the Master were killed, their souls transformed into monsters. Meanwhile, the Master had sealed himself in his Sky Palace to recover from his wounds. Epochs later, an angel awakens the Master and fills him in on the poor state of affairs: his body had long perished, and his power, which depends on the faith of his people, had been greatly diminished.
This is where the player comes in: taking control of the Master, releasing the souls of his people by vanquishing monsters, guiding his people in building towns, and rekindling their faith in him. Gameplay consists of two modes: Action and Simulation. There are six separate areas, each with different geographies, climates, and obstacles that need to be overcome. The first step is to possess statues cast in the image of the Master, which the former, now-extinct civilization had conveniently scattered across the land. Despite the millennia, these statues are in very good repair, and don’t seem to suffer from much weather damage or bird poopie. Good news for the Master, not so good for Tanzra’s minions. Once the Master sends his spirit down to a statue, the Action stage commences in classic side-scrolling goodness. The key here is to defeat as many monsters as possible, thus “freeing” souls. (Actually, the more monsters killed, the more points scored, which means the Master levels up at a faster rate). After clearing out the lesser monsters and their boss, the Master creates people out of the freed souls to dwell in the land. The people cannot be left to fend for themselves for long, however, as flying enemies threaten to destroy their houses, burn their fields, cause massive earthquakes, or simply carry them away. The people must be directed where to build their homes and the Master has the task of clearing land for them with the various “miracles” (wind, rain, lightning, etc.) at your disposal. In the Simulation mode, time passes at the rate of about twenty years every thirty seconds, so a new batch of people are born, come of age, and build their houses within that time. Much like Sega Genesis strategy game Herzog Zwei, flying enemies attack in real-time on the screen, and these foes must be vanquished by shooting them repeatedly with the arrows before they have a chance to wreak havoc on the population below. Eventually, the people will gain the courage to seal off monster’s lairs, which will remove the flying monster threat for good.
All-powerful demi-god. Champion of the people. Bread-delivery boy
By the power of Greyskull.... I HAVE THE POWER!!!!
Middle School Gaming August/C'mon, just once around the block...lemme ride on your back
Degree is body-heat activated so you stay dry even when it starts raining fire
Demons really do look like ants from way up here!
DUDE, No Loitering means no loitering! Now I gotta rough you up!
So hard to find a good Battle Cat these days
They spit in your food and peed in your wine again, but this time are really really sorry
Where am I, and what's with all this peanut brittle
A new "Middle School Gaming" can befound here around the 17th of every month!
For "back issues" of this column, click HERE.
Return to Digital Press Home