When you’re bringing out some new gaming hardware, it’s always important to launch with a solid example of what the new device can do. The Wii had Wii Sports, a showcase of the new motion control concept, while the PS3’s Resistance: Fall of Man was a graphical tour-de-force for its time, and naturally we all remember how amazed we were the first time we saw Super Mario 64. The most well-known launch title for the Super Nintendo was, naturally, Super Mario World.
Mario’s 16-bit debut was indeed iconic, but let’s not forget ActRaiser, a hybrid platformer/city-builder that looked and played great, and thanks to a stellar soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro, it also sounded great! Fun fact: ActRaiser was released by Enix long before they joined the Square-Enix team, so there’s your slice ‘o gaming history. With SolSeraph, ACE Team and Sega have tried to bring that winning combination back in force, ready to wow an entire new generation of gamers. Did they pull it off? Well, not exactly.
When the world is under attack by the jealous younger gods of creation it’s up to the demigod Helios to protect humanity from their monstrous spawn and natural disasters. It’s not like those pitiful insects can fend for themselves, after all…er, I mean it’s the right thing to do! Helios must act on two fronts – in personal combat and as a beacon of civilization – to help the human species grow and prosper.
The former aspect of the game would really like to be ActRaiser. Instead, it plays a bit like a low-rent budget Flash version of ActRaiser. Helios can slash with his sword, fire magic arrows from a limited supply and jump about. There’s a lack of impact when it comes to pretty much everything our boy can do, and this, combined with the incessant waves of enemies in most areas, means that you feel pretty underpowered for a demigod. Say what you will about ActRaiser’s difficulty, but at least when you lost, it was because the game felt difficult rather than because you felt weak. Even the upgrades you get after defeating bosses don’t add a whole lot.
As for city-building, well, it’s really more of a tower-defense minigame in SolSeraph. Monsters regularly attack your human charges and it’s your job to help them collect resources and assemble defenses to stop them. Unlike ActRaiser, you take a much more hands-on approach here, acting as an administrator rather than a guide. I don’t know if I’d say it’s worse, but it’s certainly different, and your take is really going to depend on how you feel about the new genre. Certainly there’s not a lot of depth – you need a lot of wood to build towers and barracks, so get the wood and build the towers and barracks. Build more houses to staff your towers and barracks. Repeat until satisfied.
There aren’t a lot of unique ideas here, and that extends to the presentation. SolSeraph looks nice enough but doesn’t have much imagination to work with. Helios looks…well, a little dweeby in action, and monsters tend to be fairly standard fare where some unique foes might have helped set the game apart. This was a game that was clearly designed to be played on as many platforms as there are platforms and it shows. At least on PC the game runs as smooth as well-churned butter.
SolSeraph doesn’t earn a “NAY” rating because it’s not broken in such a way as to be unplayable and incapable of providing enjoyment…but giving it an enthusiastic recommendation would be something of a stretch. This is the kind of game I would have loved on Newgrounds back in 2005 or so, but modern titles need just a bit more. ActRaiser was a fantastic game, but sadly SolSeraph’s take on the idea just don’t quite match up. Worth a look on sale, but just barely.