Review – SolSeraph

Before I start this review, I’d like to talk about ActRaiser. Released in 1991 for the Super Nintendo, this game was an odd mix between an action platformer and a city-building simulator. It was basically Castlevania meets Sim City, in very broad terms. ActRaiser allowed you to control a god that would indirectly help out the population of an island, either via his angel emissary or by briefly bringing a warrior’s statute to life in order to destroy enemies. It wasn’t exactly a financial hit, selling very poorly in fact, but the few people who actually played it all love it. It’s one of the greatest gems of the Super Nintendo’s library.

You may be asking the reason behind this paragraph, since I’m here to talk about SolSeraph.¬†Well, it tries to be the same thing as ActRaiser, but unfortunately ends up being far inferior.

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It’s not as epic as this picture of a holy knight against a gigantic forest troll might suggest.

SolSeraph doesn’t even try to hide that it’s trying to be this century’s ActRaiser. It starts off with a very similar with its story, setting, and protagonist. Once again, you’re a god who has to lead a civilization towards its evolution by “hinting” them on what to do next, all while defending them from monster attacks, either by teaching them how to create barracks and archery towers, or by actually tackling the monsters yourself in side-scrolling levels.

The “city-building” bit is where SolSeraph differs itself from ActRaiser, even if it doesn’t end up producing equally decent results. It may look like a city builder, it may even give out small hints of a real-time strategy game as you’re constantly seeking out materials in order to build houses, but this is just a tower defense game. You need to build houses in order to increase your population and then create the aforementioned barracks and towers in order to slow down the constant barrage of enemies trying to destroy the bonfire at the center of your village. It’s not a deep tower defense game and the fact ActRaiser, a game from nearly thirty years ago, had deeper building mechanics than this game definitely disappointed me. However, it was still much better than the platforming sections.

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Those ain’t White Walkers.

Don’t get me wrong, the platforming levels aren’t bad, but given that the game’s main source of inspiration had fantastic level design, being simply “serviceable” just doesn’t satiate me. The combos are scarce, the enemy AI is predictable, and the amount of weapons at your disposal, once again, is just “serviceable”. The levels are also very short, lacking the epic factor that was present all over ActRaiser.

SolSeraph isn’t all that bad, though. If there’s one thing that really pleased me in this game, it’s the soundtrack. Being composed by none other than Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage, Wonder Boy, Shenmue, ActRaiser), the soundtrack knows when to be somber, when to be calm, and most importantly, when to be grandiose. The main menu tune is one of the best I’ve heard so far this year. I may consider a good chunk of SolSeraph quite forgettable: its visuals, its gameplay, its plot. Its soundtrack on the other hand, is something I’ll remember fondly.

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If that was supposed to be a city simulator, then this is the ugliest city in the history of ugly cities.

SolSeraph is not a bad game, but I was expecting more than just an okay reminder of how great ActRaiser used to be. I didn’t care much about its platforming gameplay nor its tower defense sections. Nothing in it was flawed nor broken, it was just “passable”. I wanted more than “passable”.

If anything, SolSeraph made me want to play ActRaiser once more. Oh wait, I can’t, because nearly nobody bought the damn SNES cartridge back in the day. Well, I guess I’ll have to stick with you, SolSeraph. I doubt Square Enix is planning to re-release ActRaiser in any given form anyway…

 

Graphics: 5.5

SolSeraph features the particle effects, textural quality, and framerate you would expect from an Unreal Engine game running on the Switch. The problem is, I played it on a PS4…

Gameplay: 6.0

The platforming segments feature serviceable controls, but uninventive levels and combat. The tower defense segments feature very intuitive controls, but ended up being as shallow as a puddle.

Sound: 9.0

Yuzo Koshiro’s fantastic soundtrack knows when to be somber, when to be serene, and when to be epic. The title track is one of the best pieces of music in any game released in 2019.

Fun Factor: 6.0

Nothing in SolSeraph is inherently bad. Nothing in it is broken nor glitchy, but I can’t say anything in it impressed me. It’s just a very okay platformer and a very mediocre tower defense game glued together.

Final Verdict: 6.0

SolSeraph is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of SolSeraph was provided by the publisher.

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