ActRaiser is an action fantasy game released exclusively for the SNES in 1990 and more recently on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007. Actraiser unusually combines the elements of both a side scrolling platformer with a civilisation builder game.
In Actraiser you are The Master, a god-like being that awakes to find mankind on the brink of extinction. Using your Cherub-like Herald you go down to Earth where you discover evil has spread across the land and monsters are everywhere. You must rid the land of evil, help the broken remains of mankind flourish and destroy the source of evil once and for all!
Each section of the Actraiser's Story Mode comprises of two distinct parts. The first is a side scrolling platformer in which you as The Master descend to Earth and take the form of a human Warrior. You must make your way through the level, navigating past traps and battling past enemies to an end of level boss who must be defeated. The second part of each section is an overhead civilisation builder in which you control your Herald and help the local human settlement flourish by directing them to build roads and destroy monster spawn points. You must also use the weather to carve and shape the land, fight off the invading monsters until their lairs are destroyed, and solve problems that the people encounter as they advance.
Actraiser was subject to some controversy upon its release due to its strong religious subtext. The Master as you are often referred to is quite clearly a God (if not supposed to be THE God), and several bosses resemble monsters and gods of other religions such as those in Greek Mythology and Hinduism. In the Japanese version of the game you are actually referred to as 'God', and the final boss Tanzra is referred to as 'Satan'. Nintendo America took the liberty to change the names to The Master and Tanzra for fear of causing offence to gamers, although much of the other subtext is still present.
Actraiser was considered a critical success, and gained several rewards including Best Game Music of 1993 and appeared in several Top SNES Games Lists around the world.
It spawned the sequel ActRaiser 2 also released in 1993. This sequel dropped the civilisation builder aspect of the game making it more of a standard platformer.
The game Soul Blazer can also be considered a sister game to Actraiser, as it was not only made by the same company Enix but features many similar aspects, including a Herald or Avatar sent down to Earth by The Master to rid the world of evil, enemy spawn points and having to solve the problems of men and creatures as you restore populated areas. Unlike Actraiser it is an RPG style game similar to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.