Being a child of the late ’80s, I have fond memories of the ’90s and the Super Nintendo. I vividly remember watching my older brother play all sorts of games, and me attempting to. One title of particular note was the Enix (pre-Square purchase) title, ActRaiser. Among the rest of the SNES’ library, this game and its sequel stand out as they blended action platforming and a sim-lite style of overworld management with a diaper angel baby. ActRaiser remains a highlight of the Super Nintendo’s library of titles. Almost 20 years later, SEGA has decided to give fansa spiritual successor with SolSeraph.
As Helios, you are tasked with reuniting tribes of people who have been scattered by the vengeful Young Gods that torment them. You will have to contend with each of these gods to bring peace to the humans, allowing them to flourish and grow. The gameplay is divided much in the same way as its inspiration; between the action platformer lairs of the Young Gods, and the overhead city management with the tribes. The management aspect has more an RTS (Real-Time Strategy) and tower defense vibe to it this time around.
The concept of SolSeraph may sound good on paper, and the developers, ACE Team, made a game that controls well. But the execution and presentation fall short of the legacy it is attempting to live up to. Everything comes across as generic from the sound effects that play when you kill an enemy, to the models used for enemies. You can expect palette swaps for enemies during your adventure which only further exacerbates the issue. Environments lack details and flare that could take them from just being “the forest level” or “the desert level”, with backgrounds that look and feel barren.
Helios doesn’t fare much better. He’s rocking a rather stereotypical soldier look the same some shiny silver metal armor, a helmet that hides his face with some slight color accents you would expect, some birds wings on the back, and a glowing blue sword. It isn’t that is bad per se, it’s more than nothing about the design stands out or is memorable. Take away the blue sword and wings, and you’ve seen basically the same geared individual en masse in a number of RPGs and games in the past.
The story is told via text boxes with portraits of characters. These portraits surprised me with their quality, with each character looks distinctly different from one another. Drawn incredibly well and with a pleasant amount of detail. I did find myself enjoying the interaction and excited to see what crazy new character I’d be introduced to, every time I entered a new tribal area.
Combat is a bit of a hodge-podge of things done well and aspects that are lacking, in the action stages. Jumping around, swinging your sword, and shooting magic arrows all feels good, but lacks any real depth to really make it shine. The extent of your “combos” is a three-hit chain you get by hitting the attack button thrice. With each of the Young Gods you defeat you will get a new magic spell to use which can be helpful if you decide to fight enemies.
And there isn’t any real incentive to actually fight during these stages. With no leveling or experience like the system in SolSeraph, it’s more beneficial to simply run and jump past enemies, killing only those larger enemies that are required to deal with before being allowed to continue. Levels can be explored, which will net you some solid rewards and upgrades, but again, you can do so by circumventing the enemies.
Things are a bit better when playing the tower defense portion, but this mode suffers from its own set of drawbacks. Moving units take longer than it should, making any need to reinforce a point that is falling to an enemy hoard difficult to pull off. Dealing with each wave drags on too long, and even though there is an option to speed the game up, it still felt like it dragged, and could use an additional speed setting. An area I think it does pull off really well though is the actual building of the structures. Utilizing an easy-to-use radial wheel, ACE nailed the RTS-on-console controls, and I would genuinely like to see this evolved more in a sequel, or in a completely different game.
ACE Team has demonstrated with SolSeraph that they understand the balance between the two drastically different styles of gameplay, and having them control well. Polish and sheen is that special sauce that’s missing. When all is said and done though, I’m not mad with SolSeraph, I’m just disappointed. I’d love to see what the developers could do with a full budget because they have demonstrated with SolSeraph they understand the body and form of the product. Now they just need to land the heart and soul of the genre and refine this into a gem that is worthy of being the successor to ActRaiser.
This game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro system with a review code provided by the publisher.