I've been watching some old episodes of Nick Arcade on Youtube lately, and two things stand out to me about that show now. One is how little a show called Nick Arcade actually featured gaming, and the other is how when they actually did have any gaming, it was usually ActRaiser. From these segments I thought that this was another run of the mill action games, but it ended up being one of the most innovative games that I've played, to this day.
You start this game flying around an overworld. There are about 5 different cities, but they only become available at a certain level. The overworld music is hauntingly beautiful (I read that this game's soundtrack was in fact award winning when it came out.) You start with the first city of Fillmore
A helpful little angel tells you that you have to rid the city of monsters before people can start inhabiting it, so you enter the first action sequence.
In the game's action sequences, the angel inhabits a statue with a sword and is controlled by the player. These sequences are actually the weakest part of the game, but they are still enjoyable and present a decent level of challenge, especially the boss at the end of the action sequence. It took me 4 attempts to beat the boss, so you actually do get a sense of satisfaction from it.
After beating the monster boss, people begin moving into the city. This is the point where the game gets really innovative. It switches from a straightforward action game, to a god simulator/urban planning game. I don't think that very many games from this era featured such a high level of genre bending. When in the city planning stages, you control the angel in a zoomed in version of the overworld and you can use the angel to shoot arrows at assorted flying monsters. You can also direct the citizens of the city to expand their road network in various directions and to destroy the lairs of the flying monsters which stops the monsters from spawning. You occasionally have to use your god powers to assist the citizens as well (Lightning to clear brush so that the city can expand further, rain to put out burning buildings, etc.)
This continues until you level up and are able to go to the next city. I honestly really enjoyed playing this game and played it for a quite a bit longer than usual for my reviews. Up next, we will see if ActRaiser's sequel can live up to the innovation of the original.