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Posted by GG Goblin On July - 18 - 2019

Angelic goings on with a healthy mix of light strategy and platforming hack ‘n’ slash.

Do you remember ActRaiser, the SNES platform city building game from Enix back in 1990? I was aware of it, but never got around to playing the game, which is something I now regret having played ACE Team and SEGA’s SolSeraph on Nintendo Switch. It would have been nice to compare this spiritual successor to the game that inspired it, and to see how much innovation ACE Team have brought to this unusual mash-up of genres.

solseraph1 (Copy)

But I suppose it doesn’t really matter, as the only really important thing is how much fun SolSeraph is right now, playing on Nintendo’s hybrid console, or any of the other platforms that the game has launched on. SolSeraph is a game in two parts, where the player will spend some of there time flying above the world and deciding where to place defensive towers to fight back the waves of enemies, and the rest of the time slaying enemies and avoiding spikes in a traditional action platforming manner. It’s a strange combination of genres, but it does work. Well, for the most part.

Playing as the angelic Helios, players are charged with basically saving Humanity from the Young Gods, which will involve a fair amount of monster bashing, along with some resource management. The city-building side of the game is not overly complicated, and the player will start by building homes to encourage a population to grow. There are a variety of different environments that the player will be expanding their settlements in, each bringing their own different mix on the formula, but it pretty much remains the same wherever the building is taking place.

The player will need to manage their resources, such as making sure there is enough food for their growing population, and of course wood for building. The loop goes on, with more people needed, and so requiring more food and then more wood to build more defences. Barracks for soldiers and defensive archery towers will help against what is coming next.

After a given time, the enemy attacks will begin, and the player will have to fight back the monsters. This part of the game takes on a more tower defence style, by which the waves of enemies will try to make their way to the bonfire marking the centre of the settlement, and if enough enemies reach it, then it is game over. Like a tower defence game, the enemies will follow a clear path to the bonfire, ignoring pretty much everything else along the way. This gives the player a good chance to ensure that defences are built in the right places to slow down and stop the oncoming waves.

solseraph2 (Copy)

Progression will lead to new buildings and even traps being unlocked, giving the player more options when it comes to dealing with these waves of enemies. If in doubt, Helios can always get involved himself, but realistically the defences should do the job and leave Helios to the management and the other side of the game. As the settlement expands, the player will gather souls and get closer to enemy lairs, allowing the player to build a temple which clears the clouds covering the lair and allows Helios to get his hands dirty.

This is where the gameplay switches to side-scrolling action platforming. This is all pretty standard fare, with the player being able to fire a bow and arrow, swing a sword or use some special angelic powers if the need arises. The movement and jumping is a bit clunky, lending itself to that retro gameplay feel, and the player has access to some evasion tactics to avoid damage. It’s all quite entertaining if you are in the mood for this type of old-school gameplay, but it does feel cheap at times, with the likes of enemy archers firing from off the screen or enemies just appearing right behind Helios. There are, however, a nice variety of cool-looking enemies to face off against, and newly unlocked powers keep the action fresh, even though they are not particularly needed.

When it comes to the way the game looks, the enemies are likely to be the highlight. The game does not look very sharp on the Switch, especially in handheld mode where it looks its worst, and it feels washed out as though someone has covered the action with a filter expecting a more artistic finish. Helios himself doesn’t look all that special, and the different environments, while varied, just don’t really stand out.

solseraph3 (Copy)

I don’t know how well SolSeraph compares to its inspiration, but I can say that, standing alone, the game does have a few problems. However, given the way the game combines two very different genres into something that does actually work, and that each individual style of gameplay is solid enough by itself, there is still fun to be found here. For those reminiscing, or for those who really want some tower defence city-building with a dash of action platforming, SolSeraph may well be worth checking out.




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