God Hates Low-Density Housing!

I have been playing Actraiser on the Wii Virtual Console. Actraiser, for those who don't know, was a Super Nintendo title released by Enix very close to the system's launch. The game was developed by Quintet and was the first of the so-called Quintet Quartet, four games developed that combined action and role-playing gameplay mechanics with plots that had the player playing some sort of deity tasked with fixing a ruined world. The other three games were Soul Blazer, Illusions of Gaia, and Terranigma (the last of which has, maddeningly, never been released in the United States, despite its release, with English translation, in Europe).

The premise of Actraiser is that all human life was wiped out some years ago when an evil demon slew God and destroyed all that was good in the world. The game begins when God, the player, re-awakens and decides to rebuild the world.

Actraiser is an odd dock. Half the game is a fairly standard action platforming game. The other half is a weird Sim City-lite city building simulation. During the simulation portions you control a cherub and use him to guide the growth of the recently-reborn human civilization. This mostly involves telling them which direction to develop in and dispensing miracles as needed to, for instance, clear out bushes or dry up marshlands. The upshot of all this is that the higher the world population the more powerful your character becomes during the action platformer portions, with your character attaining new levels at certain population milestones.

The trouble is maximizing population. Each city you build has only a limited area for growth, so you need it to be as high-density as you can get it. Moreover, people don't really build great housing to start with. Each city begins with mud huts. As you seal off monster layers and tame the savage frontier, they started constructing wooden houses. Once you come within one short platforming stage of banishing evil from the region forever, they begin constructing modern houses. Modern houses hold more people than wood houses, which hold more people than huts. But the people don't upgrade the old housing when they reach new civilization levels; they build future housing at the highest level possible, but the old housing remains the same.

This means that becoming the best deity you can be requires showing your human subjects some tough love. In the early cities, this means going through your town and systematically smiting every mud hut or wooden house with bolts of lightning. Later on you become powerful enough to summon earthquakes, which destroy all buildings except modern, high-density housing, making the urban renewal process quick and easy. If there's one thing God can't stand, it's inefficient land-use policies and backwards, low-density zoning.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on July 29, 2007 12:31 AM.

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