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[Review] SolSeraph – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: ACE Team
  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Release Date: 10/07/2019
  • Price: $14.99/ £11.99
  • Review code provided by SEGA

A Tale as Old as Time

Humanity is in despair. The old gods have abandoned earth, while the younger deities run amok. Chaos, mischief and gloom hang thick in the air. The end of all things has come and there is no hope in sight. Pockets of humanity haven’t given up and they begin to pray to you, Helios, Knight of Dawn, He Whose Name Must Be Uttered! And thus, the story of SolSeraph begins.

SolSeraph pits you as the last bastion for humanity, Helios, as he seeks to free the world from the snares of evil deities that have brought humanity to the brink of extinction. The Chilean studio ACE Team, known for Rock of Ages and Zeno Clash, are the developers behind this love letter to early 90s classic Actraiser. To strengthen the ties to Actraiser further, they even brought in Yuzo Koshiro, the original composer, to write the title track. But the question stands, does SolSeraph deliver humanity the spiritual successor we have longed for? Or is it merely a false god, longing for your devotion? Read on to discover the truth!

Divine Intervention

Like Actraiser before it, SolSeraph features two distinct styles of play, side scrolling action levels and a world building-tower defense section. Action levels are split into two types, traditional levels and gauntlet levels. The traditional levels are what you might expect, fight your way through the level until you reach the boss and then destroy them to complete it. Gauntlet levels place Helios in a small arena and task you with wiping out all enemies on the stage. I found myself preferring the standard levels more as they are packed with challenging platforming and secrets (in the form of upgrades).

In between action stages are the city building/tower defense aspects of SolSeraph. It is in these areas where the story develops. Small vignettes are given, usually conversations between townsfolk discussing their woes and trials. Sometimes they are prayers offered up to Helios, seeking guidance, wisdom and action. Other times, it can be absolute comical as these are portrayals of people in their lives. The writing is superb for not just story building, but depicting these people as flawed, dynamic characters.

That’s not to say the gameplay of this section is lacking, because it will offer a challenge of its own. The town’s lifeline is their campfire, which they use to communicate with Helios, and you must guard it from the hordes of demon spawn. Before you can defend the fire, you must build houses, farms, lumber mills, etc. Once you have a thriving ecosystem, then you can set up defenses and train your people to defend their home. After slaughtering enough enemies on the field, you can build an altar near the fiend’s lair. This will open it up for Helios to storm and segue way into one of the action levels. This process repeats until all lairs in each region are conquered. At this point, you face off against the god of the region and, with enough mettle, deliver the people from its chains of despair.

Untold Divination

I wasn’t sold on SolSeraph’s graphic design at first. That could have been based on the first few levels though. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with them, it just looked a tad bit uninspired in the beginning. I soon noticed slight nuances, such as characters moving from the background into the stage. The first time a hulking behemoth from the backdrop started walking into view, only to make his way onto the battlefield, I was caught by surprise. Subsequent worlds impressed me greatly, as they appeared more detailed and further displayed the techniques that ACE Team used to create an illusion of a multiplane battle.

The music in SolSeraph didn’t jump out at me, but it also didn’t grate on my nerves either, which isn’t bad. This is more an issue with “modern” game soundtracks, I feel they do not sink their teeth into me the same way that a chiptune-based soundtrack would. There were moments when I did notice the orchestration and felt that it set the mood of the battle well. An odd note, I noticed from time to time when a song would come to an end, the music would just stop for a few seconds before continuing the loop. Not sure if it was a glitch or just a peculiar design choice, but it stood out like a sore thumb.

Ragnarök

The difference between playing docked and handheld was pretty substantial when it comes to the main character model. Helios when playing handheld appeared fuzzy, like the camera was out of focus. To contrast, his character model was quite sharp when playing docked. I didn’t really notice many other graphical disparities in my time with the game, but I did have other dire issues.

Update: When I first wrote this review, I was unable to finish the game due to a glitch in the game that caused the game to crash unexpectedly. Since then, the lovely ACE Team have reached out to us and let us know a patch addressing this issue was made available. As it stands, version 1.02 has fixed this issue and I was able to pick up where I had left off, at the Vale of Yeg and successfully finish the game.

Final Thoughts

SolSeraph set out to fulfill a lofty goal of trying to live up to Actraiser. On paper it had everything it needed to do just that. Challenging action stages, town building sections controlled by a higher being, and even Yuzo Koshiro. While the town building sections feel like they have received modern enhancements, the action stages feel as they have been dumbed down to a basic core. Yet, there is a certain charm to this game and having watched the credits roll, I feel a distinct fondness for seeing Helios finish his quest for humanity.

Pros

  • Spiritual Successor to Actraiser
  • Engaging Story / Writing
  • Good Mix of Town Building / Action Stages

Cons

  • Some Action Levels Were Repetitive
  • Disparity Between Docked/Handheld Display

Verdict

SolSeraph is a modern take on a cult classic town building action adventure game. While its not perfect, its charm is undeniable.

4/5

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