Aiming to be a spiritual successor to the 1990 SNES release ActRaiser, Sega’s release of SolSeraph looks to deliver both a retro platformer and city management/tower defense game in one package. Given the cult classic status of the original, SolSeraph has demigod-sized shoes to fill. Will it be able to? Let’s find out in our review of SolSeraph.
At the dawn of time, after the creation of the universe, gods, life, and humankind, Sky Father and Earth Mother left their creations to grow on their own. The younger gods hated humans due to their gift of memory and tormented them. Helios, a demigod and the Knight of Dawn, looks to help the humans by guiding their hand in building a civilization and fighting back evil. He is called to a campfire by a praying man, trying to get Helios’ favor for protection. His granddaughter does not believe in the gods, and the two of them go back and forth butting heads over their difference in ideals.
The game starts out by dropping the player into a side-scrolling section, where you quickly find that Sega definitely went all-in on the retro gameplay. While the controls are fairly simple, the platforming demands attention to dodge the monsters jumping on screen from all over. You are given a bit of a warning by the enemies hopping towards you from either the background or foreground, though without watching the animations it can be difficult to see what is and isn’t on the same plane as you and ready to fight. Ledges are placed far enough apart that you need to make the most of your jumps, with a jump at just the right time letting you barely make it to your destination. Helios is armed with a sword, which lets you do basic, quick attacks or a charge attack to deal a bit more damage; a shield to block incoming attacks; and a bow that requires mana to fire arrows from. None of this is particularly difficult to deal with, but if you are looking to quickly dash through levels with no strategy you’ll be killed quickly.
The other half of the game, managing your growing city, is how you will enter the platforming sections from then on. While basic, you will need to build up a self-sustaining city that gathers food and resources while also defending itself, leading to a tower defense style strategy. There is a timer constantly running down in the overworld, with a large, main road running through the map that you will need to defend. Managing regular and defensive buildings with the limited space and resources of a city building sim is fun, but shallow. There are only a handful of each to pick from, and villages can be abandoned after you’ve cleared an area.
While ActRaiser managed to make it feel like you were controlling a god, SolSeraph feels like two half-finished games were thrown together. The game doesn’t really have any sort of connection from building your city to your power when platforming, or vice versa. Upgrades to your character come from defeating bosses, which, while unlocked by clearing sections of the tower defense portion of the game, is the only real connection between them. Throwing down a bunch of buildings is trivial, as you can quickly build out roads to increase your playable area and reach far forests, getting you access to wood for new construction. Platforming doesn’t seem to have the most well-designed levels, with your movement through the level sometimes getting in the way.
While a good idea, SolSeraph just doesn’t seem to execute its ideas well enough to make it a good game. It’s a great concept but needs a bit more fleshed out.
Note: Our Nintendo Switch copy of SolSeraph was provided by PR