Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
Late last week, Nintendo released its newest series of tantalizing bribes encouraging people to sign up for its nearly useful online gaming service, in the form of the much-anticipated Super Nintendo Switch Online service. Like its NES counterpart—released last year, and available to anyone with a Switch Online subscription—the service offers 20 classic SNES games for fans to play for free, and also like its NES counterpart, we regret to inform you that it doesn’t have goddamn ActRaiser on there.
In the case of NES Switch Online, this omission was understandable: After all, Quintet’s bizarre hybrid of side-scrolling action and top-down simulation—in which the player takes on the role of “The Master,” resolutely kicking demon ass so that He or She can guide humanity to some sort of medieval video game utopia—never came out for the NES, wouldn’t run on the NES, and is in no way associated with that venerable console. The SNES version of the Switch service has no such excuses, though, and we can only assume that Nintendo refused to put it on there because it doesn’t want us to be happy, shooting bats with a naked little baby, chopping up demons with some slightly wonky action controls, and giggling quietly to ourselves every time our vengeful god sends another earthquake to plague our people with some impromptu urban redevelopment. ActRaiser is a good game, is all we’re saying, and it’s an act of obvious and inarguable evil that we can’t play it right now. (Unless we indulge in emulation, obviously, or—heaven forbid—boot up the Wii for its old Virtual Console release.)
And look, no one’s arguing that SNES Switch Online isn’t great—even if news that Nintendo is discontinuing its plans for regular monthly releases of new old games does dim our hopes of raising acts and taking names even further. You can never have too many copies of Super Metroid around, after all, even if every new release threatens to exhaust the internet’s always fraught supply of the word “masterpiece.” There are some weird omissions and inclusions, admittedly—we can only assume Capcom played hardball with the licenses on its properties for this one, since that’s the sole conceivable reason you’d put Brawl Brothers on the thing instead of Final Fight—but for the most part, it’s a great little set of games, including some real oddball delights. (Looking at you, second- and third-best SNES Kirby games.)
But ActRaiser was special. By haphazardly mashing together two genres that should not, by all rights, go with each other, it set a sort of mantra that ran all through the early catalog of the system: “Hey, why not?” It’s an artifact of an era where new technology was forcing people to radically redefine what games could be at a rapid pace, which means they sometimes made things that shouldn’t be, but which ended up being a hell of a lot of fun anyway. (Can you imagine a modern console launching with SimCity as one of its premiere games now?) It’s also got an absolutely killer soundtrack. In fact, screw it: We’re going to YouTube. We’ll see you back here next week.