Review by Guile176
Sadly, classic 2D platformers are a genre that is all but forgotten to most gamers today. Its hard to imagine to most, but there once was a day when the 2D platformers ruled in all their 2D hand-drawn glory. Yep, no fancy 3D polygons or high res textures, just pure, flat 2D goodness. And as the 2D platform genre has mostly been forgotten, so has this Sega classic Astal. Never heard of Astal? Well, im not too surprised since Sega gave it no hype at all when it was released shortly after the Saturn launch. It just seemed that at the dawn of the 32-bit era, no game company was interested in hyping 2D graphics, to them it was all about their newfound pixalated (and often choppy) 3D polygons.
In this game, you assume the role of a young man named Astal who lives in the mystical jewel world of Quartilla. Astal, along with his girlfriend Leda, were both created out of jewels by the goddess Antowas. One day, the evil demon Jerado decided to take over Quartilla and kidnap Leda. As you can imagine, Astal isn't the least bit happy. So, he sets out on his quest to stop Jerado and find his lost love.
The overall gameplay in Astal is fairly simple and classic formula. You simply need to make it from point A to point B, in each of the games 10+ side-scrolling levels. Like in every other game of this type, getting there is the trick. Along the way, you'll encounter numerous types of enemies and natural hazards such as lava and bottomless pits. After every few levels, you'll encounter a rather impressive looking and tough guardian.
And don't go expecting too much complexity in the level designs either. The levels in Astal are pretty straightforward and simple for the most part. There was however, 1 level in particular that stood out. Fairly early into the game, you need to cross a river on the back of a giant sea creature. During your journey, not only are you assaulted by numerous enemies, but you also have numerous white crystals which you must quickly jump over, or crouch under. Many of the jumps are too high to jump over on your own, so you must pound your fist on the back of the creature for an extra boost. While this levels doesn't sound all that impressive, I just had alot of fun playing it, and it really stood out to me.
To help you conquer each of the levels, Astal has a number of different moves he can perform. He can grab and toss enemies, jump up and pound them with his massive fist, toss huge trees at them, strike the ground to knock them off balance, and blow them off the screen with his mighty breath. Also at your disposal is a special bird which you can call on to either attack foes or find fruit to replenish your life. Use of the bird is limited though. You see, your feathered friend has a special bar it uses to tell you just how much ability it has left. Don't worry though, this bar can be replenished once you defeat a few special enemies.
There's nothing really much for extras in Astal. You simply get your main game which can be played solo, or cooperative with a buddy. When playing with a buddy, the first player assumes control of Astal himself, while the second player controls the bird. Playing cooperative really does add a new dimension to the game, and sort of makes up for the lack of any other playmodes.
Wow, is perhaps the best word to describe the graphics in Astal. You get tons of color, fluid animation, massive bosses, and amazing scrolling. The overall look of the game and character design were also equally impressive. This game just has to be seen in action to be truly appreciated. Its almost funny, while the 3D polygons of the 32-bit era are really showing their age, the hand-drawn 2D in games like this, hasn't really aged much at all. Ahh, if only more developers still realized the beauty of 2D graphical works of art like such as this.
Astal is a game that just doesn't look great, but it sounds great as well. The sound effects are all amazing and sharp sounding, while the epic sounding music suits the game to perfection. There's also a fair amount of voice acting here as well. Thankfully, this acting is all done extremely well, with some great voice actors that really fit their roles.
Control in Astal was nothing short or perfect. Everything controls extremely well and is quite responsive and easy to learn. It really shouldn't take any gamer more then a minute or 2 to master things. The 2 player mode is a little weird to get used to at first, but after playing for abit and learning to work with your partner it all becomes second nature.
Overall, I would highly recommend Astal to anyone that owns a Saturn and loves classic 2D gaming. While it may not be up to the epic proportions of something like Super Mario World or Castlevania: Symphony of The Night, Astal is still a damn fine game indeed. Its just a shame that Sega never gave it the hype it deserved and its gotten lost in time with other great 2D platformers such as Kid Chameleon and Kendo Rage. Anyway, great job Sega
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 01/26/03, Updated 01/26/03
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