Review by GoTaS

"Astal, oh how I love your big, beautiful hair..."

Offering a vibrant, colorful world and enticing game play, I often wonder why Astal is overlooked. In this wonderful 2D platformer by Sega for the late Sega Saturn, you take on the role of Astal, a boy who is on a quest to rescue his girlfriend. A bird companion also tags along with Astal, and he can pull off some pretty wicked moves. Now, that’s not too hard to understand, is it?

Graphics – 10/10
Almost everything in Astal is beautifully hand drawn using pastels. By exploiting these graphics, the artists and developers responsible for Astal have created a truly awesome world that pleases the eye. The many different areas of Astal are very well detailed. The backgrounds show starlight bouncing off of a river, a red-hot volcano about to explode, and storm clouds exploding with electricity. The enemies Astal encounters are drawn in a comical sense. For instance, there are armored walking pigs, giant flying purple eyeballs, and big nosed goblins that try to steal your bird away from you. Overall, this is one of the best looking 2D games I have seen anywhere on any console.
Audio – 9/10
Adding to the superb world of Astal is a mystifying soundtrack. The music and sound effects add greatly to the tone of the game. In a level in which Astal has to ride a giant turtle across a starlit river, the music is very tranquil, calming, while during boss battles, the music turns hard and really gets you pumped up for the battle. The sound effects also help the mood of the levels. While walking around in a glowing cave full of crystals, you can hear the flutter of a group of bats and the trickle of water off in the distance. There is a level where a volcano starts rumbling softly but progressively gets louder and louder until it finally erupts – a huge crashing noise.

Gameplay – 8/10
So, how fun is it? Astal has different moves that he can perform. He can run, grab and throw enemies, jump and punch higher enemies, take a deep breath and blow it out to create a whirlwind, or pound the ground to create a small quake. By collecting crystals some enemies drop after defeat, Astal can have his bird friend do some pretty amazing moves. She (the bird) can find health fruit for Astal and herself, or flip out and annihilate all the enemies on the screen. Although Astal walks pretty slowly, the control for him is very tight. The opposite goes for the bird. She flies very fast, zooming around the screen, but her controls are very clunky. There are levels that involve Astal having to punch a giant turtle in order to jump higher over deadly plants, and levels where Astal must dash fast and far to avoid clusters of one-eyed crystal bats. The gameplay is very diverse, and playing two-player with a friend is a blast.

Difficulty – Moderate
The difficulty is really a mixed bag. The majority of the levels are pretty simply, but some levels and boss battles can get tough. I hate hate hate the level with the turtle on the river (level 4) seeing that I use up at least one continue there, and the Plant boss is tough, but most of the other levels are a breeze.

Overall, Astal is a beautiful game that brings you some different and fun gameplay and pleasing-to-the-ears music and sound effects. I recommend picking it up, if you can find it anywhere. Astal easily deserves 9/10.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/30/02, Updated 12/30/02


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