Review by SegaSaturn2kX
"Old school 2d sidescroller done not quite right"
Astal is a beautifully animated old school 2d sidescroller that made its way to the Sega Saturn. I purchased this game a few years ago largely based off of the reviews previously available on gamefaqs. It received high scores across the board, thus I figure it was an underrated gem. I was vastly disappointed and let me explain to you why.
Astal is the standard story of a hero's quest to save the cute little princess. The protagonist of the game, also named Astal, was formerly a prisoner, which explains the chains on his arms. He has a terrible temper and fortunately for the good guys, some villain got on his bad side. The story is nothing special, which is why I can hardly remember it, but as always, it gets the job done.
Graphics -- 9/10
Looks alone, this game should have been a killer app for the Saturn had it not been for PSX induced 3d mania in the mid 1990s. Few, if any, 3d games in its generation comes close to matching the artistry of the hand drawn characters. All of the characters sport a healthy amount of animation and are reasonably large. There is no slowdown There are some amazing boss sequences and the game artists did skimp on the backgrounds either. The graphical style is unique and a breath of fresh air in a business filled with cookie cutter games. FMVs are presented in an anime style and as expected are grainy because of the Saturn's weak video card. Nevertheless the graininess does not detract from the cinematic experience.
Sound/Music -- 8/10
Astal has many different shouts and cries as he proceeds on his quest. The music is also fantastic. While not as memorable as the graphical look of the game, the sound department will engender no complaints from the gamer.
Gameplay -- 4.5/10
Unfortunately it is in this category where the game falters. With the exception of some boss fights, the game is extremely slow and boring. Astal walks and he jumps and then he collects jewels. Others may argue that this pace of the game was intentional. If that is the case, then Sega made a mistake because fast paced games can grab the gamer's attention much more easily. The game is extremely linear, which is totally unacceptable when the Donkey Kong Country series (a contemporary), and its slightly less linear gameplay, had already demonstrated to Sega how to make a popular sidescroller. I admit, Sega tried to make this game fun. Astal has multiple powers; in fact, I had never seen a 2d sidescroller character with so many powers since Kirby! Astal also had a 2 player co-op mode where the second gamer can operate the bird that flies around Astal. Good idea, but poor execution since the bird is mostly useless.
Although Astal fell far short of expectations, it is a quirky title with some value. Perhaps I am a little ahead of my time because a recent topic on the Saturn message board asked GameFaqs users to rate Astal. It received an end score of 5.3/10. Perhaps this game did not age well. One bit of triva, the Astal's game case does not have the title on the spine. Instead the spine is left blank. There is only the occasional load time and Astal will offer some challenges. I recommend to watch someone play this game so that you can enjoy the beauty of the Saturn's 2d graphical power. Otherwise you are better off playing something else.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 07/18/05
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