Review by 2taall

Reviewed: 08/02/06

Rastan, a true underappreciated classic.

I can still remember many years ago the first time playing this game at the age of 9 or 10 around the year 1988; I kept falling in the waterfall near the beginning of the first stage! It’s amazing that I can still remember this nearly 20 years later! Rastan, as the game is called in Europe and the USA, is known as Rastan Saga for the rest of the world outside of the USA and Europe. Rastan was released in 1987 by the now defunct Japanese game maker Taito. The game is a side-scroller set in a Mythological world featuring the character Rastan the barbarian. Many speculate that the Rastan character is a rip-off of Conan the barbarian, and I quite possibly agree, but the game is anything but a rip-off as you will experience excellent gameplay and background music as you slay vile hordes of enemies and Greek mythology inspired creatures while moving through excellent looking stages filled with sunlit mountains in the background.

Here’s the review…

Gameplay: 9
Rastan contains 6 stages. Each of the 6 stages contains 3 areas: “outside”, “castle”, and “throne room”. Each of the 3 areas tests the player’s different skills. The enemies never stop coming at you so this forces you to use speed and quick reflexes to move through the outside areas. The castles are slower paced with fewer enemies, but littered with booby traps such as protruding spikes, forcing you to concentrate on your platforming skills. The throne rooms, at the end of every stage, can be tricky at times, but with enough practice the fighting patterns can be learned.

The game also contains many jewels, medicines, poisons, and weapons to pick up along the way. Of the weapons, the axe is the most powerful with a slightly longer reach than the default broadsword. The firesword is probably the most favorite weapon for many as it shoots fireballs, but only inflicts the same amount of damage as the broadsword. The mace does the same amount of damage as the broadsword, but the reach is twice as long. Another useful item is the ring; the ring speeds up Rastan’s weapon speed. Some consider the ring far more useful than any weapon or item in the game.

Graphics: 8
A unique aspect of Rastan is that the sky and mountains in the backgrounds gradually change colors as you progress through the “outside” areas. For example, the beginning of the game depicts the background sky a rich blue color and the mountains a pale tan, reminding one of mid afternoon lighting. As you travel further, you will notice the sky taking a pinkish- purple look and the mountains taking a more sun washed look. By the time you reach the castle gates, the mountains and statues have taken yellow highlights as the sky burns a fiery orange, mimicking the light of a setting sun. These revolutionary (in 1987) light changing effects add an epic touch to the game.

Unlike the open epic feel of the “outside” areas, the first 4 castles have a look of cramped corridors and fortress like appearances. The throne room is reached when one successfully navigates the castle. Throne rooms usually contain the same brickwork as the castle it is located in, but features such as torches and red carpeted steps are added making one think of the enemy bosses as kings of the castle. The 5 and 6 castles are not castles at all, but rather cave systems; their “throne rooms” are caves as well. The cave system serves the 5 and 6 stage bosses well because, unlike the more humanoid appearance of the first 4 bosses, the 5 and 6 bosses are a five-headed hydra and a giant red dragon, which one would not associate as living in a castle, but rather, a cave.

The characters of the game are well detailed and contain smooth sprite movement. Rastan is drawn conveying a sense of a powerful swift warrior while the enemies and bosses range from women to Greek mythology creatures such as the centaur, hydra, and harpie. At stage 4, many of the early enemies such as the three headed lion Chimairas and lizard men receive a color palette swap.

Sound/Music: 10
There is basically 3 main themes played throughout the game: the epic “outside” level music, the eerie “castle” music, and the climactic “Throne Room” music. All three tracks are highly memorable and gel fluidly with the game’s graphics further enhancing the atmosphere. Many classic gamers consider the music of Rastan to be some of the best in its genre.

The music of Rastan is definitely a highlight, but there are many great sound effects also found in this game. The “ting” of picking up a new weapon, the “clank” of striking an armored warrior, and Rastan’s death cry are a few of the many memorable sounds found in the game.

Overall: 9
To master the game, one must use quick reflexes for the “outside” areas, precision for the castles, and pattern memorization for the bosses. All in all, the gamer’s skills are fully utilized and tested. Fortunately, Taito gave the game excellent controls, so the gamer can rise to the challenges presented. Taito not only gave the game great gameplay and controls, but also atmospheric graphics and a killer soundtrack. All of these elements combine to make the game one of the quintessential side scrolling arcade games of the 1980’s. Though Rastan is not as popular as some of the other games in its genre such as Shinobi, it is definitely just as much of a classic. Unfortunately, the genius of Rastan was only to be repeated this one time as Taito churned out the poor Nastar Warrior(aka Rastan Saga II) in 1988, and the decent, but not outstanding, Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga III in 1991. This is definitely a shame as I consider Rastan one of my favorite games.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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