Rastan (Sega Master System) review
"Something usurped this brand of base hack and slash side-scroller a long time ago. Golden Axe added some Double Dragon-esque depth to the mixture, and two-player action to boot. The Legendary Axe added inimitable enemy confrontations, and sights and sounds of truly mythical proportions. Despite the enjoyable-sounding, if not novel concept involving Rastan taking on seven stages of warriors, wizards, beasts and dragons; battling through mountains and inside castles; avoiding pitfalls and the danger that night brings—the big guy seems, quite frankly, to be a barbarian in the company of refined men. "
Waiting for the Barbarians
While this game has nothing to do with the masterpiece of literature that is John Coetzee’s study of apartheid (as the tag might suggest), it does feature some backward, outdated concepts and general offensiveness. While perusing the rather large library of Rastan titles that have been made available to us, I ask myself, was this ever fun? Certainly the arcade original showed promise, but was mostly a boring barbarian foray through the cold, backwater northlands of Semia. We’re on our way to rescue a king’s daughter (effectively making her a princess of some sort) where we inevitably show the lady an attitude colder than the steel we bear (and even colder than the cold, backwater northlands of Semia!).
Something usurped this brand of base hack and slash side-scroller a long time ago. Golden Axe added some Double Dragon-esque depth to the mixture, and two-player action to boot. The Legendary Axe added inimitable enemy confrontations, and sights and sounds of truly mythical proportions. Despite the enjoyable-sounding, if not novel concept involving Rastan taking on seven stages of warriors, wizards, beasts and dragons; battling through mountains and inside castles; avoiding pitfalls and the danger that night brings—the big guy seems, quite frankly, to be a barbarian in the company of refined men.
Rastan has been superceded, trumped, and made obsolete, but at least his name is still cool.
For starters, the big brute controls horribly. Consider this: there are two types of jumps available to our hero, a long one, and a short one. So if you’re in a pit of lava or some other damaging, nasty liquid (as will often be the case), logically, you need to reach one of the two platforms flanking the gap that serves as your current position. You pick the lower platform, naturally, and make a short jump, only to scrape and bloody our champion’s knees. The situation calls for… the long jump! But the long jump will, more often than not, overshoot tremendously and land Rastan in another pit on the other side of the platform you were wanting to land on. This problem could have easily been remedied by allowing more in-air control of your character. Instead, instances like the one described here are simply par for the frustrating course in the later levels of the game. But you needn’t worry, I suppose—you probably won’t make it far enough for the really dirty spots to manifest themselves.
Besides the slipshod jumping, there is poor collision detection implemented with infuriating randomness. You might slay a Gardis or Mantis—the two types of lizard-like enemy—and pick up a nice Battle-Axe, Mace or even Fire Sword to temporarily upgrade your default Barbarian Sword. Feeling empowered, you might come upon the slithering Medusa, or the fluttering Harpie, and strike out with your new weapon... to no avail! You will find, to your disgust, that some hits won't seem to register. Not good.
This fault is exacerbated by your single life, and limited continues. There is a code for unlimited lives/continues, and dirty pool as it may be to use it, that might be your only recourse. Of course, the likelihood of you enjoying this bland adventure enough to seek out such a crutch to finish it, is slim to none. Sega's Rastan sports graphics that are a major step down from the already run-of-the-mill sights in the arcade game, with much smaller characters, and much less vibrant (read: washed out) colours. Also, true to form, the music sounds like it's blaring from a PC speaker, and we get the same theme to guide us through every level.
The hack and slash side-scroller has been done much better than it is represented here, with the excellent Astyanax on the NES, and the aforementioned classic, The Legendary Axe, for the Turbografx-16, just for starters. And though it's not exactly in the same vein, you'd do far better to try your hand at the wondrous Wonder Boy in Monsterland instead, for your Master System.
What we're left with is a below average version of a game that was barely average to begin with.
Still, should you make the ill-advised decision to experience all that this wishy-washy Rastan port has to offer—however little—don’t be afraid to disregard playing by the rules. The game itself is just as guilty.
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 12, 2004)
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