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Astal (Saturn) artwork

Astal (Saturn) review


"Astal is such a disturbingly simplistic side-scroller that, it's hard to believe it was developed by Sega, known for their quality side-scrollers."



Astal had a lot going against it on its release: a botched, US Saturn launch, nearly zero advertising outside game magazine preview/reviews, an ugly box cover with no title on its side panel, and 2D graphics. About that last one, that's not to say having 2D graphics is a terrible thing, in fact, it was one of the Saturn's prettier, early titles. I wouldn't call it amazing, but from a graphical standpoint, it did a bunch of stuff competently, from the main character's various animations, to the fantasy, story book-like backgrounds that transport players to another world, another time. However, Astal was released during the transitioning period where players wanted more 3D titles, so it easily got overlooked by many.

This would have been a tragic tale had the game been fun.

Astal is such a disturbingly simplistic side-scroller that, it's hard to believe it was developed by Sega, known for their quality side-scrollers. Simple games can be enjoyable, but there's a lack of any of that here. You literally walk a few inches, toss aside either a crystallized pig (?) or a crystallized rabbit thingy (??), walk again, toss another enemy, walk, toss, ad nauseam infinite. I'm not even oversimplifying the play mechanics, that's how most of the game flows, and worse, these stages usually last around 2 minutes. There are some jumping/platform segments, but they are also sickeningly easy, sans one stage that takes place in the skies with small, moving platforms. Legit timing is required to hop on these platforms, especially with some clever enemy placements getting in the way. It's as if someone had a brain fart and decided to make a good section of the game. Unknown designer probably got fired for that.

Basically, the game just reeks of being an unfinished, unpolished product. More care was put into the visuals of Astal than the gameplay, making it obvious that this is a showcase title, a game to display what the Saturn is capable of in comparison to its predecessors. Even then, it's not a very good one, since it feels like it was rushed into completion. You know the developers goofed when Astal is more memorable for its flaws and oddities.

I mean, if someone complains about the game being hard, it's likely due to the flimsy hit detection that gets your character hurt a bunch. Another factor is the confusion involved during certain, short events. The rare times Astal wants to be "smart", it'll throw you for a loop. One boss seems virtually invulnerable until you realize you can only toss him during a specific animation... that look similar to his other animations. Another situation has you constantly being attacked by large projectiles thrown by a figure in the background. You jump, get hit. You duck, get hit. You run for your life, and still get hit. It probably won't even dawn on you until several deaths that you can hide behind small boulders that blend in with the other backdrops.

Even if the game had advertisement showing off its pretty graphics and had a more appealing box art, nothing can cover up its shallow play mechanics. You know Clockwork Knight? It's another early side-scroller for the Saturn that also has clear evidence of being rushed into completion. Another easy game, it's actually more entertaining than Astal, since there's a semblance of variety in its gameplay. There's hidden paths, stages that last more than 2 minutes, and even a section where you hop around on moving trains. It's an above-average title at best, but Clockwork Knight shows that some simple, rushed games can be fun. Astal, however, is an example that some games need the extra development time, because just being pretty isn't enough.

Rating: 3/10

pickhut's avatar
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