Astyanax pronounced ass-t-an-ax, marks my first NES disappointment. Admittedly, i purchased the game on a whim and for only two dollars so i shouldn’t be too sore about it. BUT I AM! I’ll be honest, I should have known better when i saw the game cover. It’s really lame, but it had the promise of epic adventure and epic battles which it never really delivers.
Now to be fair, this game does have some things that keep from being a complete failure. First, there is the story, yes there is a story in this game. Which is rather uncommon for an NES game. It starts off with a high school kid named Astyanax. Yeah, who names their kid that, I’m sure you will find tons of people named Astyanax in Japan. It would make more sense if the person was born in Greece, which is where the name Astyanax comes from, but still….why? Ok, this review is going on a tangent, so its time to refocus. Anyway, our young hero is on his way home from school and he is suddenly transported to a mystical land. Here he meets a fairy named Cutie and is tasked to save Princess Rosebud from the evil dark lord Blackthorn. If this sounds good that’s because it is, in really lame B movie way. But first, the young warrior must fight his way through hordes of vile creatures to get to Blackthorns hideout. Game play starts and that’s where the game goes downhill.
Well, not really. The graphics in this game are very good, possibly the best the NES has to offer, and that is no joke. The sprites are very large and have good detail. The environments are also fairly diverse, from ornate castles to forests to caves and epic bridges. These do breathe some life into the game and make it pleasing to the eye. However, this graphical power comes at a cost. When there are more than 2 or 3 enemies on the screen at once the game slows to a painful crawl. And when you are assaulted by 5 or more creatures then the game freaks out, not only do you have slow down but you will be treated to the visual spectacle of having flashing enemies. Its almost as if the developers were trying too hard to make the game look good and forgot to make it stable as well. Which is really the first in a line of many disappointments.
The game play is where the game takes a major dive. It redefines stiff, the character moves so slowly and his jump is not very snappy. If this game had any complex platforming, like in a Mario game, you wouldn’t be able to steer your character enough. The animation is also very stiff, the creatures typically just float there and the Astyanax’s sword arm is rather lame. That is another issue that i want to address right now, the attack power meter is just plain stupid. The more you let the meter charge, the more damage an attack does. This inconveniences you in a way that is really frustrating because as you wait for the meter to charge to do a lot of damage, enemies are constantly attacking you from every conceivable angle. And its not like you can just hack away because if you attack with your meter bottomed out you barely do any damage at all. Its torture and an unnecessary function.
This leads into my next major issue, the game is unfogiving beyond all reason. It is too difficult. I’ll be the first to admit that I kind of suck at NES games but this just takes it to a whole new level of misery. I played the first level for several hours, mastering the moves of the enemies and even learning the boss movements. I could barely finish it, but i made it through. From here i gave up, until i found the invincibility code. I put it in and blam, now i could see the whole game. To be honest, its nothing really special, the story ending sucks and the bosses are cool but still rather stock for a fantasy world.
The sound in the game was alright but nothing out of the usual. There is a decent song or two thrown in, my personal favorite takes place during one of the cut scenes between Astyanax and Cutie. These give a nice change of pace to the game but, don’t do anything that remarkable. Again, its mediocre
All in all, i finally had my first taste of bad in a console that has a lot of good surrounding it. Its not the worst thing i have ever played, the graphics are top notch and the sound design is decent, but the game play is abysmal. This game had all the potential in the world but instead we are left with a sour taste in our mouth. I actually gave this game away just a day ago to a friend as a reminder that the NES does indeed have some lousy games.