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Released: 1989

Genre: Beat-’em-up

Format reviewed: Arcade

Publisher: Taito Corporation

Developer: Taito Corporation

Submitted by: Lee Tatlock

AKA: Nastar Warrior or Rastan Saga II depending on where you’re playing it is a strange old bag of tricks indeed. Let’s get this out of the way first – I really dug Rastan. Nothing beat slipping into the mammoth skin trunks of a wicked barbarian warrior and rushing sword first into a horde of mythical hell beasts. I was a child of the 80’s and it’s probably no small consequence that I also really loved the Conan films, and a lot of the other blades and boobs ‘epics’ of the day such as the so-bad-it’s-magnificent Deathstalker, and the just plain redonkulous Ator the Fighting Eagle.

So being the follow up to one of the shining lights of my childhood, and also my saviour on my second horrific family holiday to Majorca, I was well chuffed to find out Nastar was part of the awesome Taito Legends 2 collection on PS2. Now I still play Rastan on my Master System and still enjoy it from time to time but is Nastar still as splendiferous a follow up as I remember or is it just a lumbering dud? Read on to find out more!

Probably the first thing that’ll hit you when you switch this bad boy on is the size and detail of the sprites, then you’ll instantly be struck by a counter blow of extremely sluggish movement. This barbarian battle master is one plodding tortuga. Now I’m not sure if this was intentional to make him seem like a total beast or if it was simply hardware limitations, however I’m more inclined to go with the former as he jumps, stabs and slashes at a decent pace and enemies can move likewise – plus you can get speed up power that make you more agile. So back to these sprites; now these are some awesome looking characters, sure the animation may be stodgy and mechanical looking but the sprites themselves are big, colourful and really detailed – plus they all explode in a flurry of chum when you hack away at ‘em (or shrivel up and rot in the case of our protagonist) – cool beans.

Controls are nice and simple with jump and chop representing your only button worries. With these buttons and your mighty control stick you can slice up, crouch and chop or jump then dive bomb you enemies from the clear blue, also you can press up with the right timing and grip and swinging ropes that may be in the vicinity. With all this said though this is an arcade game any there are a good few naughty jumps and enemy placements that are specifically designed to literally make a three course meal of your loose change. So with this in mind it doesn’t matter how good the controls may be because you are bound to die, a lot. It’s not all bad news though as power ups will help keep your pockets jingling for the Big Issue guy waiting outside. Power ups come in the form of a swirling shield of energy balls that’ll slap your enemies if they come too close and fireball projectiles that emit from your blade, then there’s the odd enemy detonation collectable that’ll clear the screen in a flurry of mince meat which is always nice. In addition to all these knick-knacks there are also a few weapons you can grab including high speed claws that’ll eviscerate you foes post haste and my favourite tool of destruction: the mighty broadsword that has both range and crushing death power to the max, dude.

Now here comes a bit of a sore point, for me at least, namely the backgrounds. There are some sweet pieces of background art on show with moons and castles emblazoning the skyline somewhere in this joint, but these are obscured by the ugliest platform blocks to ever destroy the graphical credibility of a game, ever. Now fair enough this is from way back in 89 and you’d expect some dodgy bits and bobs but these cut and paste blocks of orange and grey rock make it look like you’re jumping around on a terrain that was dragged straight out of Tetris. It’s really ugly looking and when mixed with the awesome sprites it only makes it look worse, a real dog’s dinner if you will.

Another sore point for me is some of the extremely harsh boss fights, again designed to pick your pockets like some sort of Artful Dodger of the arcades. The bosses all look cool and you’ll want to see what comes next but if I was paying for this instead of slinging credits with my select button I’d have walked away long before the end.

This brings me onto my next point quite nicely – this game is shorter than the mutant blob-spawn of a Munchkin and an Umpa-Lumpa. Five levels in and you’re staring at the ending screen – which, like all the cut scenes, features overly literal and silly translations of the original Japanese script. It’s disappointing but mostly because you do want more, you want to see what the game throws at you next in the way of enemies, especially after seeing that cool skeleton riding an armoured elephant, but no it’s over! Bye bye!

So all in all it’s a mixed bag but the game play is solid and enjoyable, it just has a few dips in graphical quality, difficulty and longevity that let it down. Is it a worthy follow up to Rastan? I’d have to say yes but as a fan I’d have like more, but wouldn’t we always. I just wish that this had helped the series take off but unfortunately it was not to be.