Monday, April 13, 2009

AAA looks at: Nastar

This sequel (though the game takes place before the first Rastan) to Rastan is not what you would expect. The popular adage "Bigger and Better" does not apply here. Well I guess it can be argued that this game definitely has bigger sprites. It is unfortunately worse than Rastan in every way(and as I mentioned earlier the original game was not all that great either).

Nastar's world is certainly a bit different looking and populated by a more unique and stylizied set of creatures. They also happen to show more unique behaviors and even some semblance of personality(in other words your foes do more than blindly rush at you swords swinging). Nastar also happens to be a bit shorter and suffers from some terrible level design. One particular section is simply a long enemy-filled corridor with nothing to punctuate it. The lowest points however are the jumps. While Rastan had simple and effective platforming Nastar attempts to mix it up by creating some devious jumps, some of which the player simply won't be able to figure out on their first attempt. Some of these require the player to stand at the very edge of the platform(we're talking so far along that both of the player's feet are standing off the edge of a cliff) while the hero pauses for a fraction of a second before he jumps(which helps prevent slipping off an ledge) it is still frustrating at best determining how to properly get through an area.

Another problematic aspect of this game is the combat. Most enemies fall to a single hit(though larger foes can take a few more). The bosses however can take tons of hits while your hero can only take a few. Though the game offers weapons(provided you can hold onto them as they disappear when you die) and a "Level" statistic(you get a levelup after you beat each boss. These may or may not have an effect on your strength). The problem is of course the fact that you have to survive the awful platforming to get to the bossfights. Eventually you could probably memorize how to handle these areas and breeze through the game but why bother? There's better games to be playing.

You need every ounce of power you can grab because as I said earlier the bosses can take an insane amount of damage. You however are stuck with a time limit. One grating scenario in particular is the second boss. While you can easily jump and stab the creature in the head and avoid her attacks with ease, you'd be hard-pressed to finish her off without running out of time. Sure on one hand if you can reach her without continuing you'll have that extra level of strength(and possibly a better weapon) so it'll be an easier bout but again this game really does nothing that feels rewarding to the player that goes out of their way to master it.

There are so many other aspects of this game that only serve to frustrate the player. Some examples include:

An item that increases the player's speed. Why not simply make the player faster from the start? Aside from that why does the character jump and fall faster as well? All that's good for is screwing up their timing for difficult jumps.

Two-player mode. Co-op is always welcome sure but this really isn't the game for it. 

A special ability that causes enemy-killing orbs to surround the player. Unfortunately this replaces the far more useful fireball or lightning ability if the player already has those. Why even bother?

Swinging ropes can only be grabbed from a particular spot(it's discolored making it easy to notice) however that still doesn't guarantee the player will actually grab onto the rope when they jump for it.

Sometimes the screen doesn't scroll properly. As in if you jump on a swinging vine the screen doesn't scroll to show what's ahead of the player. How did something like this even pass Q/A? It's absolutely horrendous.

The one good thing the game has going for it is the very impressive blocking system, which is done well and is more than useful for the various encounters the player will run into. However on the other hand it's simply not worth dealing with the poorly designed aspects. All in all best to skip this and go on to Warrior Blade, easily the best game of the Rastan trilogy. Unfortunately the only honest way to play that game is via one of the Taito Memories sets(which will set you back nearly $40). Maybe one day I'll pick up that particular set and figure out if it's actually worth the money(since like with the other three releases 20+ other games are included).

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