Astro Boy GBA Review

If you own a Saturn, chances are you either own or plan to own "Guardian Heroes" or "Radiant Silvergun." If you own a Genesis, "Gunstar Heroes" probably tops that list. One thing brings these titles together: Treasure. "Astro Boy" is the latest title from the hardcore gamers dream developer and their solid style brings to life the popular anime character in one of the best games this system will ever see.

Getting the basics down is what "Astro Boy" does so well. The title is split into two separate modes of play, platform fighting and horizontal shooting. Neither section revolutionizes gaming, but both segments are programmed in such incredible fashion, they hook you. Astro's moves include a finger laser, punching/kicking, arm cannon, a jet escape, and the ability to stop enemies cold with a machine gun. It's a lot for a game that only uses four buttons, but you'll never be confused as to what you need to do next.

Solid game mechanics follow the game all the way through to completion. The shooting stages are above average, yet few in number. The finger laser makes for a potent weapon here. On the ground, you'll beat down enemies using super strength, knocking them into each other with spectacular results. The sheer amount of mayhem on screen at once does cause a few minor moments of slowdown, but if anything, it lets you get a handle on the situation. Creating huge masses of on-screen explosions/sprites is a company trademark, and "Astro Boy" keeps that tradition fully intact.

Making it so is the EX meter, one that powers-up as enemies go down. When the bar is filled (how many levels is determined by what difficulty you play on), you can unleash all sorts of damage. The arm cannon is the most powerful, but the machine gun stuns enemies giving the player a major advantage. There are plenty of times where you simply wish you had a reserve stock of these shots, but the difficulty level is almost always fair as the game saves when you enter into every new section.

To make things interesting, once Astro Boy has met a new character, he can power himself up. How you choose to make him stronger is completely your choice. You'll never need one of the six sections fully powered-up to make it through a segment. Once the game is over, you are free to revisit any stages to find anyone you might have missed (there are 50 characters in the game total), though by then you should be maxed out.

Beating the game is really the only cheap move the developers made. Once through the seven stages (with multiple sub-stages in each), you must go through them again. The storyline sends you back in time to fix what has gone wrong in the world, but on your quest to right everything, nothing changes. All of the stages play the same until you finally get to stage 8. Even worse, you have to figure out a certain way to proceed through the stages in order to advance the story with the stage select screen. Sometimes the clues are obvious. Other times, not so much.

There are plenty of graphical tricks to impress even the most jaded gamer. Plenty of scaling and rotation fill the levels, while some of the boss fights are flat out stunning. Backgrounds offer plenty of detail and a few even let you interact with them. The leach character is animated nicely and the cinemas capture the spirit of the cartoon from which the game is based. The only knock here is the gaudy enlargement of enemies. Instead of providing more variety, artists over at Treasure simply triple the size of your opponents, turning them into pixilated masses in the process.

Underneath the action runs a great soundtrack, though it does get lost in the on-screen mayhem. All of the cinemas are course done with text and the only voice samples are some screams when robots/people take damage. It's excusable, but know that there are A LOT of cinemas crammed in here. All of the sound effects round out the package nicely.

Amazingly, this is a far better game than the home console versions. It's simplicity makes it accessible to anyone, the storyline can be followed by even non-fans of the show, and sheer amount of carnage keeps things fun up until the final battle. You have to be disappointed when you realize you basically have to play through the entire game twice (more in actuality) to see it to the end, but you would probably play it multiple times anyway.

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