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Astro Boy: The Omega Factor

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Treasure (Jp site)

Release Date: 8/18/2004

Platform: GBA

When one thinks of Nintendo, trigger words for some would be Mario and Zelda, Samus and Captain Falcon, Fox McCloud and Pikachu. All great characters from great games, and the basis of Nintendo's continuing success in the video game market. People have said that the 3rd-party game development has been nonexistent since Square's defection from the company, and for the most part over the years, this has proven to be true with the exception of Rare and Konami.

But now, I want to place another name on that list that has successfully developed a 3rd-party fore-runner on the 1st-party behemoth: Sega. Even though Sega continually becomes a smaller and smaller company due to its losses and bad decisions, the creation of Astro Boy: The Omega Factor proves that they still have it in them.

To the uninitiated, Astro Boy is known by many as the first anime, as it was the first animated series to be broadcast on Japanese TV in 1966. From the creative mind of Osamu Tezuk came a story about a young boy who had died in a tragic accident. His father, who is bent on making a robitic copy of his deceased son, creates a work that he rejects; and ultimately, tosses to the curb like trash. The original story of Astroboy follows Toby (Astroboys human name) gaining his "Astroboy" title when he is recruited into a robot circus, but in a turn of events, Astro is rescued by Dr. Elefun, and is trained on the uses of his robotic parts. The Omega Factor does not follow the animes original story line, but rather has Astro embark on an adventure that runs along the lines of human rights and emotion, giving a more mature tone to a game that is marketed to children.

The Omega Factor is a straight beat-'em up with a few tricks up it sleeve, and doesn't hold anything back on gameplay. The game starts off with Astro having the ability to jet around for a small amount of time to avoid enemies and enemy fire, run, jump, kick, along with the the utilization of his arm cannon, machine gun, finger laser, and a powerful rush attack using his jets. You will move in traditional "to the right" fashion while taking on the various baddies the level throws at you; most of these foes are really never properly explained, which leaves the player to wonder if only fans of the series would really recognize or understand why they are fighting such bizzare foes.

The game allows Astro to melee with his punch and kicks, and can also follow up with an attack from his arm cannon, provided that he has enough EX power to use them. Astro will gain EX power by avoiding attacks and succesfully attacking enemies in combos; he will also going EX is his arm cannon continuously does damage to enemies. Since these abilities can be utilized at any time, provided you have the power, the game emphasizes Astro's immense superiority over his lesser adversaries, but the game will not forgive someone who tries to plow through everything in sight. Foes with projectile weapons and long range attacks will be able to hit Astro and interrupt his arm cannon, so it makes for a strategic approach to every encounter, which in turn makes the game a challenge no matter what difficulty you play on. Boss battles boil down to either your precision with your laser, or split-second reaction time coupled with well-timed attacks. This variety in the battles make for a new and unique experience every time you encounter a new battle, and takes away from the monotony of the standard levels of the game.

The game's core rests in the hands of the "Omega Factor", which basically boils down to a large grid with the people that Astro has met along his travels. The grid is broken up into four sections: "Justice", "Tenderness", "Brayeness", and "Evil"; the faces of characters that are most alligned with a certain characteristic are placed in one of the grid slots. Each time Astro meets a key character, he will be able to upgrade one of his main abilities. While a majority of the slots will be filled in automatically by the progression of the story, there are a handful of different characters that you will have to seek out on your own to truly help Astro reach his full potential as a robot.

The games main problem also coincides with its core design: the story. I have never seen an Astroboy episode in my entire life, and if this game is an accurate representation of what the story is like in the anime, than God bless those who are following it. The Omega Factor's storyline is a complete mishmosh of random characters and random occurences; there are enough "Who are you?" moments in the game to supply a third-world country. As you meet characters, the story will become increasingly convoluted, but the general message manages to wade through the confusion, and will manage to pique the philosophical side of gamers below the 9th grade.

Omega Factor's level design is the main reason this game is such a blast to play, it mixes elements of fighting, free form flying, and Gradius-style levels. The majority of the game is on foot, while a good amount of levels have Astro lying free-form attacking foes with his laser, and there are also some sequences where you will be battling in the air a la' horizontal shoot 'em ups like R-Type or Einhander. What compliments the excellent level design is the absoloutely astounding backdrops the game features. Some of the first levels have some of the most beautiful scenery ever to be seen in a GBA game; bustling city traffic in the air can be seen above while in the city, to a myriad of steel beams moving about as Asto moves through a level, giving a very real sense of depth to the levels. Astro himself, along with the many, many main characters have great sprites and animations, but not the same can be said for the lesser adversaries in the game. The game uses blown-up versions of smaller foes in later levels, but never really took the time to smooth out the pixels that became apparent after what looks like a slipshod job of resizing sprites.

The audio in the game is more or less forgettable; you will be hearing the same sound effects over and over as Astro pummels through myriads of enemies, but the backround music in the game is well done, and very fitting for every level.

Despite having one of the most convoluted stories in recent memory, The Omega Factor's positivies outweigh the negatives in this situation: It is the must-own action game for the GBA. This game is for anyone who is sick and tired of only being able to play good games that feature Nintendo's first-party characters, and just want a change of pace that doesn't take them down nostaligia lane at every opportunity.



Copyright by Anime-Source.Com All Right Reserved.

Published on: 2005-06-14 (11669 reads)

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