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April 26, 2005
Astro Boy - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
25/2/2005THQSonic Team1PGEasy
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Look, it's a boss...
While most people may be unaware of it, their first introduction to the Japanese world of ĎAnimeí was through a wide-eyed robot boy named Astro (well, for those people from my era anyway). Also known as The Mighty Atom, Astro Boy possessed an innocent and ever-positive attitude towards the world around him, even whilst being aware of his robot soul and inner workings. Since his creation in 1951 by Tezuka Osamu, rather than being obsessed with crime-fighting and stopping evil, Astro was more interested in justice and peace for humans and robots alike. Sonic Team are responsible for Astroís latest romp into the console world, with the aptly titled Astro Boy. Dragging a small surplus of characters into the game, including Astroís favorite bad-guys Pluto and Atlas, Sonic Team have done well to capture the soul of the cartoon series into the game. Unfortunately in doing so, they also seem to have fallen short where it matters, producing a sub-standard romp in Metro City.

The story in Astro Boy mildly retraces the early stages of the Astro Boy cartoon. For those not familiar with the original series, Astro Boy was created by the scientist Dr Tenma as a replacement for his son who was lost in a traffic accident. As time progressed Dr Tenma became obsessive with Astro and wanted him to become more than just a son, but rather the ultimate robot. To cut a long story short, Astro wakes up with the big-nosed Dr OíShay has his new Ďfatherí, with no recollection of his past. Together with his sister Zoran, he sets off to rediscover how he came to be and in the process discovers the many powers that are hiding under his robotic skin...

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...and another boss...
Astro Boy is played out as a 3rd-person adventure game, with hints of RPG-ness by way of acquired abilities and powers. Initially Astro starts off as a weakling who can barely fight, let alone fly; though by the end of the game he has become a fully-fledged ass-whooping machine. The controls and techniques are quite intuitive, with the exception of the camera controls which are probably some of the more ugly ones Iíve had to deal with in memory (even with the manual override). The gameplay takes place in 3 primary areas; flying around Metro City, within seemingly-endless enemy Ďdungeonsí, and in Metro City locations (which is also where boss fights take place).

While Astro Boy is a fun game to play, where thereís constantly something to do (err... or should that be Ďboss to fightí), its main drawback lies in the length of the game. Youíll easily finish it within 10 hours gameplay, including searching for the hidden cards scattered throughout the levels. Finding these cards normally consists of destroying all breakable objects in sight, but because this becomes tiresome after only one level youíll probably give up well before youíve found them all.

The progression of the storyline together with the level layouts could have done with a major redesign prior to release too. Early levels consist of countless boss-fights as Astro simply goes from place to place around Metro City acquiring new powers and Ďlevelling upí. Later levels have you proceeding through bland repeated corridors and rooms (through a volcano and in a high-tech warehouse) killing the same enemies again and again, just to reach yet another boss. It doesnít take much to master Astro Boy, as simple dodge-block-attack combos can defeat virtually all of the enemies in the game.

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...and another boss.
There is so much potential to be had with this game; Metro City is very large and one could very well place a futuristic GTA-like game there. However, it just seems so empty and there are so few places to go that come the end of the game you canít help but wonder why they didnít expand on it. Itís almost as though there was some catastrophic event happen, where everyone closed up and ran out of town, leaving a Metro Ghost-City.

Graphically Astro Boy doesnít unleash any hidden beasts from the PS2ís graphical processor, with visuals that are average yet still successfully manage to present the cartoon charm from the series. When zooming around the skies of Metro City, distant buildings slowly blur (rather than fade) away with an effect that I canít say Iíve seen too often, but works surprisingly well within the game. Itís a shame that itís let down by sparse environments elsewhere in the game and some character models which look not dissimilar to those from late Final Fantasy games on the PSOne. An interesting touch too is the option of a 60Hz mode before starting the game; a feature which Iíve always promoted, but in the case of Astro Boy Iím not entirely sure... running the 60Hz mode I couldnít find a single scene (from both gameplay and cutscenes) which really seemed to make use of it.

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More Astroboy action.
Furthermore, Astro Boy isnít largely focused on the aural experience, though most story-dependent cutscenes and conversations are dubbed with the voice actors from the Astro Boy cartoon. While some of the dialog brings new meaning to the word Ďcornyí, the quality of the voice acting itself is well done. The music however is quite average and doesnít play a large role in the game, though it seamlessly blends between styles during the game depending on the current situation.

Astro Boy the game is not unlike Astro Boy the robot himself; on the surface everything is well, and leaves a nice impression, but underneath things are not what they seem. While Astro is a robot trying to fit in to society and essentially Ďbecomeí a boy, heís held back by the fact that heís a robot and nothing can be done to rectify that. Astro Boy the game is similar in that it tries to aspire to a large adventure game with the giant Metro City and Astroís array of powers. However, the storyline and gameplay lack depth and content meaning that after not long at all it falls flat on its face. But donít get me wrong though, Astro Boy isnít a bad game (I played it straight through without having to force myself to, unlike some other games I wonít mention), itís just lacking so many things that weíve come to expect from similar games these days. Fans of the series and younger gamers should enjoy it for a brief while, though its lack-of-depth definitely puts Astro Boy into the rent-before-you-buy category.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

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GRAPHICSVisually it does the job, but nothing special for the PS2.
SOUNDVoice actors from the cartoon hold true to the characters.
GAMEPLAYItís fun and easy-to-play, though far too many Ďbossí fights.
VALUESo short, itís almost over before itís begun; little replay value.
OVERALLAstro Boy unfortunately doesnít do Tezuka Osamuís creation much justice at all. The plot and engine behind the game are solid; however they havenít been stretched out to their full potential, leaving the gamer asking for more. Astro Boy is best reserved for the fans after a quick blast, or the younger audiences.

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