Product Type: Atari Nintendo 64 games
Newest Review: ... continues with the retention of the acute accent on the little hero's name: "Astérix". It doesn't make much difference in pr... more
.These Romans are crazy...
Member Name: davidbuttery
Advantages: Graphics faithful to the books, easy to pick up, reasonable level design
Disadvantages: Nothing new, irritating music, two-player is just an alternate hotseat mode
Asterix is a side-scrolling platform game, in the Mario mould, released for the SNES in the dim and distant days of 1993. It was the first of two games for the system starring the indomitable Gaul, the second of which - Asterix & Obelix - came out in 1996, by which time the SNES market was clearly very much in decline. This original release's title doesn't mention Obelix at all, which turns out to be because he's been kidnapped! Thus, as Asterix, you must battle your way around several parts of Europe (and, once, north Africa) in order to save him.
I'm not even sure whether this game was released in North America, given the much lower popularity of Asterix over there, but on my European version of the game the very first thing you choose is what language to play in... and English is not the default option! It's French, which I suppose is fair enough given the location of Asterix's homeland. The gallic (Gaulic?) flavour continues with the retention of the acute accent on the little hero's name: "Astérix". It doesn't make much difference in practice, but it's a nice little touch. Your only further choice is between three difficulty levels.
It would be hard to claim that Asterix brought all that much new to the table in terms of gameplay. You work your way through levels by collecting coins and other treasure, replenishing your energy (marked with hearts in the usual way) and discovering secrets here and there. Meanwhile you're confronted with enemies in the shape of wild boar, Romans and so on who must be given a good thumping and are then (in the case of the boar!) automatically roasted in front of you. Sounds very familiar, doesn't it?
The game isn't all that difficult, at least on the lower levels, but it's made frustrating by the lack of any sort of password/save system. To play the whole thing through, assuming you're using an original cartridge and not an emulator, you're going to need to set aside around two hours - perhaps slightly less if you're accomplished at this sort of thing, but as there's a time limit for each level (again, just like the Mario games) and a limited number of continues (five) you're not going to be at it for ever and a day before either completing the game or failing entirely.
The biggest thing in this game's favour is its look: the graphics really do look as though they came out of the original comic strips; and anybody with the slightest familiarity with the books will grin in recognition when they see, for example, a Roman legionary hiding unconvincingly in a hollow tree! The animation is all right, if not astoundingly fluid, and there are some nice touches: for example, thwacking a legionary will bring a "PAF!" speech bubble, after which his helmet falls to the ground - these should be collected for extra credit at the end of a level.
On the other hand, the game's sound is not very impressive. As with the various Asterix films that have appeared over the years, the problem is that the soundtrack on the screen (voices in the films; music in this game) simply doesn't match up to what I've carried around in my head all these years! The tune for the section in Helvetia (Switzerland) is particularly annoying, being something of a cross between a cutesy Christmas melody and one of those diddle-iddle-ee songs supposedly so beloved of Alpine villagers.
This is not a rare game - which as usual doesn't prevent many sellers trying to convince you that it is. I've seen it go for as little as a fiver, though you'll probably have to pay a few quid more than that to be sure. You're not missing out on an enormous amount even if you let it pass you by, however. Asterix is a competent game, and if you end up with it in a job lot there's no reason to chuck it out at once, but really the only truly stand-out part of it is its comic-alike graphics. Fans of the Gauls (like me!) should enjoy it, but if that angle isn't already drawing you in, you can probably let this one go.
Summary: The faithful character graphics lift this slightly above the ordinary, but only slightly