Astro Boy: Tetsu Wan Atom

aka Astro Boy in the USA.

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Sonic Team doesn’t mess around when they make games. Their take on the Sonic series, Sonic Adventure, breathed some much needed life for the blue hedgehog. Phantasy Star Online was a great way to get console gamers into playing multiplayer online RPGs. So when you hear that Sonic Team is going to do something with the Astro Boy license there is a certain level of quality that you would come to expect from them. Astro Boy doesn’t seem to have the same level of polish as other titles they have designed, but it isn’t a bad game either.


Astro Boy is the classic story of a robot looking for a heart. The original series appeared in the 1960’s, where as this game is based on the 2003 remake of the series. The new remake of Astro Boy has just started playing in the US and is on Cartoon Network if you’re interested. Obviously you control Atom, but when you get Atom he isn’t fully powered up. In the first scene of the game, there is a threat of attacking robots outside. Of course Atom runs out to the rescue, but he can only do a simple three punch combo by pressing square. After Atom clears the threat another robot appears and pushes Atom off of a high building. Just suddenly, Atom’s rocket jets are activated and he gains the ability to fly. Most of the game is played in the fashion where you beat a level, you get a power fashion.


Once you have you’re rocket jets you’re all ready to fly around Metro City, after a little practice. For some reason Sega made Metro City a vast space with tons of flying vehicles and rings (a nod for Nights in to Dreams no doubt) to fly through. To fly around you control direction with the left analog stick and altitude with the right stick. You can also press square to do the classic flying punch attack, which also helps you move around faster. However, when you’re flying fast you can find yourself out of control pretty quickly. If Atom hits anything he’ll bounce off it at an angle, with an effect that looks like its been taken straight from the animated series. Not too much of a problem unless you’re in a tight space where Atom will bounce back and forth quicker than the camera can catch up with. Thankfully you can press L1 to lock on a target and have Atom fly back to the target’s direction. To move from level to level there are a set of colored rings, which represent a portal to fly through. Moving through these portals takes you out of Metro City and into the next stage. Although, you have to wonder why Sonic Team made Metro City so large when the game is so short. At first flying is cool, but it soon becomes a chore when you’re needlessly flying through the vast world of Metro City for no reason.


When you’re actually in the levels you’ll see that they’re really small arenas. Surrounding Atom is a bunch of invisible walls that you annoyingly run into when trying to figure out where to go. The levels are filled with a small number of enemies. Most of these can be destroyed by punching them or doing the flying punch attack. Atom also has the inherit ability to pick up large objects and throw them at enemies. For some reason the objects seem to float and have an unusually high amount of bouncing. It almost feels like gravity is sleeping in the game. Atom can also pick up a large lamp post and use it as a weapon. It is cool that Atom can interact with the environment, but it would be nice if he could pick up more things. The first few levels mainly have Atom fighting a bunch of enemies using his classic powers like his laser beam attack and his search eyes to find other enemies. Sega did add in one creative level where they have Atom track down an invisible character who has a bomb attached to them. In this level you have to utilize the search eyes, but after that they become worthless. Atom only has a few powers and you’ll be mainly using the flying punch attack and the laser beam.


While the levels aren’t exactly impressive the boss battles are spectacular. When you are battling a boss monster you are placed against a normally large enemy. One of the earlier boss enemies has Astro fighting a robot on a bike. You’re in a small arena so you have to chase the enemy down by flying quickly. When you track him down you can punch him until he’s stunned. When the enemy is stunned you can punch them so they fly into a building, which is a pretty cool effect. Sonic Team has managed to capture a super hero bout pretty well. Some of the later fights, especially the last fight are exceptionally cool where Atom is fighting in outer space. Although, to tell anymore will be spoiling some of the surprises of the game so you’ll just have to believe that the fights are cool.


Astro Boy has an interesting set of graphics. Atom looks good, not great. His model does look like the animated model, but nothing as artistic as the Game Boy Advance version. For the most part the average enemy doesn’t look anything special either. The graphics do look like the series, but they feel uninspired. The style of Astro Boy feels represented, in the critical characters, but not the average random robot. Besides the vast world of Metro City, the level graphics are even less inspired. Later levels reuse the same graphics and even the same level design, which makes you feel like you’re in one of those old 70’s cartoon where they only have one frame of a background. What’s even worse is that the graphics have some horrible clipping effects. Atom seamlessly punches through solid objects and when he’s carrying the lamp post clips into everything it touches. One of the laughable effects is when Atom is spinning an enemy to throw him. Too many times a spinning enemy clips into a wall, but they don’t actually get hit by the wall. You have to let go of the enemy first for the game to realize a wall is there. So, the graphics engine isn’t great, but it does produce some cool flashy effects when Atom is flying. The way the jets shoot out a trail of steam and even emit a light show of color when Atom flies towards an enemy is pretty cool. The flashy effects continue in many of the boss battles where they shoot reflective lasers and blinking balls of energy. Without a doubt the coolest effect is the background buildings get damaged as you smash enemies into them or crash into them by mistake. There are also a few anime sequences added to the game as a nice touch, but there are only a few.


The music in Astro Boy is pretty good. It has a jazzy – lounge feel to it, which is something unseen in a platform or action game. For some reason though the classical tunes suit the game well. Kind of like how the classical tunes in Fantasia amplify the action of the animation. Maybe this was a homage to the original series, which had more melody to it. The voice acting in the game is pretty good. There are plenty of scenes where Atom will be talking to his sister and Dr. Ochanomizu.


Astro Boy: Tetsu Won Atom’s greatest falling is that it is short, too short. The game is six levels long and these are six short levels. When you reach the end of the game, it gets really exciting, leaving players wanting more. There is a challenge to collect cards to get gallery pictures, but these fetch quests don’t even extend the game’s play time past six hours. This doesn’t mean that Astro Boy isn’t an engaging game. From beginning to end Astro Boy is entertaining, although simplistic and easy.


Import Friendly?

Of course all of the menus are in Japanese along with the voice acting. You don’t really have too many problems figuring out where to go or what to do since there are animated clips telling you what to do next.


US Bound?

Sega is planning to release this game in the Summer of 2004.


+ Pros: Represents the cartoon well, some neat battle sequences


– Cons: Physics engine feels off, loads of clipping, way too short, levels feel repetitive


Overall: For such a short game, Astro Boy is an endearing experience, which gamers who like platform or action games will enjoy.

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