This is INSERT COIN, our brand new video series dedicated to the storied history of the arcade business. Join Robert Johnson as he looks at the best and worst of arcade coin-ops every Thursday. What is he talking about this week?
A Conan knock-off, of course. Find out why Rastan remains the best high fantasy beat-em-up all these years later!
Here's something that might surprise you: I don't hate knock-offs. Well, let's put a caveat on that; I don't hate knock-offs that are done well. Especially with video gaming. Since so many times a publisher that acquires the rights to a license actually make inferior products to the original. Which is unacceptable, because they paid for the rights to use the source material.
A good example of this is Taito's Rastan. Here's a dude who is obviously a low-budget Conan, but his games are done in such a style that they are the only games I've ever seen that come close to doing the Conan license justice. The apex of Rastan's adventures comes by the way of the game Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode 3. There's a Japanese name if I've ever heard one. This game never saw a release outside of Japan, which is a real shame because it has better gameplay and art style than other high fantasy quarter munchers like Golden Axe, Magic Sword and Capcom's Dungeons & Dragons games.
For an arcade beat-em-up, it's the only one I've ever played where your warrior feels just as powerful as the enemies you fight. Your avatar is sturdy and can take quite a bit of damage, but so can your foes. There are the standard power-ups that you would expect from this kind of game, but one that is kind of weird is this magical man. So every now and then you get this crystal ball and it makes an old wizard appear. And ... he just stands there. He follows you around, oblivious to everything happening around you. I don't know what his purpose is. Now, if you look, he has a magic bar, so I'm guessing he casts something. So how do I get him to fight for me? Do I press both attack buttons? No. Do I press start? No. Oh. THAT'S how you get him to fight for you? SO you hit him in the back. What other game have you ever seen in your life where you hit an old man and he shoots magic? Oh ... right.
And check out this music for the pirate ship level. Very jazzy. Well here's to you, Rastan, showing us that imitation really IS the sincerest form of flattery ... and sometimes the best.