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bat eye

Astal

Astal, known in Japan as Kisuishoudensetsu Asutaru, (輝水晶伝説 アスタル lit. Shining Crystal Legend Astal) is a 2D side scrolling platformer game for the Sega Saturn. Its stand-out feature is its detailed, hand-drawn graphics. Astal was released early in the Sega Saturn's life and was a good demonstration of the 2D graphics the system was originally designed for, with attractive visuals, fluid movement, sharp control, and challenging level design.

However, at the time of Astal's release, the video game market saw the release of new, increasingly popular genres, and 3D games were in high demand. This factor is a possible cause resulting in Astal's poor sales, despite positive reviews. Regardless of the reasons behind why Astal sold poorly, the game is now considered a rarity.

It should also be noted that Astal never received a PAL release.

Story

Somewhere in the universe, The Goddess Antowas created a world from a single jewel. On this world, Quartilia, she created the sky, earth, and air. To inhabit this world, she created two humans - from a red Jewel, a boy named Astal. And from a green jewel, a girl: Leda. Astal's purpose was to protect Leda, who was given the ability to create life. However, Astal's fierce temper often meant he was too overbearing when protecting Leda. Content with her creation, Antowas slept. While she slept, the evil Gerado tried to take over her world, but Leda and Astal resisted. To ensure victory, Gerado created his own human: Geist. Geist kidnapped Leda, and held her at the bottom of the ocean. In an effort to get her back, Astal shattered the bottom of the ocean, ruining it. The fierce battle between Geist and Astal eventually awoke Antowas, who defeated Gerado. Angry at Astal for destroying the bottom of the ocean, Antowas banished him. Before being banished, Leda takes pity on Astal, and gives him her jewel. Once Astal and Gerado were dealt with, Antowas went back to sleep. Astal, consumed with the need to protect Leda, frees himself from the banishment and returns to the world: Only to find Leda once again missing. As Astal begins his journey to find Leda, a strange bird accompanies him, but Astal does not want the bird around.

Opening

The anime cut scene indicates that after Astal’s banishment, Leda was once again kidnapped by Geist. Astal hears Leda’s cries for help from space (where he is chained to an asteroid) and breaks free, crashing down on the planet once again.

The Journey Begins

Astal begins the game in a flat wide open plain in the morning. Virtually every living creature (and even some features of the landscape) have a distinct theme to their design; their bodies are composed of crystals in some way, shape, or form. As Astal walks along the path, whilst fighting crystal enemies, he eventually comes upon a bird in a cage, guarded by yellow, crystalline-type minions. Minor voice-acted dialogue is spoken, involving Astal noticing the encaged bird, and the enemies taunting Astal to the effect of saying--In a rather, high pitched, nasal, distorted voice--"If you want to steal the bird, you have to get by me first!" To which point, Astal fights and defeats them, freeing the bird they were holding captive. Astal tells the bird not to follow him, but the bird does so anyways. Astal eventually reaches the end of this plain and enters a dark cave. Thus ending the first level.

Into the Darkness

Astal continues ahead on his journey in the cave, with his newfound bird companion following him close behind. He encounters more crystalline enemies; more prominently are the bat-winged eyes (Which seems to be a re-occurring enemy design in many RPG Video games. I.E. "Final Fantasy", "Phantasy Star", etc.) with daggers attached to their bodies (the daggers being the only thing composed of crystals on them). Throughout the majority of the stage, the Bat-Eye creatures progressively flow in a constant, neverending flight pattern from right to left, with the bats slowly descending and ascending as they continue their linear flight. This effect is commonly used throughout many 2-D side-scrolling platform games, mostly akin to "Super Mario World" for SNES, wherein there would be certain stages in which the main character must navigate through a narrow pathway with a ceiling that features ascending and descending spikes. In this second stage, Astal must make his way to the end of the cave, carefully ducking and dodging foes where needed.

The Evil Eye

It is now nighttime and Astal looks up at the moon. The moon is eerily yellow. Several bat-eye foes fly frantically to the night sky above, blocking the moon out. They all join together and recede like an eyelid, revealing the moon again. However, a pupil roles down the moon, reveling the flying eyeballs composed themselves into a single large flying eyeball (without the crystal dagger). Astal fights the Evil Eye and manages to cripple it, leaving it without its wings. It bounces around trying to attack Astal again, now solely a large eyeball. Regardless, Astal manages to defeat it and its remains crumple up. Astal and the bird leave. After they leave, Geist teleports to the remains and transforms them into a glowing sphere that flies off view. Geist teleports away at the same time.

Cut Scene

Astal comments to himself how he needs to find Leda. The bird appears to be annoying Astal and he threatens to eat the bird for dinner if he doesn’t leave him alone.

The Deep Forest

The next morning, Astal walks through a crystallized forest filled with crystallized enemies. There is also a river in the forest that threatens to take Astal away if he falls down into it. He manages to come to the edge of the forest as the day ends.

River of Dreams

Astal comes to the edge of a river and finds a giant, crystallized, Scandinavian like water dragon in the river. He pounds on it and the beast goes down the river with Astal on his back. Astal must dodge crystallized enemies and crystallized plants along the way as the beast won’t slow down or obey Astal. The beast crashes at the other side of the river at the other side of the forest. Astal gets off and continues on his way.

The Forest Fiend

Astal walks through a dying forest with rotting trees everywhere. A large plant with a palm tree like trunk and tulip like head is composed before Astal’s eyes. The Forest Fiend attacks Astal and he fights back, attacking its head. The plant eventually rips its roots out of the ground and moves around in order to attack Astal better. Eventually, it is defeated, the trunk disinigrates and the head falls down on the ground, crumpling up like the Evil Eye. Astal walks away and the head of the Forest Fiend transforms into a glowing sphere and flies away.

Cut Scene

Astal and the bird continue their journey. Unbeknownst to them, Geist is spying on them. He is pointing his blue jewel at them. Through the jewel, Gerado is watching them. Gerado see’s that Astal is in pursuit of him in order to find Leda. Gerado comments that Astal can look around all he wants because there is no girl with him. Regardless, he doesn’t want Astal to give up because the more he fights, the stronger Gerado becomes.

Volcanic Valley

Astal walks through an area full of volcanic activity. The sky is covered in smoke from a volcano and the crystallized beasts are covered in fire. As Astal proceed through the area, the volcano spews out meteors that threaten to hit Astal. He carries a massive rock to protect himself tell he’s out of the volcano’s range.

Guardian of Fire

Almost out of the area, Astal is attacked by a medieval dragon. It has a skeletal body, but it’s skin, wings and head are pure fire. Astal manages to destroy the body when it severs its head to attack Astal, and then he blows the head out to completely destroy it. Astal then leaves the area.

Sea of Clouds

Astal leaps from cliff to cliff, suspended above a sea of purple clouds. Crystallized enemies continue to attack Astal. The windy storm also hampers Astal’s progress. Eventually though, he crosses the sea of clouds

The Behemoth

The storm intensifies on solid ground and a large Behemoth attacks Astal. The Behemoth is a large yellow ape-like humanoid with large muscles, a white beard, and large orange horns that bend to his will. Astal defeats the Behemoth by tossing it around, eventually breaking his horns. The behemoth curls up into a ball and once Astal leaves, it turns into a white glowing sphere and flies away.

Cut Scene

That night, Leda comes to Astal in a dream. She begs Astal to be kind and compassionate.

Glacial Rift

The next morning, Astal crosses an icy cavern. The floors are covered in ice, making it more difficult to move. Icicles also drop from the ceiling. Astal crosses the rift and arrives at a less icy part of the cavern.

The Crystal Palace

Astal comes to a cavern that is partly composed of crystals. Regardless of the name of the level, there are no more crystal features then there are in other levels (and it’s also not a palace). Astal has to avoid falling crystal columns, a crystallized spike that go up and down and a lava pit to clear this area.

Frostbite

As Astal approaches the exit of the cavern, a mass of hair with lips traps Astal in a crystal. The mass of hair wraps the crystal around it, using the crystal as a body. The bird then has to fight Frostbite in order to free Astal. Frostbite can transform into a tornado and has control over crystallized minions. The bird manages to crack the crystal, free Astal and leave Frostbite a crumpled pile of hair on the ground. Astal thanks the bird for saving him and says the bird remins him of Leda. He says the bird doesn’t have to follow him around as he wants nothing bad to it. As they exit the cavern, The remains of Frostbite become a glowing sphere and fly away.

Cut Scene

Shortly after being freed by the bird, Astal is reminded of the kindness Leda showed him and how the bird’s kindness is very similar. He also remembers how the bird followed him, even after he was mean to it. Astal then begins to cry for the first time, even though he doesn’t know why.

The Plains of Destiny

The next morning, Astal crosses a barren desert. He is attacked by large centipedes and crystallized beast along the way. As he is being chased by a centipede, a large crystal flies in out of no where and destroys it. After the dust clears, it is revealed that Geist threw the crystal. Geist continues to hurl crystals at Astal until Astal reaches the threshold of the desert. Geist flies away and Astal chases after him.

Destiny Unfolds

It is noon now and Astal finds Geist on the top of a plateau, suspended in the air. Gerado is beside Geist, collapsed. He flies away and Astal confronts Geist. Geist says that all of the monsters Astal fought were a part of Gerado’s body. Gerado is now complete thanks to Astal. Astal’s usefulness has ended and Geist thinks it’s time he disposed of Astal. Geist attacks with large crystals that he throws at Astal and with orbs that produce lightning and an energy beam. He teleports away whenever Astal attacks him. Astal gains the upper-hand and Geist rises into the air. As he does so, the plateau Astal is on also rise. Geist questions why he can’t defeat Astal as he’s supposed to be stronger then him. Geist then attack by spinning rapidly with a crystal in the air and firing down on Astal. His last attack involves surrounding Astal with all of his orbs in order to ensure that they can attack him and cause damage. Despite his best efforts, Geist is defeated. He flies off towards Gerado’s floating castle and Astal gives chase.

Cut Scene

Geist and Astal are in Gerado’s castle, which is completely pitch black. Geist is at Astal’s mercy and he questions why he can’t defeat Astal. Gerado comes and berates Geist for being unable to defeat Astal. He then turns Geist back into a crystal and smashes it to pieces. Gerado says that if Astal had attacked him when he was weak, he might have been able to defeat him. At this point though, it’s too late for that. Gerado captures the bird in a green orb and then stomps on Astal, crushing him (Gerado is colossal in size). With nothing in his way, Gerado prepares to destroy the world and rebuild it in his own image. Before he can do so, his foot is lifted up. Astal is still alive and he tosses Gerado off him, freeing the bird. Gerado then prepares to fight Astal.

The Fight for the Future

Gerado attacks with shards of crystals, crystal plants, large crystals that drop from the air and he attacks Astal with his own fists. They battle in the castle, in space, illuminated by Gerado’s glowing crystals. Gerado is the most resilient enemy Astal has faced yet. Regardless, Astal manages to use his brute strength to defeat Gerado. Gerado decomposes into several dark spirits that fly off into space. One last large shadow lies away and Gerado is no more. The castle goes black and the bird flies into the air.

Cut Scene

The bird then transforms into Leda. Leda comes down to Astal and they embrace. Astal’s green crystal (given to him by Leda before the events of the game) flies up into the air and comes back to Antowas. Antowas congratulates Astal, saying that Gerado is now gone from this world and that Leda is free from Gerado’s curse. She says that Astal’s compassion allowed him to defeat Gerado and that it gave him strength. Antowas gives Astal the power of creation and then leaves the world to Astal and Leda. She then tells them to bring happiness to the world as her final command.

Gameplay

The player controls a Sprite of Astal through a side-scrolling world. Like many platformers of its time and before, gameplay is divided up into levels, with boss battles occurring every two to three levels. After each boss battle, a cutscene comprised of a pan across a piece of stationary artwork and voice-acting conveys the game's plot.

Controlling Astal

Astal's primary mode of attacking is using the B Button on the Saturn Gamepad, pressed without direction, or with left or right held down, Astal will throw enemies or objects over his shoulder, pressed while holding down, Astal will punch the grown, stunning enemies, pressed while jumping (via using the C button) he will punch down with both fists, B is also used to lift certain (large) pieces of scenery, such as trees or boulders and throw them. Astal's final method of attack, is by blowing, similar to Superman's 'super-breath', pressing up on the D-pad will allow him to inhale air, holding forward and pressing B straight afterwards will blow this air out, literally blowing away all enemies directly in front of him.

Controlling Leda

Within each level are a number of glowing enemies, defeating them will charge a meter in Astal's HUD located at the bottom of the screen, when A, X, Y or Z is pressed Leda will pinball around the screen, retrieving items and killing enemies. Leda also allows a 2-Player Co-Operative mode, a second player may play as it, similar to the way they may on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 with Tails.

Levels

  • Stage 1: The Journey Begins
  • Stage 2: Into the Darkness
  • Boss: The Evil Eye
  • Stage 3: The Deep Forest
  • Stage 4: River of Dreams
  • Boss: The Forest Fiend
  • Stage 5: Volcanic Valley
  • Boss: Guardian of Fire
  • Stage 6: Sea of Clouds
  • Boss: The Behemoth
  • Stage 7: Glacial Rift
  • Stage 8: The Crystal Palace
  • Boss: Frostbite
  • Stage 9: Plains of Destiny
  • Boss: Destiny Unfolds
  • Boss: The Fight for the Future

In Literature

Astal often makes cameo appearances (usually in background shots, architecture, or large group shots) throughout the Sonic The Hedgehog comic book series by Archie Comics, courtesy of artist Patrick Spaziante. (Who, given the frequency that Astal appears in this series, he is more than likely an avid fan of the game.) The most recognizable appearances Astal has made in the comic book was in issue #50 of Sonic The Hedgehog during a Dream / Flashback sequence being experienced by Dr. Robotnik regarding Robotnik's origins as a Warlord-turned-Dictator, the cover of #51 were he appears cheering in the crowd and #125 with many other characters from the comic. On this cover, he is behind the "5" card held by Mighty the Armadillo.

Trivia

  • Patrick Spaziante, artist for the Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog comic series, adds Astal cameos in nearly all his group shots.
  • Astal (and the bird) had a one panel cameo in Sonic the Hedgehog issue 50. They appear alongside Bark the Polarbear, Bean the Dynamite, Ray the Flying Squirrel, the classic Sega Genesis & Sonic Team character known as Ristar, and Deku from Fighters Megamix fighting against the Overlanders (Humans) in a flashback/dream sequence of Dr. Robotnik (See picture provided for an excerpt from Sonic #50). It should be also noted that in spite of the appearance of these various SEGA characters, the majority of them play no part in the storyline of the Sonic The Hedgehog comic book; they mainly only appear as "filler characters", not serving much of any other purpose than to stand in the back/foreground and take up space. Similar to an "extra" on the set of a movie.
  • Right after Sonic The Hedgehog #50, the characters Bark the Polarbear, Bean the Dynamite, and Astal all appeared on the cover art of Sonic The Hedgehog issue #51 in the audience, looking up to Sonic, Tails, and Princess Sally standing on the podium and celebrating their victory over Dr. Robotnik.
  • All voices in the U.S. version of the game are performed by Lani Minella, who has voiced many different video game characters in her career, with her voice appearing in such games as Diablo II, Half-Life, Soul Calibur III, Nancy Drew: Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, and more. Her most notable, and well-recognized role however would be portraying the voice of Rouge the Bat in Sonic Adventure 2, and Sonic Heroes.
  • The U.S. release of the game has an oddity in that the title of the game does not appear on the side of the case, which is blank apart from the Sega Saturn logo.
  • Playing the game's CD in a standard CD player reveals an extra track with a Japanese vocal version of the music ("Let Me Try Again") that plays during the game's intro movie. This vocal version is the one that plays in the intro movie in the Japanese version of the game, while the U.S. one is just melodic.
  • Hidden deep with in the game's graphic files is a sprite of Mario.

External links

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