I really enjoyed the Master System version of Rastan as it was a genre that was almost non-existent on the NES. I guess the closest comparison would be that Conan game and the less said about it the better. Although it differed from the arcade in terms of stage layout it was similar enough that I didn’t mind. When I found out about Rastan Saga II for the Sega Genesis years later I was ecstatic. That elation would soon turn to just plain anger however. Literally nothing that made the first game great is present here and the entire game reeks of a rushed effort. I wasted a weekend rental on this POS; don’t make the same mistake.
The world of Rastan has been given a visual makeover and in still screenshots it looks fairly impressive. The sprites have increased in size and are larger than the majority of titles from that era. Occasionally the backgrounds will exhibit some good art and the game is far more colorful than its predecessor but for the most part the environments are bare. The first game might have been a bit generic with its heavily Conan and Frazetta influenced art but it at least took you through some pretty scenery. Any favorable impressions you might have had about the graphics fades as soon as you press right on the controller. The animation is extremely poor; most enemies have one or two frames of animation and it is jarring to see in action. What good are such large and detailed enemies if they animate worse than string puppets?
Weapon selection in the first game was limited and that has been expanded a bit here. The default sword is accompanied by a shield that allows you to block attacks if you aren’t moving. Actually all weapons can block. It’s a nice gesture but I guarantee the majority of the time this occurs will be completely involuntary. The game tries to add a strategic element to combat by introducing enemies that will parry blows (mostly bosses) and are aggressive but it mostly boils down to simply aiming where they are exposed for an easy hit. The short sword can be upgraded to a longer broadsword and eventually a pair of claws which are the most powerful but have terrible range.
The most unique aspect of the original was its large levels. Although it had the look of a meathead action game (which it is) Taito gifted the game with wide open levels full of items to find, traps, and numerous platforming challenges. The Robert E. Howard inspired world was used to great effect as you faced all manner of fantasy beast in a land that was derivative yet still enticing. Combined with the awesome boss battles, great soundtrack, and decent enemy AI the game really stood out upon its arcade release. Even the Master System, while a bit different, still kept everything great about the game and even introduced a few cool features such as wall jumping.
You’ll find none of that here however. Every level is a more or less straight line to the exit with very little variation in terrain. There’s nothing wrong with that if the game were filled with intelligent enemies that at least put up a fight. You’ll find that most enemies are content to stand in one spot until you enter their attack range. They’ll then go through their two frame attack animation ad naseum. Later in the game platforming challenges are introduced but they look ridiculous due to the huge sprites. The only real excitement comes from the boss battles. These contests are actually difficult if you don’t adhere to their pattern; I’ve never beaten one of these bastards without dying at least once.
Despite the straightforward level design and brain dead enemies Rastan Saga 2 is actually a little bit difficult. There are no health restoring items so if you make even the slightest mistake you have to live with it. Some of the later levels try to incorporate platforming challenges but they come across incredibly sloppy due to the large sprites. Worst of all its easy to lose a few lives because of bad level design which wouldn’t be so bad if continues were not limited. As such between this and the cheap bosses you’ll be hard pressed to reach the end in a reasonable time frame despite the game being so short. When it’s this bad you won’t care to anyway.
Rastan Saga II is simply not a good game. Whether you are a fan of the first game or looking for another hack and slash adventure there are far better choices like Blades of Vengeance. Considering it will run you some loose change and a pack of gum some will like it but why bother.