Review: Astro Boy (PS2)

Astro Boy (PS2)
Genre: Third-Person Action
Platform: PS2
Rating: RP
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sonic Team
Release Date: 08/17/04

Remaking classic movies and TV shows and bringing them to a new generation of hungry consumers is an industry old trick that is a guaranteed success, or at least to the ones who foolishly pool their money into the projects. Astro Boy is the latest victim of this uninspired cash retread. With a new animated series profiling the classic hero, it was only fitting that a video game was made to rake in the dough to please kiddies engrossed by the shirtless hero as well as faithful fanboys.

Story: To anyone who is familiar with the story of the original Japanese comic, the game follows it fairly faithfully. You start off the game controlling Astro Boy, a mechanical boy created by his distraught father who lost his son in a tragic car accident. Unfortunately, after rebuilding the diseased boy, his father is not pleased that his newly created hunk of metal doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t quite replicate the feeling of an actual living boy, and thus abandons him with the care of portly-nosed Dr. Oâ┚¬â”žÂ¢Shay.

Immediately after starting the game, you are introduced to the nefarious Dr. Tenma who wishes to rule the world with evil robotsâ┚¬”dastardly indeed. Realizing the potential of little Astro Boy, Tenma constantly tries to convince Astro to join his team of robot evildoers. Apparently Tenma and Astro share a connection too, though Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll let you find that out.

As far as this story concerns the actual game itself, you begin immediately after Astro is brought to life. Being a new born, you have not accessed all of your inherent powers, and thus you must progress through the game obtaining all of your nifty powers in a very â┚¬Å”Mega Manâ┚¬Â like approach. Along the way you encounter various enemies that try to thwart your progress until you finally attempt to stop Tenma from taking over the world, you know, the usual evil plot.

If this game has one thing going for it, it definitely has to be its story. Yes, it is simple at times, but for something that was created in the 60â┚¬â”žÂ¢s, there is a certain appeal that has allowed it to survive all these years. Now if only the game was good as its story.

Rating: 8/10

Graphics:

Well, I have at least one thing to say: the characters are faithful to their anime counterparts. Unfortunately, that is probably the only nice thing I can warrant saying without spewing a slew of lies. While the graphics arenâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t horrendous, they certainly donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t reflect what the Playstation 2 is capable of producing. I think I am also being rather critical because this game was developed by Sonic team, so I was expecting graphics that were at least comparable to the nice jobs they put into their Sonic games. But like the Sonic games, there are many problems that plague this game. For starters, there are major clipping issues that really shouldnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t appear in a game that was released in Japan last year, and especially a game that is as short as this.

The gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s biggest problem, however, is its faulty camera. Sonic Team just wasnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t capable of implementing a camera that was able to capture the trademark flight of Astro Boy. You may as well close your eyes whilst fighting indoors too, for youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll probably have a better chance of actually hitting an enemy than trying to maneuver the camera to capture the bland action. The game just looks rushed, which is a shame because the license has such rich potential.

Rating: 5/10

Sound:

I actually didnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t find anything horribly wrong about the music in the game, so that is probably a good thing. I have not had a chance to see the new animated series, so I am not sure if some of the songs come from it, but I wouldnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t be surprised if they were. I particularly liked the song that plays in Astro Boyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s quaint little neighborhood.

Like I said before, I havenâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t seen the updated cartoon series, but I found the voice acting to accurately reflect the characters. Usually I am turned off by silly voice acting, but I was actually drawn into the speech, which is probably because I was also interested in its story. Even so, the actors did a good job of representing these classic characters.

Rating: 7/10
Controls:

Those looking to gracefully jet the pint-sized hero around the screen may spend more time complaining than rejoicing. Controlling Astro Boy is almost as difficult translating Japanese. Having the mechanical wonder run on the ground is easy enough (if you can tame the wacky camera) but flying around the skies of Metro City is more of a chore. There are two ways of tranversing through the skies: pushing up on the analog stick will set the little boy in flight, while holding down the square button will initiate his powerful jet packs located on his feet for an extra speed boost. While using this speed boost may sound like the ideal way of getting around, maneuvering Astro during his speed boost is a test in patience. Scattered throughout Metro City are various rings to which you can fly through if you so desire. At first, I thought it would be easy passing these seemingly simple tasksâ┚¬”boy was I wrong. When Astor is speed boosting, he becomes almost uncontrollable. Factor in the shoddy camera, and you have a simple task that is negated by bad controls. Sorry Astro, controlling you was a pain.

Rating: 4/10

Balance:

Sure, this may be a kidâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s game, but even kids will laugh at its simplicity. There was hardly a time when I found this game to be difficult, and the times I did, it was because I had not figured out the correct way to combat a boss. It is not like I wanted a game of Ninja Gaiden-like difficulty, but there is hardly a challenge found in Astro Boy. If you are over the age of seven, completing this game should be an easy task. If you are over the age of seven and incapable of completing this game, it is best you find a new hobby. I suggest collecting baseball cards; thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s certainly not hardâ┚¬”unless you canâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t open the package, which in that case I suggest investing a pair of sharp scissors.

Rating: 3/10

Replayability:

Because this game is ridiculously short, Sonic Team thought to add in pointless sidequests that little will care to complete. One such sidequest is collecting various cards found around the game which give you little bios about the characters. Maybe younger gamers will be excited about this arbitrary task, but I felt like it was merely tacked on to up the already pathetic length of the game. The sad part is, even finding all the cards will not push the gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s length further than six or seven hours. So, once all the cards are found (if you are even driven enough to search for them) there is absolutely no reason to touch this game again.

Rating: 2/10

Originality:

This is a game based on a character that is over forty years old, so it is not like there is anything especially new being brought to the table. The ability to jet around as you please is an interesting gameplay concept that could have been more refined, but as far as recent games that implement this style of play (especially in 3-D), I cannot think of any off the top of my head. Take away the Astroâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s rocket powered feet, however, and you have a fairly bland action game.

Rating: 5/10

Appeal:

Unfortunately for uninformed gamers, Astro Boy has major appeal since it is the first time he has appeared on a major console. It is a shame that Sonic Team wasnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t capable of translating this iconic action hero to the Playstation 2. Those looking to control this Japanese star, should look his recent Gameboy Advance game, which faithfully represents what a good Astro Boy game should be.

Rating: 7/10

Addictiveness:

Short and bittersweet is what Astro Boy is. It may be fun for the first couple of missions, but once the bland level design, clunky controls, and poor camera plague the game, you will likely be reaching for the power button.

Rating: 4/10

Misc:
If I havenâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t convinced you not to purchase this game already, let me comment on the horrific level design (or lack thereof). Unlike most games which have actual levels, Astro Boy is simply made up of boss fights. Thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s right, you donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t actually progress through a stage to meet the boss, you simply fight them without any work or effort. I honestly donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t understand how Sonic Team could possibly think that this was the best way of creating a captivating game. If youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re wondering how this game could possibly be only four hours, this is why. Fighting boss after boss not only kills the playtime, but also the enjoyment of the game. It is almost scary to think this is the same team that created the popular Sonic games.

Rating: 2/10

Final Scores:

Story: 8/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 7/10
Controls: 4/10
Balance: 3/10
Replayability: 2/10
Originality: 5/10
Appeal: 7/10
Addictiveness: 4/10
Misc: 2/10

Overall Score: 47/100