Astro Boy: Omega Factor is the US incarnation of Astro Boy: Tetsuwan Atom, the slick 2D side-scroller from Sega and 2D gods Treasure. The game was released in Japan earlier this year and has undergone the requisite localization for its US debut. We recently got our hands on a near-final version of the US game to see how it's come together.
The obvious perk to the US game is the English translation, which fills you in on the tale behind young Astro's adventure. The game opens with some static screens and an animated sequence that details Astro's creation. You're then given control of the newly minted robot, and you're given the option to play through a tutorial that brings you up to speed on the game's simple yet elegant gameplay mechanics.
You're able to punch and kick your foes, or you can use Astro Boy's finger laser to take them out. When you're in a jam, you're able to use one of Astro Boy's three special moves. The machine gun fires a spray of bullets that hits all enemies onscreen. At higher levels, the rapid-fire weapon can freeze most enemies in place for a few seconds, and it can even deal out fatal damage to lesser foes. The arm cannon fires a powerful blast that's much stronger than the standard finger laser. Finally, the ex dash sends Astro Boy hurtling at foes in a rocket-powered bolt. You're able to use these special moves as often as you'd like, provided you have enough energy stored. A "super" meter fills when you use any of Astro Boy's normal attacks, and each superattack will cost you one full bar of this meter.
Once you're through with the tutorial, you'll start the game proper, which is laid out in straightforward, linear fashion. The game's structure breaks down into seven stages that are made up of different sublevels. The gameplay further breaks down into three main types, which include side-scrolling fighting, shooting sequences, and boss battles. The side-scrolling fighting is pretty standard and features waves of foes that are thrown at you. You'll have to defeat all of your onscreen enemies before you can move through a level. The shooting sequences are flying segments where you deal with various airborne foes that come at you in forced-scrolling levels. The boss battles pit Astro Boy against a rogue's gallery of opponents.
As you clear stages in the game, you'll meet up with assorted characters from the Astro Boy universe. The characters are arranged on a grid and are essentially collectibles that you can find in the game that you can then view in a gallery mode. In addition to providing a plethora of cameos that should please fans, encountering characters often rewards you with points that you can use to power up one of six of Astro Boy's attributes, which include life, punch, laser, shot, jet, and sensor. Life increases the capacity of Astro Boy's health bar. Punch boosts the power of his punches and kicks. Laser and shot power up his machine gun and arm cannon specials. Jet increases the number of dashes you're able to perform in midair. Finally, points put into the sensor attribute improve how much you can see in certain levels. For example, your range of vision is impaired in certain areas if you haven't allotted any points to this attribute.
Control in the game is responsive and makes the most of the GBA's button layout. Astro Boy's special moves are assigned to the shoulder buttons and can also be activated by holding down the A and B buttons. Punches are performed with the B button, while kicks are performed by pressing down on the directional pad and pressing the B button. The finger laser is triggered by pressing up and hitting B. Double-tapping in a direction lets you briefly dash in that direction. Interestingly, an exploitable perk of dashing is the fact that you can avoid enemy attacks for a few moments while moving. As you'd expect--given Treasure's penchant for including features that hardcore players can master--you can use the dash during battles with foes, and, if used properly, you can avoid a majority of damage from their attacks.
The game's graphics are nicely detailed and sport flashes of the inspired sprite-filled lunacy Treasure is known for. Astro Boy is nicely represented in 2D form and animates smoothly. The various stages he fights his way through sport a detailed art style that's true to its cartoon roots as well as Treasure's own signature elements. On the technical side of things, Treasure plays the GBA like a violin by offering generous amounts of onscreen action, parallax scrolling, and plenty of strong visual elements. In addition to the in-game graphics, you'll also see some basic animated story sequences.
The game's audio is modest but good. You'll hear a smattering of sound samples during the action that are quite clear, along with a tiny bit of English. Combat is given a good amount of kick thanks to a nice assortment of effects for the various attacks unleashed by Astro and his foes. Furthermore, the music is quite robust courtesy of some catchy tunes that suit the action.
Astro Boy's English incarnation appears to be an excellent outing for the tiny hero and seems to be an addictive 2D side-scroller. The tight gameplay mechanics are a great reminder of the 2D classics that Treasure made its name with back in the day. The Astro Boy license fits the style of game well and serves as a nice bow on an already appealing package. Astro Boy: Omega Factor is currently slated to ship later this August.