It is pretty hard to recapture the experience of arcade gaming in the 80's –it was a time when arcade cabinets were often relegated to the odd and obscure side corners of comic book shops and other stores, and larger, dedicated arcades were a neon-lit, noisy affair with sticky floors and even stickier buttons. The arcades of today are now glitzy and glamorous, but there are some things that can quickly take you back to days long past-just hearing the Rastan Saga title is more than enough for some. This arcade classic about a barbarian on a quest to a slay a dragon (for profit) is a ticket to memory lane for many an old-school gamer.
Previously in 1987
The game opens up with a pretty straightforward scenario. The barbarian has just finished negotiating with the Princess of the Ceim Kingdom. In exchange for a dragon head, the barbarian will receive all the treasures of the empire. It's a pretty vague description that lacks a lot of context (Will any dragon head do? What are the kingdom's treasures?), but it is presumed that there's only one specific dragon and the treasures are basically wealth.
Anyway, the rest of the game is a hack and slash quest that takes you through 6 different stages each with their own unique environments and boss fights. Suffice it to say, the boss of the sixth stage is none other than the dragon itself. It is not a terribly long or hard game to play –it takes a little over half an hour to finish once you have mastered the flow of the game. For first time players however, expect a lot of tokens needing to be spent.
There are a total of 6 stages in Rastan's adventure and each stage is divided into an outside and inside location. This provides the game with 12 different locations (18 if you want to count each boss room as a special location).
There are also 6 bosses –one for each stage. The first four are humanoid (spear-using skeleton Graton , winged fighter Slay, magic casting Symplegades, and Laios the knight). The fifth is a hydra and the sixth and final boss of the game is none other than the dragon itself. Dealing with the bosses is a matter of figuring out the attack patterns and dealing as much damage with each opening you get.
You fight a smorgasbord of mythical foes ranging from skeletons to medusa(s), bats, lizardmen, evil sorcerers, and more. The enemies increase in volume and appearance in each stage, though some of them remain as staples all throughout –most notably the lizardmen and the three-headed chimera-ish ones. The get upgraded with palette swapped versions in the later parts –signifying these ones to be tougher and more aggressive. Players will also be faced with environmental hazards –large chasms or fire pits that require the use of swinging vines, as well as your more dungeon-y blue flame traps, spikes, and more.
It is not all one sided however, Rastan also has the chance to pick up weapons along the way –temporary power ups like the axe, mace, and flaming sword, all of which give him either more range or better damage. Aside from these, there are also equipment and accessories that can be worn –there is no inventory menu, picking up an item instantly replaces a similar item.
Who is Rastan?
For those wondering, Rastan (in the game's title) refers to the lead hero that the players are controlling. If you were paying attention to the very start of the game, Rastan is revealed to be a barbarian king who is elegantly adorned with luxurious accessories and is sitting on a throne. He also has slightly graying hair. This may seem odd, considering that he is sporting long brown locks for the most of the game. But actually, the reason why this is called Rastan's saga is because the king is actually talking about his exploits when he was younger. So yes, this arcade game is a giant flashback.
This knowledge makes the game's ending feel pretty satisfying, as you actually see the direction that leads Rastan to becoming a king. Though it is also revealed that his adventures in this first game is the very first in the story, more things have happened on his quest to create his kingdom.