In 1987, Taito brought out barbarian fury in the form of Rastan for the arcades. This side-scrolling action adventure had great graphics, an unforgettable soundtrack, and it was also extremely tough. At least I thought it was tough, but it was still an amazing game that I poured way too many brass tokens into.
You took on the role of Rastan, a Conan-like melee buster wielding a mighty blade. Most of your enemies would be green, lizard-like monsters looking to wreck your day right before running across a mean boss monster. It’s short on story, as most arcade games were, but it didn’t need much of an introduction to slaying masses of monsters.
You only needed two buttons to wreak medieval havoc: one to swing your blade and another to jump. Swinging vines and ropes allowed you to traverse open chasms in strange slo-mo and Rastan can leap down to ledges below without breaking his ankles. A health bar gave him a degree of durability and special power ups, like a shield to help absorb a bit more damage or a mace for far reaching smashing power, were scattered everywhere to even the odds against the hordes.
Unlike some other side scrollers, Rastan’s levels could offer a degree of variety in getting to the end. In the first level, you could traverse underground or stay above ground, for example. The game also used checkpoints. Continuing the game by feeding it more tokens didn’t necessarily put you back at the very beginning every time.
It didn’t seem to be incredibly popular, though, at least in the arcades that I was in. It would always sit there with maybe one or two people jumping on, but mostly it would be me trying it out. The music was great, the graphics looked neat, but the action was admittedly slower than what its neighbors were offering up. Rastan’s plodding, methodical slashing and movement across each area wasn’t quite as quick or as action packed as Capcom’s Black Dragon, for example.
I had also learned years later that Rastan Saga, as it was known in Japan, actually had an intro segment that explained what was going on. It, along with the extension to the “victory” screen after clearing a level, were removed when it came to the West for whatever reason. Still, it apparently continued to prove popular enough to go on and have its own set of sequels in the following years featuring even better graphics and music.
In 1988, Rastan would go on to be ported to a large number of platforms such as the Sega Master System. It even came with a manual that worked up the fiction behind the action. Though not exact, it was a remarkably solid effort that brought over the same excitement and toughness that the arcade game had right down to the soundtrack.
It was also ported over to computers such as the Commodore, Spectrum, and the Amstrad with varying degrees of quality. Of the computer ports, the Amstrad definitely had the sharper graphics, but the Commodore had a great rendition of the incredible soundtrack. The ad below even offers the prices for either the cassette version or a floppy disk.
But look at those prices! Since this ad was from the UK, the prices are in pounds. Even so, for a full game, they’re the kind of prices that no one today would ever expect to see. But that’s how things were back then in the eighties especially in the computer world. The idea of $50 or $60 dollar games hadn’t yet gripped the industry. Budgets and development resources weren’t the titanic monsters that were being used to leverage more and more out of consumers to make up the costs.
The art also didn’t embellish too much on what to expect from the game and screenshots next to the tiny text talking up Rastan’s exploits completed the hype. Even though it wasn’t one of Taito’s better known properties, it is still fondly remembered by more than a few fans as a classic adventure.