Astro Boy: Omega Factor GameBoy Advance Review
Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy is considered to be one of the basic building blocks for all manga. Beloved around the world, it is only fitting, therefore, that he have a phenomenal videogame to cement his legacy, and it is here, on Nintendo's Game Boy Advance, that this incredible homage exists. If you're a fan, someone looking to learn about Astro Boy, or just a gamer seeking a quality game, Astro Boy: Omega Factor, is the killer app you've been looking for.
Omega Factor is the brainchild of two of the industry's greatest developers. On one side you've got Sega and its Hitmaker team, whose credits include the Crazy Taxi series, while on the other, there's hardcore fan-favorite Treasure, whose list of incredible achievements include Gunstar Heroes, Ikaruga, and Radiant Silvergun. With credentials like that, it's no wonder why this game excels in almost every category. Both teams have managed to create a wonderful virtual experience that in no way compromises Tezuka's universe.
Astro Boy is the most technically complex robot in the world. Created by Dr. Tenma in the image of his deceased son, Astro has numerous features that set him apart from other robots. His electronic brain makes him super smart, his finger laser gets him out of jams in a hurry, his arm cannon allows him to fry enemies, his 100,000 horsepower strength makes him tougher than the opposition, and his rocket-powered feet launch him to great heights. However, what really sets him apart is his Omega Factor, or rather, his ability to experience human emotions, a first for a robot, and something he'll need to unite the robotic and human race. Both sides are at one another's throats, and someone is behind the scenes trying to incite war! It's Astro Boy to the rescue, and his GBA adventure packs quite a punch. It features 13 stages and over 50 characters including Denkou, Atlas, the Blue Knight, Wally Kisagari, and Wato Chiyoko, so if you're a fan, you'll be pleased at who you run across.
Omega Factor is a side-scrolling game very much like those most of us played on the NES and SNES. In short, you run (or fly) to the right of the screen and beat up or blast anything that tries to beat up or blast you, and naturally, you'll eventually confront bosses. It's one of the simplest formulas in all of gaming, and Omega Factor is one its greatest examples.
To move the story along, the game features several cut scenes, but in truth, while the dialogue is fun to read and the game creates a general curiosity about how everything winds up at the end, eventually it all becomes rather confusing, because there's so many double crosses and plot twists that you can never really trust anyone. I never ignored the plot, but it did make me a bit twitchy because I wanted to dive right into the action.
Thankfully, Omega Factor features a lot more gameplay than storytelling. The game is divided into two styles of play: Ground and flying missions. On foot, the game plays like classics Gunstar Heroes and Streets of Rage, with Astro Boy punching and blasting enemies of all shapes and sizes. Taking advantage of his abilities, you can fry them with his finger laser, toast them with his arm cannon, shoot sprays of bullets from his butt, or simply beat the snot out of them with his fists. The action does tend to get a little hairy, as more than six enemies may be on screen at once, but you can easily evade them by either dashing from right to left (Astro Boy's invincible while doing this), or using his rocket-powered feet to give him some boost.
When not pummeling opponents on the ground, Astro Boy takes to the skies! Reminiscent of classic arcade shooters, Astro Boy zips across colorful backgrounds using his finger laser and arm cannon to defeat swarms of enemies. While not great in number, these missions are a nice touch as they keep the other stages from becoming stale.
In addition to the fast-paced gameplay, Omega Factor's peppered with light RPG elements, so after you complete a stage or meet someone, you're given the option to upgrade your abilities including Astro Boy's sensor. By increasing his sensor, you'll meet additional characters. However, you may also want to pay attention to his punching, life, laser, shot weapon power, and his jets. Upgrading those will make beating some of the game's enemies a lot easier.
Omega Factor sports some of the greatest visuals I've ever seen on a portable system. It's all sprite based, but the developers have taken the word sprite and pushed it to levels never before realized. The enemies are HUGE. Pixilated, yes, but incredibly intimidating. The game messes around with your head by tossing some small enemies at you, then throwing some medium sized versions of the same bad guys in your way before launching these enormous monsters that take up the entire screen. The mere sight of them had me scrambling for the right trigger every time and dashing like a mad man. They're no less difficult to beat than their much smaller counterparts, but they can mash you a lot quicker since they're so big.
In addition to the sprites, Astro Boy's special EX attacks are a lot of fun to watch. His shot weapon (while not very strong) is funny simply because he's firing bullets from his butt, but his arm cannon's the real star. When you press the right trigger, Astro gets this angry look on his face, and as he stretches an arm out, his hand disintegrates, and he unleashes this crazy blast that annihilates everything! It's simply jaw dropping, and thankfully, it's an attack that you can use quite a bit since you gain EX points by punching enemies.
As I play a game, I sometimes tend to look at its faults more than its finer points, but in this case, there really isn't anything negative to say. Omega Factor tends to slow down when there's too much going on, but it doesn't happen very often, and it winds up being nostalgic in a good way. If there's anything to really nag about, it's the game's English dialogue, which features a few grammatical errors. For example, there's a part of a sentence that's supposed to read "all our powers," but it says "our all powers." It's not a huge deal, but it's definitely noticeable if you pay attention to the cut scenes. Other than that, Astro Boy is golden.
I've been looking for something different on the GBA that doesn't feature rehashed franchises, and thankfully, Omega Factor satisfied my cravings. From its gorgeous graphics to its classic gameplay, it's simply a joy, one that must be played to be fully appreciated. It's one of 2004's best games, and to pass it up would be a crying shame. To Sega and Treasure, thank you!
What's Hot: Incredible gameplay and looks. Whoo!
What's Not: Slight slowdown and translation issues.