The Retro Critic


Between the time when the consoles drank the arcades and the rise of the sons of Playstation, there was an age undreamed of.

And unto this, Rastan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Taito upon a troubled brow.

It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga.

Let me tell you of the days of high Sega adventure!

Yes, I’m reviewing the Sega Master System’s very own Rastan (aka Rastan Saga) this week, a Conan The Barbarian-style side-scroller based on the arcade version. And, unlike many arcade-to-master system transfers, this is one of the few that’s actually worth playing so don’t expect a crapfest.

What’s the game about?

Rastan Story

Some vague Conanian nonsense that sounds cool.

Something about slaying dragons and wearing very few clothes in the process, I believe.

Green Men Rastan

Those were the days.

I should point out that, although this port of the game looks really good, it’s nowhere near as adorable as the Commodore 64 version.

Rastan C64

Great, even Rastan has pixelitis.

Now I’m gonna get it!

Adam Pixeled

Told ya.

The first enemies you face look not unlike the Gorn from Star Trek and a quick kill should satisfy those more blood-thirsty gamers out there.

Bloody Rastan

For obvious reasons.

If you were left feeling betrayed, annoyed, confused and perhaps a little sleepy by the NES’s Conan: The Mysteries Of Time (released 3 years after this game, somehow) then Rastan should restore your faith in the swords and sorcery genre in retro gaming.

Blood, monsters, bare-breasted harpies…

Harpy Rastan

It’s all there!

The game effortlessly captures the spirit of the genre at hand and, with Rastan around, there’s no excuse to NOT play that awful Conan game. The controls and the graphics are also far superior, of course, and there’s none of the cryptic rubbish which crippled that particular mishit.

One of my favourite things about Rastan is how he occasionally uses his sword like Scrooge McDuck uses his cane in Duck Tales:

Sword Jump Rastan

Except you don’t jump on rocks that turn into diamonds and Duck Tales had slightly less blood involved.

Blood Splatter Rastan

The enemies in the game are also a lot of fun and could, in fact, be placed into three categories: unimpressive, weird and Godzilla-sized.

The unimpressive monsters would have to be the tiny ones you probably wouldn’t be all that freaked out if you saw one in your kitchen or something. Unlikely enemies you could probably step on to death, basically.

Fish Rastan

Wasp Rastan

Fish and wasps I can’t see frightening any Barbarian ever.

Even if they are magical or poisoned.

That said, throw a bunch of ’em together, add a golden eagle and you’ve got yourself a worthy, if rather strange group of adversaries.

Rastan Birds Fish

In the weird section, we have those ugly monsters that aren’t bosses but aren’t always a cakewalk to get rid of either. These guys are the main sprites, the ones you see time and time again and eventually wish they could leave you alone.


Centaur Rastan

Snake women:

Snake Woman Rastan

They’re a challenging bunch and they have annoyingly useful magical powers. Speaking of which, you can pick up several weapons during the game, including swords that shoot fireballs, which makes it a bit easier to compete with those more cunning, gifted enemies.

The Godzilla-sized monsters you face are the dragons and these guys certainly have a lust for life in that they are a pain to beat.

Red Dragon Rastan

That’s bosses for ya.

All these mixed mythologies in the same game make for a hugely entertaining and creative side-scroller which dips its toe into various different cultures in a way that works completely. Sort of like how the Castlevania games used the Universal Monsters and the horror genre in general in new, eclectic, effective ways, making the franchise work both on its own and as a loving homage.

The music and sound effects in the game are also, this is worthy of mention, kinda badass so volume way up, please.

The story wraps ups sort of how you’d expect with Rastan being offered the hand of some princess I wasn’t even aware was in the game at all.

Ending Princess

Princess Ending 2

Gosh that font is pleasant to read.

Now, I may be crazy but is it just me or does this following image, which we get just before this whole wrap-up text, give out a bit of a creepy vibe?

Creepy Ending Rastan

Something about that shadow is definitely unsettling.

The ending of the game goes on to reveal that it’s very likely that a five year-old took over writing duties and typed in the rest of the plot for us to enjoy in all its meaninglessness.

Ending Happening

Sorry, what?!

I thought I understood this game and now I beat it, I feel like I missed the boat entirely.

Anything else?

Adventure Story

New adventure story me, Rastan.

I dare ya.

And if you do not listen… then to hell with you!!!

All in all, Taito did not drop the ball with Rastan and I do highly recommend you try it: it’s a fun, colourful, underrated side-scroller with a lot of charm to it. You know the game’s worth playing when it looks like the developers themselves are having a good time.

Producer Rastan

Kamikaze Rastan

All hail Emperor Takahashi!

Other People Credit

And… whoever else.

Great game.