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Monday, May 6, 2013

NES Replay: Asterix

Developer: Bit Managers
Publisher: Infogrames
Released: 1993
Aw haw haw: Oui oui!
Most Americans are not familiar with Asterix, and there's a very good reason for it: We're all a bunch of xenophobes.

Mind you, most Americans aren't doing it out of spite, and probably don't even know we're doing it. Most people aren't even trying to be xenophobic. It just sort of happens, and when it's pointed out to us we feel bad about it, then go right back to our American TV shows, music and movies.

America is kind of strange like that. While other countries around the world will gladly consume entertainment from other countries, America won't. We'll accept something from Great Britain, because we like our foreign entertainment foreign, but not too foreign. If there's something that's in a language other than English? Woah, woah, woah there, fella. We're from America and we speak American.

"But what about Gangnam Style?" Well, there's another corollary to our xenophobia: We like foreign things if we can laugh at them for being foreign. Gangnam Style was popular because Americans could watch the video and laugh at those crazy foreigners doing crazy foreigner things, and then once they were done laughing they had the song stuck in their head. If Gangnam Style didn't have that wacky video, it wouldn't have been nearly as popular.
"But I'm not a xenophobe! I watch movies from Country X, listen to music from Country Y, and speak language Z!" Congratulations, I'm happy for you. For every non-xenophobic American, there's at least 10 that are, so you're in the minority.

What does this have to with Asterix? Asterix is incredibly popular throughout the world and especially in Europe. It's been around for almost 60 years and there are 12 films to its name. It’s about a village of people from Gaul who are fighting against the advancing Romans. Therefore, it’s foreign, but you know, not foreign enough that we can laugh at its foreign-ness. Show Asterix to an average American, and they would be hard-pressed to pick him out of a lineup. Heck, before I wrote this review, I was only vaguely familiar with the name, but I probably couldn’t have told you anything about Asterix other than the fact that it exists.

That means that I have no frame of reference with Asterix for the NES, so I can't tell you if it captures the spirit of the comic books or not. All I can really do is judge the game on its own merits, and it’s... OK. Not great, but decent. Unlike a lot of licensed games, the developers at least put forth an effort.

Asterix is a side-scrolling platform game that was only released in Europe. You play as the aforementioned Gallian, running all around Europe on a quest to rescue his friend Obelix. Your only attack is a punch that only hits enemies directly in front of you. From time to time you can pick up potions that give you invincibility. The graphics in Asterix are nice and clean, and the music is pretty decent.

Asterix's attacks really need more range, though. You can be standing right in front of your enemy, take a swing at them and miss because you're not close enough. You have to be really, really close to your enemies to kill them, which puts you in harm's way and doesn’t really work for a platformer.

For that matter, why not throw in another attack? Any other way to defend yourself, even like a butt stomp or something, would have been great. Without that, you find yourself avoiding enemies instead of trying to face them one-on-one.

Still, Asterix isn’t bad as long as you don’t try and play it like a kinetic, Mario-style platformer. It requires you take your time, watch your enemies and then proceed onward, which is certainly a different way of playing a platformer. It's not as effective or fun as a more kinetic platformer would have been, but it's decent.

But does Asterix reflect the spirit of the rich history that the comic books have built up? I really couldn’t say exactly. You know, because of the xenophobia.

Final Rating:


Next Week: Astyanax