It’s time, gang, for another stroll down Nostalgia Lane. As Doc Brown sets the Delorean for 1987, we’ll be visiting a very young Dangerboy, having just achieved the teen years. There were a few arcade machines out at the time that could vacuum quarters out of my pockets like a deranged shopvac, and one of them was Rastan.
"To crush your enemies, see them driven before you
and hear the lamentations of their women! "
Rastan was an absolutely sweet side-scrolling hack and slash game featuring some challenging enemies and cool weapons upgrades. Big mace? Check. Battle Axe? Hell yeah. Flaming sword that fucking shoots fireballs??? Oh, hell to the yeah.
The barbarian main character, Rastan, was a blatant rip-off, or homage if you prefer, to Conan the Barbarian. Pixellated pecs and binary biceps flexed as flowing hair waved in the breeze. Had the likeness been any closer, there would have been a bonus maid-banging stage.
By “absolutely sweet”, I mean this bad boy was the definitive “smack it with a sword” game of the 80’s. It had good, strong design, with great graphics for its time and a very well done soundtrack.
If I close my eyes, I can still hear the music, including the frenzied accelerando that signaled a flock of bats coming to gang-rape you, (easily accounting for a third of your health) and the hollow echo of the death howl as the chimera fireballed you for the umpty-fifth time, or you fell into the implausibly deadly water and dissolved like a musclebound Wicked Witch of the West. That “deathcry” sound effect was often followed closely by the distinctive ka-clink-chunk of another dropping quarter.
Enemies were varied: from warriors to lizard men, mantis-men with throwing knives to chimeras, harpies to medusae. All competed to rip chunks out of your health bar, which featured an animated heart beating, complete with recorded pulse that accelerated to a frantic pace as you lost more of that precious health. That was a great innovation, and served to drive your own pulse to quicken.
Bloody Asswhipping: the Home Game.
One of the happiest days of youth was that day I found the port from arcade to Sega Master System. No more did I have to feed endless quarters into the machine at the mall, grinding through paper route earnings like Congress through a federal deficit. I was able to purchase the game and the power of the “press start to continue” option, replacing the quarter drop with an almost negligent thumbpress. Luxury. Addiction. Parental cries of “turn that thing off and go to bed dammit.”
The Master System version got a bit of a re-work, making water more watery and less insta-deathy, along with some other cosmetic changes. They kept the format of each level having 3 stages: outdoor, castle, boss. And some of those bosses were badasses, too…especially the big freakin’ dragon added for this version. (The first time I saw that dragon, I paused the game to let my rear end unclench.) The life bar heart was sadly trimmed, though, leaving the experience a bit lacking in “oh shit” factor, but still a potent hack n’ slash powerhouse.
Rastan was a game that I truly enjoyed, even if it took me forever to master. While playing it, I was no longer a scrawny, nerdy kid…I was a mighty barbarian cleaving my enemies in twain, their corpses littering the gutters of Nostalgia Street.