Game creators have never been shy about using aspects of ancient mythology as a basis for their games, and why wouldn’t they? Ancient mythology is filled with stories of derring-do: defeating giants, outsmarting the Gods and rescuing fair maidens. In Greek mythology, Astyanax (also known as Scamandrius) was the son of Hector, prince of Troy, and Andromache. When Troy fell, he was either thrown from the walls to his death by Neoptolemus or killed by Odysseus (depending on your source).
Astyanax, known in Japan as The Lord of King, is a side-scrolling platform action game developed by Aicom and published by Jaleco. It was first released in the arcade in 1989, then later that year on the NES in Japan before getting a release in Europe and North America in 1990. For this review, I revisited the NES version.
Astyanax is a 16-year-old student from Greenview High who keeps having a recurring dream of a woman calling his name. One day, he is transported to another dimension where he meets a fairy named Cutie. She persuades Astyanax to rescue Princess Rosebud, Ruler of Remlia, from the evil wizard Blackhorn. Using either the legendary axe known as ‘Bash’, a spear or a sword, Astyanax must fight through forests, caves and a castle to reach Blackhorn.
You have energy three bars: the first is a power gauge showing how hard you hit the enemy. This descreases anytime you swing your weapon at an enemy. When you stop attacking, the bar increases again. The length of your power bar increases as you find power-ups. The second is your health bar, and the third is your magic bar. Unlike the arcade version, the NES version can only be played in one player mode.
Graphically, this game looks good, especially when compared to its contemporaries such as Iron Sword: Wizards and Warriors 2 and Clash at Demonhead, both released in 1989. It has detailed and colourful backgrounds, and well defined sprites, especially the end of level bosses. After each level, you are treated to some beautifully illustrated cut scenes which help move the story along. However, there is a bit of flicker when you attack the enemy and at times, whole blocks of detail disappear.
The controls, whilst easy to learn, are frustrating because you can only strike straight ahead, whilst crouching or whilst jumping. you cannot jab upwards. It is ridiculously tough too. Many enemies attack at awkward heights, and you find yourself accidentally pressing up and attack which casts a spell and uses up your magic. Some later levels have an insane number of monsters swarming the screen at once. Oddly enough, the end of level bosses are not that difficult to defeat.
I wanted to give this game a better score but due to the monotonous music, the attacking issue, and the fact that you will need a cheat code to complete this game, lowers the score for me. There are better, more enjoyable games out there. Once completed though, there is little to make you want to play through again as the game only has one difficulty setting. There is also the opinion that I just didn’t enjoy playing this game that much.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, but I had to use the invincibility cheat, as this game is too damn hard. Without the cheat, I could only get to the end of level boss on level 3.
What the critics said:
As of yet, I have been unable to find contemporary reviews.
This game looks good, has tight controls, and a challenge that hardened gamers look for. The issue is that the controls are limited. It is perhaps too tough for the average gamer and has little in the way of replay value. It’s worth playing, but it’s not a game you’ll return to very often, if at all.
What are your memories of Astyanax? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 ‘Astyanax’. (22nd December 2015). Oxford Classic Dictionary. (https://oxfordre.com/classics/search?siteToSearch=classics&q=astyanax&searchBtn=Search&isQuickSearch=true Accessed 24th November 2020).