THE ASTYANAX / Jaleco / Arcade
The Astyanax is visually appealing, looking like one of those detailed Amiga action games on steroids, but unfortunately it also doesn't play much better than one of those stiff and clunky games. The one big feature here is that you can play co-op, although that doesn't make it any less clunky.

It's the standard "lone hero of prophecy has to chop through the enemy monster armies" deal. The usual side-scrolling levels capped by battles with large bosses. One unique touch that I liked is that it gives you a still shot of the character gruesomely dispatching each boss after you win, though.

If you've played TurboGrafx favorite The Legendary Axe, you'll note the "stop swinging to let the axe charge for a more powerful blow" mechanic is shared between these two games. Jaleco apparently actually recruited that design team for this one (this came out about a year later), which makes the clunky play and inept level design here all the more confusing as The Legendary Axe was really pretty well-made. My best theory on that is simply marching orders from Jaleco to intentionally pack it with cheap hits to suck the quarters out of players.

And boy, is it cheap. Ol' Astyanax: The European Tour here seems singularly poorly equipped to handle the absolute wave of monsters coming at him from all sides. Where I felt the game completely jumped the shark is at the fourth level, where it literally starts dropping unavoidable red skeletons directly on your head with no real chance to respond. The boss battles to that point felt like they were promoting quarter-feeding, however, as well as the frequent knight enemies that take four hits to kill and have greater range than you, not to mention the slug-like things and their unpredictable and apparently rocket-assisted jumping abilities.

So the end result is a clunkfest keeping you going with nice graphics and a bit of lurid T&A, in the form of the aforementioned boss death portraits and some swordswomen who lose their tops (who conveniently don't start appearing until near the end of the game). Pretty blatant quarter-sucker in my estimation, and a disappointment as what was basically the spiritual follow-up to The Legendary Axe.
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