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Astroboy Tetsuwan Atomu

Long after the 2D action game was declared dead on home consoles, the Gameboy Advance has become the scene with dozens of high quality 2D games; from ports like Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island 2 to many originals, like Metroid Fusion. The newest addition to this group of adventures to go is Astroboy: Tetsuwan Atomu, based on the seminal (and newly reanimated!) classic, Osama Tezuka's Astroboy.

The game pits you as everyone's favorite boy robot against dozens of mechanical baddies. The game starts out with a simple introduction to the story, and then places the boy wonder in a virtual tutorial room that quickly and simply explains the range of moves Atom has at his disposal and then has him overcome simple trials with them. These abilities include flying short distances, using the rockets in his feet, punch combos, finger laser, and kicks. Atom also has several super moves, including the arm cannon, ex-dash, and machine gun. Atom's punches, kicks, and laser all work to power up his special moves, which can deal damage to many characters on screen.

After the tutorial, Atom is dropped into the thick of things, into cities and space, doing battle with various robot enemies. The game can quickly become chaotic, as many enemies can be on the screen at once, forcing Atom to use special moves to avoid getting mauled. The game starts by giving the player 30 specials, and it is easy enough to get more chances to use them. Astroboy: Tetsuwan Atomu can often become hectic (indeed, enemies can be beat up and when they fall back, they can take out other enemies and bounce around the screen), but it's rarely as hard as, say Castlevania or Megaman. The levels themselves are usually reasonably easy to get through, but getting out with enough power and special moves to tackle the boss is another matter. To sum up, while Astroboy is a challenge, it never becomes as frustrating as titles like Megaman Zero. The level design is a bit like the recent Megaman titles, Megaman and Forte and Megaman Zero, with the addition that once Atom clears a screen of enemies, he can move forward. Unfortunately, Atom basically just moves from left to right (or right to left), clearing enemies. There aren't any mission objectives or anything, which simplifies the game; that's good for importers who can't read them, but it makes the levels more simplistic. Additionally, throughout the game, Atom meets friends from the TV show which he "collects" (the game maps out who you meet). Meeting a character lets you boost a stat (like attack or life) a la Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, and it seems like the grid grants access to extra features when it's filled in.

The cannon fodder enemies are somewhat bland, as you tend to faces similar kinds of robots in every level. Some are mini versions and some are giant versions, but enemies have a tendency to look alike. However, the bosses are pretty good looking; one eyeball alien creature jumps from the foreground to the background, using some of the GBA's scaling tricks. Overall, the graphics are great; the opening has Atom falling into the city level, with dozens of flying cars in the background. The characters are pretty big and Atom looks identical to his anime counterpart. Indeed, the visual style of the game is one of its biggest selling points.

The sound is somewhat of a letdown; the music fits the game well, but isn't particularly memorable. The sound effects are okay, but have a tendency to sound primitive. The game's major weakness is the fact that there is no voice acting. When Gameboy Advance games like Mermaid Melody, Minna no Ojisama, and others already have some voice acting, it's a shame that this anime inspired game does not.

It's unclear if SEGA's bringing the title over here. The new Astroboy series recently made its U.S. debut, so it seems likely that SEGA will bring anime's foremost ambassador to American Gameboys. However, there haven't been any announced plans for localization to date. Many import stores have the game for around $45, so for those not daunted by Japanese text, Astroboy: Tetsuwan Atomu is a gem of 2D fun.

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