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Asterix – Master System Review

1991’s Asterix for the Master System is a game that is likely going to be shrugged off as “Euro trash” by a certain contingent of retro gamers (cough cough, Americans, cough cough) thanks to the franchise’s French origins. Licensed platformers also don’t have a great track record when it comes to quality, but what we’ve got here is an internally developed SEGA platformer from an era when the company were on a hot streak.

Developed by SEGA CS2 of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Jurassic Park and Deep Duck Trouble fame, Asterix is a game that is absolutely loaded with interesting ideas, gameplay variety and charm. Rene Goscinny’s wonderful comic about a village of Gauls resisting Roman occupation thanks to their exclusive use of a secret potion that gives them super strength is beautifully realised in this Master System game that perfectly captures the look and tone of the comic. The character sprites are big and expressive and incredibly well animated, giving Asterix an air of polish that is honestly quite rare in Master System games. The presentation is fantastic throughout, with lots of visual variety in the stages, a great use of colour and some really catchy tunes to accompany the action.

In Asterix, you can choose to play as either Asterix or Obelix as you run and jump around colourful stages, smacking Romans upside the head and searching for hidden items and keys. Each character has exclusive abilities to use, and as a result playing the same stage as either Asterix or Obelix yields new paths to explore. Asterix has a melee attack that he can use to defeat enemies by either upper-cutting them or downward-punching them from a jump. Asterix also has various potions to throw that have different effects depending on the stage. Obelix doesn’t get to use the potions and has a wider overarm attack that lets him break through walls that Asterix cannot. Obelix’s stages mainly focus on his melee attacks and as a result they’re often more about bulldozing your way through the stages, and it’s a really satisfying thing to do so.

The main collectible you’ll be discovering as you explore the stages are bones. After collecting 50 bones you gain access to a bonus stage where you can play as the adorable Dogmatix. In these stages you have to jump on bubbles to pop them and earn bonus points, but depending on the colour of the bubble you may have to jump on them more than once to pop them. It’s an enjoyable distraction that feels more like an arcade game, and it helps keep the gameplay variety up between the regular stages.

Every now and then you’ll also have to fight a boss, but the real fun of Asterix is just how many ideas it has up its sleeve. Asterix’s magic potions open up lots of creative gameplay options. The explosive potion allows you to destroy blocks to open new areas to explore, but then a later stage requires you to throw the exploding potion into the water to create little geysers that you can use as platforms to continue through the stage. Another stage gives you access to a freezing potion that temporarily stuns enemies and freezes lava so that they can both be used as platforms. Some stages automatically scroll and you’ll need to use the play area to your advantage to give yourself enough time and space to fall onto a constantly moving platform and not plummet to your death. The game is constantly introducing new stage-specific gimmicks to test your abilities with and it makes for a hugely engaging experience as a result.

We haven’t even mentioned the character control which is some of the best in any platformer for the Master System. Both characters have a really sturdy weight and momentum to them that feels natural and what you expect from a great platformer. They don’t skid around like Alex Kidd and they don’t carry too much speed like Sonic, making it always feel like you have tight control over your character throughout the game. Asterix is a much more methodical and breezy title compared to Alex Kidd in Miracle World or Sonic the Hedgehog, but it does become more challenging as the game progresses. Thankfully, because its controls are so responsive, it never feels like the game is unfairly punishing you when you make mistakes. Any misguided errors you make are just through inexperience and not the game’s controls. It’s such a robust and creative game that I’m honestly surprised it isn’t praised more as one of SEGA’s best platformers.

Asterix is a title that absolutely deserves to be played if you like a good platform game. If you’ve been putting this one off just because you fear playing a Euro platformer due to their tendency to be a bit unconventional, then don’t put it off any longer because this is an extremely tight and varied game developed by a Japanese studio who absolutely know how to make a solid platformer. As a result, this is one of the best Master System games ever produced and a genuine treat for platformer fans.


Written by Lewis “Sonic Yoda” Clark on 18/03/2024

Video review published 29/02/2024

Cartridge Scan


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