The launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System/Family Computer System initiated the rebirth of video games after the big crash of 1983. The lineup of games in the beginning of the system was crucial to its success. Games like Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, and Tetris all made the NES/Famicom a must-play system. However, some games, like this gem, never really got the recognition they deserved. Granted, Astro Robo Sasa was available soley for the Famicom in Japan and never made it stateside, but still, there should have been come clamoring for it by the Nintendo fanboys to bring it west for a North American release.
At first, Astro Robo Sasa feels kind of like a mix between Balloon Fight and Joust...But as you advance through the levels, it shows that it's a game all of its own. You control an alien with a big gun. The goal is for you to fire your gun and use your momentum to reach your targets while avoiding and shooting down enemies that try and prevent you from doing so. This control scheme takes a little bit to get used to (especially when you're trying to propell yourself in one direction and trying to shoot at something in the same direction) but once you begin to learn the controls, the gameplay is very thought-provoking and fun.
The gameplay feels very much like you're playing an arcade game...And much like the early arcade games, when your little alien friend dies, which will likely happen often at first, you won't feel the urge to quit. Rather, you'll want to keep on playing since you'll notice your gradual improvement each time you take control over the loveable little gun-slinging martian. The noticable improvement you experience makes the gameplay actually seem rewarding in the old 'get the high score so you can gloat to your friends about how big a nerd you are' kind of way.
The levels are fairly basic in nature...There's no side-scrolling here. What you see on the screen is what your level consists of. They start off fairly simple involving you to simply get or destroy (we suggest getting) the little 'E' tanks you collect in order to progress further in the game. As you continue through the levels, however, you'll find that you'll need to destroy barricades blocking the tanks you seek...And after the barricades, you're faced with enemies and barricades. None of the above would probably be a problem except the levels are timed, in a sense. There's no clock ticking down, but every time you shoot a bullet to propel yourself and/or shoot something, your 'E' points drop. If you're hit by an enemy the 'E' points drop even more dramatically, making it essential that you dodge or destroy any enemies you encounter along the way.
Graphically the game is on par with other early NES/Famicom games...In other words, it's really nothing special when compared to games that came out for the system just a year or two later. And as far as sound goes, there isn't a whole lot of variety in the little theme that plays. Basically, it's the same song over and over for several levels at a time, which may annoy some folks. But honestly, while the graphics and music are generally lacking, the gameplay does more than enough to make up for it with its style and enjoyability.
In closing, Astro Robo Sasa probably isn't for everyone. The somewhat steep learning curve will likely turn many people off. However, once you get past the difficulty, you'll find a wonderful little game that's hard not to enjoy. If you love old, late-70's/early-80's arcade games, then you'll likely love this game. If you don't, well then give the game a shot anyway...No need to alienate this adorable alien anymore.