Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Manual Stimulation: Astro Rabby (GameBoy)

I haven't been shy about declaring my love for the Japan-only GameBoy title known as Astro Rabby lately.

Late last year, I included it in a post about five overlooked Japanese GameBoy games I thought people should play as soon as possible. And a couple of months ago, I mentioned it again in a write-up celebrating the 28th anniversary of GameBoy's Japanese release.

Granted, I haven't always felt so positively about this Cyclone System-made and IGS-published game. When I first played it a few years back, I was far from impressed by it. That said, I changed my tune after returning to it some months later and giving it a second chance. (The second set of impressions can be found in this "Shall We Do It Again?" post.)

If this is the first you're hearing of Astro Rabby, the gist is it's an overhead action game that's unlike anything else I've ever played. For starters, each space-based level (viewed from an overhead perspective) scrolls forward automatically. Your goal, as the titular "rabby," is to not only keep up with that forced movement, but to leap into the air to avoid the baddies and to smash into the Super Mario Bros.-esque question-mark blocks that dot the planetary terrain.

The latter are an especially important aspect of Astro Rabby, as hidden within one of those blocks is a "power-up part" that not only bolsters the abilities of the game's big-eared protagonist but also allows him (and you) to move on to the next level.

Except for the game's disastrously annoying bonus stages, all of the above is surprisingly exhilarating and enjoyable.

Also enjoyable, of course, is Astro Rabby's instruction manual. Its front and back covers, showcased in the first scan (above), are especially so, if you ask me, although I also love the character illustrations included in the second scan, which details the game's story. (Sorry, my Japanese skills aren't yet advanced enough for me to translate it for you.)

Actually, cute illustrations are par for the course in the Astro Rabby manual, with the ones above being my favorites.

Admittedly, IGS' artists could have included many more of them in this booklet. Instead, they filled the majority of its pages with low-quality images (photos?) of in-game sprites.

Even they provide some charming moments, though--like the "enemy" sprites highlighted on the left-hand page of the spread above.

The "panel" sprites seen on pages nine and 10 of the Astro Rabby instruction manual (below) are less thrilling, perhaps, but at least they're educational. In particular, they let you know you should avoid the one on the right-hand page that looks like a cracked brick.

You see, if you jump on a single panel too many times, it crumbles away. Step or jump into the resulting hole, and you lose a life.

Page 11 of this game's manual describes its handful of collectible items. As far as I can tell, the "S" one improves Rabby's speed, the "J" one enhances his ability to jump and the "B" one either increases his bullet stock or makes his bullets more powerful. Oh, and the last item is a 1-up.

Don't be fooled by the adorable illustration that takes up half of the Astro Rabby manual's second-to-last page (below). It relates to the game's previously maligned bonus stages, which means it's evil.

Thankfully, failing to successfully complete said bonus stages (and believe me, you will fail to successfully complete them) won't keep you from progressing to the next proper level. Still, they're so infuriating that any reference to them gets my blood boiling.

With all that out of the way, if you're up for learning more about this oddly endearing GameBoy import, I'd highly recommend reading my Astro Rabby review. Also, photos of the game's stellar box and cartridge label can be ogled in this "Year of the GameBoy" post.

See also: previous 'Manual Stimulation' posts about Taiyou no Tenshi Marlowe, Totsugeki! Ponkotsu Tank and Snow Bros. Jr.

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