|Astro Boy: Omega Factor|
|Platform(s)||Game Boy Advance|
|Genre(s)||Beat 'em up|
Astro Boy: Omega Factor[a] is a beat 'em up video game developed by Treasure and Hitmaker, and published by Sega (THQ in Europe). The game was released for the Game Boy Advance on December 18, 2003 in Japan; August 18, 2004 in North America; and February 18, 2005 in Europe. The game is based on Osamu Tezuka's manga and anime franchise Astro Boy. However, it also features characters and plotlines from the artist's entire canon of work.
While Astro Boy had been well known for decades in Japan, the North American release was delayed to coincide with the premiere of the Astro Boy TV series in 2004. During this delay, Treasure made some game improvements to the North American version of the game. The game received positive reviews from critics, with strong praise focused on the game's visuals, and limited criticism on level design. In 2010, the game was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.
Omega Factor is a beat 'em up game starring Astro Boy, the main character of the Astro Boy media franchise. Astro attacks enemies using high-powered punches and kicks, which can also knock enemies into other ones and destroy them as well. Doing some damage to the enemies will slowly fill the EX gauge at the top of the screen. Once the gauge is filled, Astro is able to perform a special attack; rather than simply helping the player, these are required in some situations. Astro is also able to fly using rocket power, which is also sometimes necessary.
Every non-player character the player meets scores a point that can be used to improve one of Astro's stats, such as strength or flight speed. This is generally not necessary to beat the game, but the incremental stat increases can make the game easier, as well as allowing the player to find hidden areas in levels. The game features two difficulty levels in the Japanese version, and three in the North American and European versions.
Omega Factor features elements from Astro Boy's different incarnations. The concept of robot rights, Dr. Tenma's ultimate plan for Astro and the robot city of Robotonia in Antarctica are lifted from the Astro Boy 2003 TV series. Plotlines from other Tezuka series include a time travel plot lifted from Marine Express, a journey to the lost continent of Mu, and a subplot involving Duke Red's daughter and her role in the "Death Mask" orbital platform. The game is divided into two episodes: Birth and Rebirth. The Birth episode follows Astro's adventures and other characters he interacts with, and ends with robots being destroyed by a device called Death Mask, after it determines that the robots are too dangerous to be left alive, leaving Sharaku able to conquer the Earth. In Rebirth, Astro is revived by a being called Phoenix, and has Astro go back to the beginning of the story and try to stop the Death Mask, giving him the ability to go back and forward in time to do so.
The story includes characters from Tezuka's entire canon of work. The characters are listed in the "Omega Factor", an in-game encyclopedia of the Astro Boy fictional universe, which provides a detailed character biography, including each character's appearances and roles in Tezuka's works.
Omega Factor was developed by Treasure and Hitmaker, and published by Sega. It was produced in conjunction with the PlayStation 2 game Astro Boy and the new Astro Boy TV series. Sega waited until the North American premiere of the TV series before releasing the games in North America. During this six-month wait, Treasure took the opportunity to rework some aspects of the North American version of the game. Some level layouts were filled with more enemies, and some enemies were given different attacks. In addition, Treasure somewhat improved the issue of framerate slowdown, and added a new third difficulty level. The game received a rating of "E" (Everyone) from the ESRB and 3+ from PEGI.
Omega Factor received positive reviews, with aggregate scores of 85 out of 100 from Metacritic and 86.72% from GameRankings. GameSpot's Frank Provo stated that "[e]veryone, regardless of age, simply must own and play Astro Boy: Omega Factor – because it is one of the best action games on the Game Boy Advance." GameSpy writer Benjamin Turner listed it as one of the best Game Boy Advance games of the year.
The game was highly praised for its visuals. Provo called the game, overall, "a delight for the senses," and praised the detail and lavish animation of the background and character sprites. Geoffrey Winter of Nintendojo stated that the environments are "beautiful and look as if they were built to be admired, not just walked through." He went on to say that Omega Factor has more seductively detailed visuals than any other Game Boy Advance game. IGN's Craig Harris called it a "technical marvel," especially praising the fluid animation of the bosses, and reserving criticism for the game's occasional framerate slowdown. The New York Times' Charles Herold called it a "memorable experience".
The few instances of criticism the game received were mainly directed at the repetitiveness of the levels. Turner listed this repetitiveness, specifically for the shooter stages, as one of the game's "cons." Harris stated that some of the levels "are the absolute pits and feel completely out of place because of their slapped-together feel." 1UP.com's Sam Kennedy stated that the levels are "more of a formality than anything – you casually battle a set of enemies until you reach a boss, which is where the real gameplay begins."
Nintendo Power named this their 38th best game of all time in their final issue, saying that it "captures the essence of Astro Boy perfectly and melds it with developer Treasure's trademark brand of pulse-pounding action." In 2013, Game Informer listed Omega Factor as one of the "Best Anime and Manga-Based Games" released in English.
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