So, how close was Astralius to coming to the States?

While reading two reviews (one at thebrothersduomazov.com and another at unlimitedzigworks.com) of the much-maligned Astralius over the weekend, I remembered that, once upon a time, the game was supposed to see a North American release.

In fact, the title was shown off at both the winter and summer Consumer Electronics Shows that were held in 1991.

Following the former, the editors of TurboPlay magazine waxed poetic (in their February/March 1991 issue, see below) about Astralius, writing that it would “give both Y’s games a serious run for the top honor” and “should prove to be one of the toughest games made as well.”

Following the latter, TurboPlay‘s editors promised (in their August/September 1991 issue) that the title would hit the streets stateside “by Christmas.” Of course, a few sentences later they shared that developer IGS was “working the bugs out of its attempts to translate this RPG to the TurboGrafx-16.” (Click on the two scans below to read the rest of what they had to say about the title.)

I’m guessing the folks at IGS never quite eradicated said bugs–or, by the time they did, releasing the game no longer made sense economically (or otherwise)?

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7 responses to “So, how close was Astralius to coming to the States?

  1. When IGS brought Violent Soldier over to the US (as Sinistron), they changed it up a lot. They tinkered with the graphics in places. They tinkered with the audio in places. Some stretches ended up easier. Some stretches ended up harder. For all the adjustments they made, and as much fun as it is to compare the two versions, the overall package wasn’t really affected all that much–it’s a great game either way.

    But my point is that someone at IGS cared enough to make sure time and resources were devoted to making the game as good (or as “appropriate”) as it could possibly be for the new audience that would be experiencing it. Even if their reasoning wasn’t apparent with every single change, at least we know they’d bothered to come up with ideas for making the game’s transition a smooth and successful one. And if they did all that for a six-stage shooter, I can only imagine how many hours they would’ve spent poring over a lengthy RPG.

    And when they did pore over Astralius, they must’ve been horrified. As bad as I’m sure the game sounds in my review and Zig’s review, I can tell you that neither piece will give you a true idea of just how fucking painful it is to play the damn thing. If indeed IGS was trying to “work out the kinks,” they set themselves up for an epic task, and somewhere along the way they surely discovered they’d been on an impossible mission. The game is so severely flawed, in so many different ways, that it’s simply unsalvageable.

    I’m sure that the long-answer-made-short here is that they eventually decided, as you proposed at the end of your post, that the project simply didn’t make sense economically. I just think it’s sad that, based on their track record, it’s easy to surmise that they really did make a go at it for a while there, and they never stood even the slightest chance of molding it into something acceptable.

  2. Thanks IvaNEC. I didn’t know they had taken such care when they localized Violent Soldier/Sinistron.

    Regarding Astralius, though, wouldn’t someone (or a group of someones) have played through the game and properly analyzed its pros and cons before the company brass made the decision to localize it? Surely they didn’t start the process and then, part-way through, decide it wasn’t worth the effort?

    Regardless, considering the game made appearances at two consecutive CESes (and maybe more), I have to imagine they spent some amount of time translating the game before giving up on it. Or do you think it’s possible they were still evaluating it when they showed it off (at the winter/summer CESes) in 1991?

  3. Oh, and one more thing: You’ll probably think I’m insane, but I actually find it kind of sad that Astralius is such an awful game. I think the overworld graphics are quite attractive, and even the odd enemy graphics are kind of endearing.

  4. “Regarding Astralius, though, wouldn’t someone (or a group of someones) played through the game and properly analyzed its pros and cons before the company brass made the decision to localize it?”

    I’m not sure that the poor saps charged with localizing it had any input at all in the decision to bring it over here. Frankly, if the decision was completely IGS’s, then I don’t think whoever made said decision or whoever recommended the localization attempt actually played through the game. It’s a disaster through and through. The title might’ve achieved a modicum of success in Japan (not many PCE CD RPGs didn’t), and that might’ve been enough for the company brass to give the transition a shot, only for the foot soldiers to find out the true pains that would be involved. IGS didn’t have many options anyway; their catalog was a small one, and if they wanted to make more money, they had to make do with what they had.

    Also, it’s been documented that by that point NEC of America was begging their few third-party supporters to provide as much material as possible. If NEC requested more help from IGS, what else was IGS going to bring over here? Most of their simpler titles did indeed make it, and again, their catalog was minute.

    We also need to remember that as work on the project proceeded and as more and more time passed, the TG-16’s situation was growing more and more dire. If they were indeed struggling mightily with the localization effort while it was becoming more and more apparent that the product would be a market flop for a doomed system, then I wouldn’t be surprised if there came a point where they simply decided to pack up their bags and cut their losses.

    I’d always thought Astralius looked very nice and intriguing from afar. I eventually discovered it’s a horrible, horrible game when experienced firsthand.

  5. You know, IvaNEC, your reasoning makes complete sense. I have to feel for the poor saps who were tasked with the translation, then — wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear their horror stories? 🙂

  6. Tracking down the IGN foot soldiers for their story would indeed be an interesting tale. It’s always fun to read about the groanings of workers who are tasked with fulfilling an insane leader’s whims (for an example of this, check out Justin Sevakis’s story about MD Geist… forgot the link, but it’s easy to find on Google. Basically, MD Geist is a famously horrible anime but the head of the company LOVED it and made his people put together a two-disc remastered special edition with commentaries, storyboards, etc)

  7. If I could track down IGS’ foot soldiers, Zigfried, I’d definitely throw some questions at them. I doubt it would be easy to find them, though.

    Anyway, I’ll definitely check out Justin Sevakis’s story about MD Geist soon. Sounds like a very interesting tale. 🙂

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