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by Kurt Kalata - October 9, 2006

Asteka (アステカ) - PC88, PC98, Sharp X-1 (1985)

Japanese PC88 Cover

Ardent NES fans may remember an Aztec themed adventure game called Tombs & Treasures. Although it was released in America by Activision under the Infocom label, what people may not know is that it was originally a Falcom game called Asteka 2: Templo del Sol. ("Asteka" is the Japanese word for the Aztec civilization.) The original Asteka was one of the first games published in Falcom, released in 1985 (after Dragon Slayer and before Xanadu) for the PC88/PC98 and Sharp X-1 computers. It's a first person text based adventure much like early Sierra On-line titles such as The Wizard and the Princess and Time Zone. What that translates to is hilariously ugly graphics and a fussy text parser. Needless to say, my Japanese is only good enough to wander around town, engage in menial non-conversations with the inhabitants, and threaten to kill them - this is what happens when you try to learn the language through video games.

Asteka

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Asteka (PC88)

Asteka (PC88)


Tombs & Treasure / Taiyō no Shinden: Asteka II (太陽の神殿: アステカ II) - PC88, PC98, FM-7, MSX, NES, Saturn, Windows (1986)

Japanese PC-88 Cover

Japanese Famicom Flyer

American NES Cover

The sequel: Asteka II: Templo Del Sol (also known as "Taiyō no Shinden" or "Temple of the Sun") was released for the computers in 1987 and the Famicom in 1988. It ditched the text input and drastically modernized the interface. The Famicom version was designed by Compile and published by Tokyo Shouseki, who later became known as Tonkin House and did several other Falcom ports (including Romancia for the Famicom, and both Ys III and IV for the Super Famicom.) In this version, you play as two young explorers - whom you get to name - who are investigating the disappearance of their lost uncle in South America. Most of the game is displayed in a first person viewpoint, with the various command icons on the side of the screen and the text on the bottom. These sections are pretty much just like Shadowgate. However, when moving from location to location, the perspective switches to an overhead view, as you walk from ruin to ruin.

Tombs & Treasures

Although the setting is interesting, and there certainly aren't very many adventure games on the NES, the interface feels too cluttered, with far too many actions and way too many items. The game world isn't particularly big, but you have access to nearly all of it at once, so it's confusing to figure out what to do and where to go. The puzzles are pretty boring too, rarely moving beyond combining objects and sticking them in various places. You can't really tell what directions you're allowed to move in, so it's a matter of trial and error until you find the right arrow. You can also switch between the characters, as each of them have different abilities. Every once in awhile, you'll come across a monster, which naturally needs to be killed. Other than a few cases when you need to use an item, most of these are beaten just by selecting the Fight command over and over. The only determining factor to your victory is your experience level, which is quietly raised by solving puzzles or looking at certain items. If you die in a fight, it's the game's subtle way of saying that you missed something.

Tombs & Treasures

If it seems like these RPG aspects were shoehorned into the game - well, they were. The fighting, the characters, the storyline and most of the soundtrack were added specifically for the Famicom/NES port. In the original PC versions, released for the PC88/98 and MSX, you're simply some nondescript dude running around the landscape, with no supplementing storyline, dialogue, or anything. At least the characters in the NES version occasionally gave you clues - here, it's even more confusing, although many of the puzzles are identical.

Asteka II was remade for both the Saturn (featured in the Falcom Classics II pack along with Ys II) and Windows 98 (designed by Unbalance, who also did the remake of Romancia.) Both are based on the original PC versions, and feature updated graphics and a better interface. The Saturn version has a bunch of ugly 3D rendering, while the Windows version is only slightly better. Your little guy now looks like an Indiana Jones ripoff. The music is ultimately nothing special in most of the versions - oddly enough, the NES/FC has by far the best songs - but the title screen theme, dubbed "Temple de Sol", makes an appearance in certain versions of Ys II.

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Tombs & Treasure (NES)

Tombs & Treasure (NES)

Tombs & Treasure (NES)

Asteka II (MSX)

Asteka II (Saturn)


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