Astro Boy: The Omega Factor
Travel in time with Treasure's GBA classic
In the fifteen years since its release, no game besides Treasure's GBA masterpiece Astro Boy: The Omega Factor has understood that when multiple enemies collide into one another the sound of the impacts should exponentially increase in pitch. Plink, plink, PLINK, PLINK, PLINK. It's so brilliantly satisfying! Why on earth hasn't it been ripped-off wholesale in every subsequent videogame!?
Actually, everything about Omega Factor is brilliantly satisfying. It's a platform fighting exploration time travel adventure with a surprisingly affecting story that presents an astonishingly clever marriage of "gamey" tropes (like revisiting old levels) with its narrative. The combat - which is most of the game - feels wonderful and your moveset is diverse and useful. With the difficulty turned up, the game is extremely rewarding; everything can be surmounted with enough skill and is designed to test every nuance of the controls.
Astro (or "Atom", if you're a purist) is a pleasure to control, jetting around the screen in a manner that's quite regimented and stiff but lends itself to precision. His punches and kicks feel powerful and are complemented by a limited-use arm-laser and arse-machinegun. The former deals heavy damage and the latter freezes enemies and clears the screen of projectiles. And it comes out of his arse. You'll need to master the entire arsenal to get through this one with a completed Omega Factor.
Said titular Omega Factor refers to Astro's capacity to evolve through making friends. Locating and chatting to characters in the game "unlocks" them in the Omega Factor, allowing the player to upgrade Astro's stats. Multiple playthroughs are required to complete this and several of the entries are deviously difficult to find. The characters are drawn from the vast breadth of Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka's work, so fans will find plenty to enjoy here. The included "Tezuka Encyclopedia" is stunning and thoroughly informative.
It's a beautiful, brilliant thing and I wouldn't hesitate to call it one of the very best games on GBA. Buy a copy immediately.