The player controls the barbarian named Rastan, who has to cross a number of levels and defeat enemies inspired by Greek mythology while avoiding obstacles and traps. The game consists of six rounds with three scenes per round. To clear each round, players must reach the third scene and defeat the castle boss. The player can pick up new weapons by stabbing them with the sword and items by walking over them. Some weapons and items include axes, hammers, fire swords, jewels, shields and mantles. The game's background graphics featured broad landscapes with changing sunlight effects with detail and clarity not previously seen in video games.
Unlike the Japanese version, the North American and European versions were never released as a full size dedicated cabinet in the arcades. Instead, the game was released as a "kit" conversion; a kit conversion allowed the arcade operator to convert an existing game cabinet into the "kit" game by providing new buttons, joysticks, decal stickers, marquees, monitor bezels, wiring harnesses, manuals, and the game PCB. The original opening to the story was not included in the North American nor the European version of the game. In it, the game explains that he would be given all the treasures of an empire for exchange of a terrible dragon's head.
Ports of the game were developed by Taito themselves for the Sega Master System (1988), MSX (1988) and Sega Game Gear (1991), and by Ocean Software under their Imagine label for the PC (1990), Commodore 64 (1987), ZX Spectrum (1987), Amstrad CPC (1988) and Apple IIGS (1990). The Commodore 64 version of the game, called simply Rastan, was impossible to finish because of a bug early in the game. This bug prevented a player from making a critical jump from one platform to the other - Rastan would always fall short of the intended point and could never make it across. The ZX Spectrum version was awarded 9/10 in the July 1988 issue of Your Sinclair and was placed at number 54 in the Your Sinclair official top 100. The Apple IIGS version, one of the last ports to be written, was well regarded as it was the closest in matching the arcade original graphically, in terms of fluid animation, music and sound. In addition, the arcade version of the game was included in Taito Legends, a compilation of games for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC (2006).
The game was followed by two sequels, Rastan Saga II (also known by two other names, Nastar in Europe and Nastar Warrior in North America) and Warrior Blade Rastan Saga Episode III.
In 2002, Saffire created a 3-D fighting game published by Titus Software for the PlayStation 2, and Nintendo GameCube in the U.S. entitled "Barbarian". In 2003 the game was licensed by Taito and was retitled "Warrior Blade: Rastan vs. Barbarian" for its Japanese release. The game was released in Europe later that year. Since this game was not originally created by Taito, and since it originally didn't have Rastan or any other related characters, it actually has no connection to the Rastan universe.
Rastan also made an appearance in another Taito game titled Champion Wrestler as "Miracle Rastan".
Though not particularly violent, Rastan was one of the earliest platform games to feature a blood effect when certain enemies were defeated. It also is a prime example of leniency shown to video games before the formation of the ESRB. The Sega Master System port's manual featured a bestiary of opponents faced in the game that contained explicit female nudity. The Gorgon and Harpy characters are drawn showing explicit detail in bare breast and pubic hair. The Medusa (spelled Meduza) character is bare-breasted but does not contain pubic nudity due to her lower half being that of a snake. By today's far more strict standards, the manual would never have been published with such explicit content without an M or possibly even an AO rating, which is a rarity. A direct link to the manual can be found here
- Rastan Saga at World of Spectrum
- Rastan Saga at Museum of the Game
- Rastan at MobyGames
- Rastan Saga at arcade-history