First up, Rastan.
Rastan is far from the best game I've ever played, but I retain a large degree of affection for it because it is the first genre video game I can recall playing.
My parents had (still have, actually) a cottage down in Boscastle, Cornwall, and whenever we went down to stay there, we'd always go along to one of the local pubs called The Cobweb. When I was last down in November 2009, I went to The Cobweb for the first time in probably fifteen years and was pleased to find a proper folky pub, populated by friendly locals that looked like Gandalf (well, the blokes did at least - fortunately the women didn't). I can't remember what the place was like back when I was younger, but the one thing I do recall was that the pub had an old coin-operated arcade game called Rastan.
Now, as I've mentioned, Rastan wasn't exactly a great game. It wasn't that innovative (collect weapons, kill enemies and jump over water/lava) and it didn't have particularly stunning visuals (though they were pretty decent for the time). But to me - an excited 5-year-old - this game where you played some muscle-bound warrior with a sword and got to swing it at all kinds of nasty critters was the COOLEST THING EVER. Every time we went to Cornwall (which wasn't often) I'd get excited at the prospect of playing Rastan.
The coin-op arcade version of Rastan, where Conan Rastan faces off against two giant bogies (or boogers, if you're in the US)
I wasn't particularly good at it - in fact I sucked at the game - but that didn't seem to matter. It was all about the experience, the excitement of doing something you didn't normally get the chance to do (playing video games I mean, not swinging a big sword at monsters, though I guess the latter was technically true as well. I'd swung a plastic sword at my brother a few times, but he was a pretty poor substitute monster). I seem to recall squealing with excitement when I finally got past the first act of the first level and onto the second, which took place inside some sort of castle and involved pesky swinging ropes over a pool of lava. Never managed to get far beyond that point, but I'd always return undaunted, eager for another go, hopping from foot to foot impatiently while my dad - his eagerness not quite matching mine, it much be said - shoved another pound into the slot.
All good things come to an end though, and I remember the serious disappointment of running into The Cobweb on another infrequent visit, only to find a shitty Robocop arcade game in place of Rastan. It genuinely felt at the time like the end of an era.
Rastan for the legendary Commodore 64 a few years later (in Toys R Us, of all places), which I snapped up with some delight. Of course, that system's specs were far lower than the arcade machine, so the visuals and sound were grossly inferior, but the gameplay was more or less the same. Cue many happy hours of sword-swinging, despite the fact that Rastan looked like a walking turd. Being a little older and more experienced in the holy art of video gaming, I managed to get further in the game than ever before.
And then it all went pear-shaped.
Ultimately, two factors wrecked my Rastan experience. Firstly, the Commodore 64 version was pretty buggy - it would crash quite frequently, and since there was of course no save game option, if it crashed you were screwed. But secondly, and more importantly, there was a total FAIL of a glitch in the second level of the game. At one stage fairly early on in the level there was another rope-swinging section. Unbelievably, the developers put one of the ropes too far away from another, meaning it was physically impossible to make the jump - clearly no one had bothered playing the C64 version all the way through to check it worked alright. Doh.
The C64 version of Rastan - spot the difference? God, looking back now it really does look utterly shit.
This glitch brought a rather disappointing end to my Rastan experience, yet I still remember the game with a lot of fondness because I can recall how it excited me so much when I was a kid, and helped nurture both my love of video games and of fantasy.
For a look at the arcade version of Rastan in action, check out this short video.