After all the E3 mayhem, we’ve finally returned to the bevvy of retro games that have yet to be reviewed! After seeing all the kinds of booth babes at the show, we were craving some kind of classic game that featured pretty girls and we stumbled on Athena, an obscure NES classic.
Athena is one of the few NES products of SNK, the publishers of arcade essentials like King of Fighters and Metal Slug. A platform game, Athena follows the title character as she mashes her way through mythological lands, fighting off strange enemies like horse-head warriors and savage merpeople, and finding the weapons and armor necessary for taking down each level’s boss. In the classic 8bit style, the gameplay is familiar to anyone who’s played Mario and Megaman.
Athena’s obscure for a reason: the gameplay generally feels a bit buggy and it’s not as smooth as other platformers of its era (i.e. MARIO!!!!). It’s certainly not the game that grabs you right off the bat. The game’s not terrible though—it’s pretty fun running around finding new weapons and trying them out (the most OP weapon is the bow and arrow, which I assume is based off Cupid with this game’s mythological theme). The enemies respawn at pretty hectic rates, so it’s a challenge for those of you up for it.
There’s not a lot of story or background information on this game, but that’s the standard for 8bit games made around the 80’s (you’ll notice Mario nor The Legend of Zelda ever had much story, it’s pretty much all been imagined). You start off straightaway into the world, half-naked with only your kicks to defend you. As you progress, you’ll find enemies with weapons you can steal once you defeat them and armor buried in rocks. Soon, you’ll find yourself equipped with a helmet, body armor, a shield and a sword.
The level’s designs are so bad it’s almost hilarious. Jumping around makes you feel helpless and the level changes so rapidly when you fall down holes into new levels. There’s this one part of the first level that has falling down and you’ve got to figure out where to jump back up: the back-and-forth is enough to make you puke.
The bosses are reminiscent of the bosses in the Kirby games and they can be really easy to beat with the right weapons and strategy (i.e. get in their face and don’t stop pounding). You can rush through this game pretty easily if you’re nimble, but it can be hard considering how random it feels when your life bar takes a few hits. Often times you don’t even realize you’ve already gone down to half life after a few enemies just barely scratched you as you were jumping.
However, though the game may seem shoddy compared to others of its time that managed to spawn huge franchises (might I say again, MARIO!!!) Athena does have its charm, namely that it features a pretty cute girl as its protagonist. Cute sells—not gonna lie. For those of you familiar with SNK, Athena goes on to become one of the most prominent characters of the franchises, reincarnating as Athena Asamiya in the King of Fighters series and appearing as herself numerous times as a secret fighter.
Athena could have been a great game had it not been for its difficult controls, but the idea is certainly solid. The kind of power-up-as-you-go mechanic is compelling, though I would have liked to see a little more variations in the weapons. But it’s a game back in the 80’s! A tad unfair to judge it by today’s standards. But in terms of busting out scantily-clad kick butt heroines? Athena is certainly a game that will scratch that nostalgic itch for what was cartoon cute back then (Athena’s design reminds me a lot of Rumiko Takahashi and her series Urusei Yatsura and InuYasha). Platformer fans will not want to miss the challenge of this game, navigating around its controls and trying out all the weapons. Overall though, this game is simply a curious example of game characters who’ve endured and been reincarnated. We always remember fighting chicks and, if possible, put them in our modern day fighting games.