Athena is the perfect example of a game that was produced in Japan and was clearly not appropriate to be ported over to a North American audience. The image there to the left is the “promo flyer” that developer and publisher, SNK, felt was appropriate to advertise the game. A game produced for a family entertainment console. Marketed to children. I’m not sure what world SNK lived in where showing a sexualized and scantily clad female was deemed okay, but it is a scary world where I would not want to own any land. Seriously, I’m not sure how SNK felt that showing this kind of imagery represented a game they also hype as being “from the creators of Ikari Warriors”. I’ll get into Ikari Warriors in a later post, but this game is nothing like that true to life military simulator.
The plot of the game is utter nonsense. Athena is a bored princess that one day opens “The Door Which Shouldn’t Be Opened”. I saw that statement in an online plot description and combined with the inappropriate semi-nude female imagery I did not want to even play this game. Somewhat surprisingly, the game’s developers didn’t go where I thought they were they were going with using such vague wording. Much like the plot of other drug fueled shovelware for the NES (see ‘Super Mario Bros.’), Athena is another ‘fantasy world’ side scrolling adventure game where the player fights an infinite number of enemies to set up a final confrontation with the “big bad”.
After a pointless intro showing Athena walking in a cave, the game proper beings in a forest with a nearly nude Athena having to kick the approaching enemies. Like most games on the NES, Athena can obtain better weapons by kicking the bipedal dog creatures she encounters to death. Unlike most games on the NES, Athena can also collect clothing and armor in the same fashion. Even more distressing, the animation is suspect and the sprite representing Athena appears to be a little girl. Nothing like a nine year-old girl running around in her bra and panties kicking bulldogs and horses to death. Great message to send there, SNK. You are better than this. You made Ikari Warriors.
You could tell someone in the SNK art department was unwilling to accurately portray the game’s deviant tendencies in the box art, which shows a fully clothed, adult woman holding up a sword standing in front of a painting of a Medusa-like character. From the promo flyer, I’d have assumed the box would have shown an Anime styled drawing of an eight year old girl in bikini underwear holding a sword over her exposed breasts. Also by viewing the box art, you can see this game received the “Nintendo Seal of Quality”, which clearly means absolutely nothing.
The game’s sound is horrid. The music is remedial and repetitive and most games on the console have better music than Athena. The graphics are pretty terrible considering what the NES is capable of. Gameplay is absurdly difficult for a simple side-scrolling platformer. I never made it past the “Forest World” and had no desire to continue play and keep trying to get further into this abomination of a game. This game is based on an arcade title, also developed and released by SNK. I fear it is even more nonsensical and depraved than the version I had the misfortune to play for this review.