System: NES Publisher: SNK Developer: SNK
Genre: Action Type: Sidescrolling Platform Circa: 1987
Athena begins her eternal quest to make her head bigger...You would think any game in which you get to whack enemies with a cello would be fun

There appears to be some debate as to whether or not Athena is a bad game. It made both Seanbaby's and PSYKOSUMA's Worst NES Games lists, but I've also seen people vigilantly defend it. Well, I am certainly not one to act like my opinions are the final word on anything, but this is one of those cases where I am somewhat unable to see both sides of the argument. Let's face it: Not every 2-D sidescrolling platform game was a work of art. The basic idea behind Athena is that you are playing as the Goddess of Wisdom as she runs around bopping strange enemies because she is bored. As you can see, the problems with this game have already begun.
Athena has a lovely title screen with a nice anime-style picture of Athena's head. This actually looks very good for an early NES game, but don't leap out of your seats yet. It's all downhill from there. It's not really an exaggeration to say that the graphics look like something that belong on a parent's refrigerator. First of all, Athena is drawn very badly. Her head is way too big and her body is straight up and down like a flagpole. The animation of her walk and jump is stiff and robotic, and when she swings a weapon, it looks like she's trying to hit herself with it, rather than the enemies. And speaking of the enemies, many of them look just as bad as Athena. Most of them are very nondescript and it's hard to even tell what some of them are. There are slimes (also found in SNK's Crystalis), teddy bear/pigheaded things, spiders, and a blue thing that looks like Grimace from those McDonald's commercials. The bosses look somewhat better, and they are really huge. The background color schemes are very nasty, and every level has some kind of ugly, repetitive pattern used throughout the whole thing. I also have to ask - this game is based on Athena, a Greek mythological where are all the Greek monsters? Why are we fighting things that look like teddy bears, horseheads, and Grimace instead of centaurs, minotaurs, and gorgons? Even Kid Icarus, which took a lot of liberty with the subject, had some monsters and references to the myths. Athena's graphics are not only bad, but they don't really represent what the game is supposed to be about, either.
Meet the killer tree boss...yes, it's just one of those crappy background trees with a face...The further you go in Athena, the uglier it looks
Athena has some of the most irritating sound I've ever heard. The musical compositions are extremely bad. The music does absolutely nothing to enhance the game or emote what's going on, and sounds as though it's being played on a phonograph or out-of-tune music box. The sound effects are extremely loud and annoying. There are several different sound effects that are used when you swing a weapon, and they all sound pretty much like something out of an Atari 2600 game. With all of these loud noises going on from swinging your weapon and jumping, you may not notice that you're being attacked, because Athena makes no noise of any kind when taking hits from the enemies. Many times in this game, the screen has gone black, and I got the cinema of Athena keeling over, and I never saw it coming because I didn't know I was being hit by something. An overuse of annoying effects, and a lack of vital ones, all against horrendous background music, makes for a game with horrible sound!
Just about everything that could possibly go wrong went the whole distance here! Well, moving left and right and climbing up and down are okay. But jumping is a whole new ballgame. When you press the button once, Athena takes a normal jump. Press it again, and she takes a much higher leap. Neither jump is easy to control, and Athena is not very responsive. There is a definite lag between the time you press the button and when Athena actually jumps. The system of double-jumping is also very cumbersome. When you swing the weapon, it doesn't really seem to do much. With a few exceptions, most weapons don't "swing", they just change size, meaning you have to be incredibly close to the enemies to use them, and it's very unclear just how close you need to be to an enemy in order to damage it without taking hits, yourself! Hit detection is really poor, and most of the times you just miss the enemies. And since Athena makes no noise when she's being hit, you could be getting attacked and not know it! Bad play control is one of the main reasons this game is so bad.
Here is a shot of the game's lovely opening cinema...Damn, I've had enough of this crappy background!
I would really like to believe this was a translation problem. Maybe this game did have some credible story in the original Japanese version, and something happened on the way to America. But from what I understand, the premise of this game is that Athena is bored and is wandering around some kind of fantasy land, bopping enemies out of boredom. Maybe we should just put our imaginations to work and say that Athena is out to stop some horrible monsters from taking over the world. But no matter how hard you try to imagine any kind of scheme that would tie all this random enemy-bopping into the semblance of a storyline, Athena's severe lack of atmosphere still gives it the feel of a game that was just randomly thrown together. As I mentioned in the graphics section, there are almost no mythological monsters, despite the fact that this game is based on "Athena".
Athena is quite a hard game, but unfortunately, it's all due to poor play control and the lack of a signal to tell you that Athena is taking hits. Athena is a very mindless run around and bop enemies game. This game also suffers from bad utilization of a timer. Many of the levels are huge and confusing, and there are sometimes multiple paths and dead-ends. Running out of time in a level while trying to complete it only serves to worsen a game that's already quite horrid. Athena may be hard, but most people are going to feel more challenged just by trying to withstand it than actually playing it.
Besides bopping enemies, which seem to endlessly pour out of the right side of the screen, Athena can bump her head on blocks to find armor and other weapons. This seems like fun at first, until you realize a lot of weapons are useless, or not much more effective than Athena's normal kick attack, and some even cause you to lose HP when you use them! Most bosses can only be defeated with a projectile weapon, and if you get up to them with something else, you're screwed! The game is somewhat playable, until you reach the third level, where the play control becomes even more impossible to manage when you have to swim!
That big mushroom might explain how the designers came up with this crap...It's the offspring of Grimace and the Cookie Monster!

There is no way I could ever manage to overlook everything that's bad about Athena. Athena is to 2D action sidescrollers what Hydlide was to RPGs. Super Mario Bros. set the standard for what action platformers should be like, in terms of quality. Athena tries hard to be like Mario, with the block popping and enemy bopping, but its control and level design are so poor, that it doesn't come close to meeting that standard.



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