Feb 262009

>by: Aron Deppert

It is my pleasure to present to you this week’s game: “Athena – Athena’s Wonder Land”. I am also pleased to inform you that neither the game, nor the promotional flier pictured to the left is a joke.

SNK, the makers of the classic “Metal Slug” series, released this as an arcade platformer in 1986. Sometime later in 1987 it was ported to the NES. I just can’t figure out exactly why it was made in the first place, let alone released on home consoles.

You play as Athena, who was the Greek goddess of Wisdom and Defensive Warfare. She looks really wise in the red bikini, doesn’t she? As was popular at the time, there is really no explanation for what you are doing. You just start out in some brick room, jump in the center, then POW!…you’re in the first level: “The World of Forest”.

You begin the game much like Athena does in the flier–scantily clad, except unarmed. The first bad guy you encounter is a man with a pig head, who we’ll just call Piggies from now on. Once you kick and punch him into submission, you can steal his weapon, which I will refer to as THE LOLLIPOP OF DOOM!

Bashing Piggies with candy never felt so good…and so right!

I died about twelve times before I realized that you could break apart the blocks of dirt in the level to reveal things like armor, weapons, and sacks that for some reason or another awarded you points. I was overjoyed once I was in my full suit of armor! No longer did the Piggies, or the stronger Horsies I encountered later on, kill me in one or two shots. I now felt like a goddess and was just nearly invincible! Mind you, I said nearly. One main drawback I found to Athena was there was no checkpoint system, and no way to refill your health except for to slay this one enemy that looked kind of like an eel walking on land. I only saw one of them during my time in Athena’s Wonder Land.

I can’t help but feel SNK was a little too ambitious with the amount of sprites they thought the NES would be able to handle at one time. There was a point when I was nearly overwhelmed with Horsies and Piggies, and the system slowed to a grinding pace and everything became pixilated. I had a hard time understanding why this was happening, because no other game I played ever did this on my NES and they had more than four colors.

NES computing power at its finest.

I’m glad I hung on through my 12 game over screens, because once I found all of Athena’s armor I kind of had a good time. Enemies were very predictable, and with the helmet, chest piece, boots, and shield, they had a hard time dispatching Athena from her Wonder Land. I even made it through the first boss, which was some really awesome looking octopus tree thingy that threw um….Pepto Bismol orbs at me?

Your indigestion medicine is no match for the goddess Athena! Rawr!

I couldn’t help laugh when I learned that 14 years after her appearance in Wonderland, Athena appeared in SNK’s King of Fighters 2000 game (they even kept her purple hair), and was a mini-boss in the SNK vs. Capcom game. I guess it was silly of me to think a crazy dye job and a red string bikini wouldn’t carry a woman far in life!

Image credits: Screenshot, and en.wikipedia.org

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