A first for this site. A game where the reviewer actually hates the game itself. But more on that later.
The game is Athlete Kings for the Sega Saturn. Originally, I loved it. It was great. It was an Athelete game that was fun. It’s main rival at the time was International Track & Field for Sony’s Playstation. Sega’s offering was a different affiar to Konami’s game. Whilst Track & Field was a serious game, featuring track, field & pool events, Athlete Kings is a lot more of a fun game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Track & Field was a lot tougher, with impossible records to break and a tough computer difficulty level, Athlete Kings could be played with mates easily enough, with easy records to set and beat. Overall, it was a lot more arcadey than it’s competitors of the day.
Arcade generally means “not very deep”, and Athlete Kings proved it. They didn’t exactly extend the game much beyond it’s original arcade roots. You have the choice of 8 characters, each with a discipline, and each conforming to stereotypes (you have Karl Vain, the German, who has a decidedly arrogent demeanour, an all American called Rick Blade, and a Daley Thompson esque Jef Jansens from the UK with zebraskin lycra.). You compete over 10 events, which are in the decathlon in the Olympics. The higher you score, the better your points, your higher position you end up in the game.
As it’s an arcade game, the games aren’t exactly taxing. Button bashing is the order of the day for most of them, with angles & timing needing for some events. Rather fun is the 1,500 meters, which has a stamina meter, meaning you have to not go all guns blazing, and prevent yourself being boxed in. It’s a nice touch, and it’s probably the only unique event of this type at the time, and it’s very tricky (as the last event on the arcade game, you would expect that). Music is incidental, and sound effects are crowd noises, plus fairly amusing character speeches when they win/lose (“Somebody stop meee!” from Karl Vain).
So, reading the last 3 paragraphs, it doesn’t sound like I hate the game, does it? Well, truth be told, I don’t. I love it. It is stupidly addictive, and plays well with friends (though a 4 player mode is lacking unfortuantely), and well worth adding to your collection.
Why I hate it? It crippled a household. My house in university (particularly one person who had no summer job) spent his days playing this game, with text messages to myself (who was working) with broken records, which used to see me spend my evenings of a long hot summer trying to beat their records. A fruitless task, and overall an unworthwhile summer activity, as within 3 weeks of University restarting, the world record data wiped, and we couldn’t get it back.
Yes, whilst summer 2005 may be the summer of Liverpool dominating the Champions League, an average wimbledon and the first public bonking on Big Brother UK, it was instead, for residents of Albert Edward Road, Liverpool, the summer of Athlete Kings.