Athena, a June 1986 NES port of an arcade game, teaches players that there are some doors that shouldn't be opened. Considering how bad this game is, that probably includes booting it.
Best time with warps: 0:22:35 by Brian 'Brossentia' Cook on 2012-07-27.
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First, I would like to thank a few people:
Essentia and Denton, for letting me stream this ear-scratching game at their house. Yes, they usually made me close the door. However, Essentia knows enough about this game that I'm sure she could run it, too *wink wink!*
Dragondarch, for giving me this treasure and being man enough to play it with me. We've both learned a lot from each other, and I wouldn't have had such an awesome run without him helping. We still disagree on a lot of things with this game, and I don't think that'll ever change. However, the competition has greatly improved both of us.
YouTube user "hisatoki" for having a TAS up. My route varies greatly from the TAS, but it was a great place to start learning the tricks.
"Athena" reminds me of my childhood when we had a pomeranian, Bo Jangles. This dog got hit three times by cars and got his foot stuck in a trap, yet despite all this abuse, he managed to crawl back home to us. We hated him for his stupidity and his constant yappiness, but for some reason, we loved him.
Then he got run over a fourth time and died, but that's a different story.
"Athena" is a tortuous game from the get go, but if you have the patience to work with it, give it some love, and figure out all its quirks, the game becomes almost enjoyable. Supposedly, the story goes that Athena was bored, so she decided to go open the "Door Which Shouldn't Be Opened" (or chase cars, if she were a pomeranian). However, this door leads her to a land of misshapen creatures and Atari 2600 music. Because NOT A SINGLE DOOR appears in the game, I think the story goes a bit differently. The true story will accompany my notes on each level.
Athena walks down a neon brick road, her dress flapping in the wind. "I am bored," she said, "but there aren't any 'Doors Which Shouldn't Be Opened' around here at all! Ho hum. What should I do?" Then she had an idea -- the hardest jump! This "hardest jump" was a legend on Mount Olympus that -- if done correct -- would transport the jumper to a mysterious land. At first, she thought about trying a leap of faith, but she soon realized that the screen wouldn't scroll. "Oh well, I'll jump here," she said, and jump she did. The world seemed to spiral around her as she flew into the air, her scarlet dress being torn off of her in the vortex!
World of Forest:
Lifting herself off the ground, she looked behind her and saw a looming tree, trunk agape with a hole. "Oh, hello there, tree," she said. The tree did nothing. This frightened her. She ran away from it straight into the Berenstain Bears! "No girls allowed!" yelled the younger one, and in her madness, Athena kicked him in the face, taking his red croquet mallet. "You forgot your manners," said Mama Bear, and Athena cracked her over the head, taking her blue hammer. "Stop trying to teach me live lessons!" she yelled, flailing as she sailed through them, sending each flying this way and that.
She ran into a pile of dirt and, in an effort to hide herself from those values, dug at it with her mallet. But wait! There was something underneath. "A helmet?" she said. "A yo-yo? Armor? A shield?! Sweetness!" She put the armor on ("dress modestly!" said Mama Bear's voice in her head) and armed herself with the deadly yo-yo. Around her swarmed pill bugs, slimes, archers, horse-headed men, and Grimaces from McDonalds, but none survived the pain of her weapon. She grabbed a magic lamp, dug through dirt to find herself trapped, and -- in half-madness, half-desperation -- jumped again.
I'm very picky when it comes to the World of Forest. By the third enemy, I want the blue hammer, and at least half of my attempts ended in the first 5-10 seconds. There are a few small tricks -- falling down the ladder by holding down after a jump, planning jumps out -- that help save time, but the level is fairly calm. I take some damage, but I need to take damage by the boss in the World of Sea.
One of the most important things for Athena is to realize that attacking is the thing that will keep you alive. Enemies cannot damage during the attack animation, but they can hurt you every frame that you are not attacking.
With the jumps, if you are unfamiliar with the game, Athena only jumps high the second and third jumps in a row, kinda like Super Mario 64. After time, the counter gets reset, and she'll do a low jump. Works great in SM64; not so well here.
World of Cavern:
The smell of mildew and vines awoke her. She opened her eyes and stared at the path in front of her -- a dingy pile of dirt covered in Berenstain Bear carcasses. Inside, outside, upside down, these bears of the night terrorized her mind. She stood up, shaking the dust off her armor, and continued. A corpse arose! "Eat your vegetables!" it said. She flung her yo-yo at its face, sending the reanimated body down a slope into the dark abyss below. "Gotta stay calm," she said. But then, as she climbed the dirt piles, she saw it -- a dog with a vacuum cleaner! In her, uh, confusion, she fell down a hole. Picking herself up, she saw another dog, his appliance ever sucking! "Bissel teach you to mess with me!" she shouted, tossing the yo-yo into the device. It exploded, and she continued past more dogs, Medusas, grabbing a pair of wings and flying through the cavernous world. Again, a lamp. Again, a jump.
Falling down and hitting the flame in World of Cavern threw off my jumps a bit. I kill some enemies later on to get rid of lag. The guy with the fire-shooting vacuum is especially guilty of causing lag. The level mostly went how I wanted.
World of Sea:
The snowy world stretched out in front of her. "Such a nice day," she said. After all, having lived on Olympus all her life, Athena thought the snow was glorious. "I think I'll go for a swim!" She hopped into a pool of water and, with her armor, sunk down, down to the depths of an ancient civilization of lizards, the scale of which she could never have imagined. The reptilian guard awoke from their lounge. "Halt! You're... a female?" They stared at her, shocked at something they hadn't seen in millenia, and began the pursuit. "Stop!" she said. "Go after Aphrodite, not me!" But they ignored her. Quickly, she stole a conch necklace -- a shellfish thing to do -- and morphed into a mermaid, gliding through the razor-sharp reef. Unable to catch her, the guard resorted to do what they knew best -- murder. Slashing, dicing, cutting through the water, they tore the mermaid up until the necklace fell off. They moved upon her, ready to kill, when -- suddenly -- their blood turned cold. "Let's gekkoutta here," they said, and they turned their tails and fled.
Athena drifted in the water, injured but alive, until she saw the horror, the abomination under the sea. "Tent-a-cleese." This octopus was a legend to all Greek -- the octo-limbed stone-hucker from Hades. "Here to play, little girl?" Tent-a-cleese said, laughing as it threw rocks at her. "No," she said. "But I have a plan." The octopus laughed. "Hah! Well, you better right it down next time. Bring your pen and paper?" A stone clipped her shoulder, throwing her back. "I didn't," she said. "But I have ink!" The yo-yo volleyed from her hand right into the overly-armed creature, causing it to explode into nothing but a cloud of black liquid. "Now you're octo-gone," she said, and moved on, jumping in the sea.
Okay, mermaid stuff. So, in Athena, there are a few powerups -- mermaid and wings -- that you lose if your life goes too low. I abuse this. You have to be a mermaid to get through a part of the level, but once through, you can turn back into normal Athena by taking damage. The flower I pick up is there UNLESS you get a flower earlier in that above section of the level (guides I found didn't even mention the flower I get). It is possible to skip Tent-a-cleese (aka The World's Angriest Octopus) by getting a lamp in the lower level, but it's stupid difficult. If anyone ever gets it on console and makes it to the end of the level, I will give you five hundred cookies and a high-five.
Tent-a-cleese is pretty easy with his wonky hit box. Using arrows takes ages, but one yo yo to the face does the octopus in.
World of Sky:
A stampede! Athena opened her eyes to the thundering of ungulates. She sprung up and hoofed over to dirt, plucking out a pair of wings. "Nay, ye equines!" she shouted. "You cannot defeat me!" One, with a look of disgust, yelled, "You're ugly!" She flew away laughing, but inside, she felt what he said was just colt. This world of clouds and land, something she had never seen before, entranced her eye. There in the distance, a spot appeared, bulleting towards her with flames spouting in front of it -- a manticore! "Wait, you're a piece of Persian mythology that creeped into Greek stories in the fourth century BC!" she shouted out. "You're not lion," he said with a roar and spat flames at her. She dodged acrobatically, spiraling through the air as she shot towards another lamp. Stampedes, flying vacuum dogs, and one-eyed Grimaces all chased her until she finally jumped into a new world, a world she would fear in her worst nightmares.
In the World of Sky, most goes well until I go to the lower level. There, I have to wait for the vacuum to disappear, and I attack the flying horseman. Generally, I want to kill him because he could one-shot me with an arrow. However, he's not only invincible, but he's also not shooting anything at all. This caused me to get confused and lose a couple seconds when leaving.
Later on in the level, I pick up a claw that dropped. Normally, I dig for one, so I was surprised that one had dropped. Woo! The reason I do that is because it downgrades the weapon. You see, the programmers decided to neglect the fact that hammers can hit below you but yo yos cannot. In order to get through, you have to dig down. Yeah. Great programming, guys.
World of Ice:
The writer was frozen in time and forgot to write about this leg of Athena's journeys. Just know it was n-ice.
World of Ice is just stupid. Some enemies cannot die from the blue hammer, so I need the yo yo or a power upgrade. I luckily keep it through the stage. I scroll grimace out but get shot backwards. The deer takes away my yo yo, but I needed it gone because I had to dig down -- again. And then, wait, I have to have a bow and arrow to kill Bubble Bobble? Yup. The fight goes alright (though round 2 later on is much better)
World of Hell:
Athena's eyes opened to a dark cave above the River Styx. A horse-man crept out from the walls, brandishing a sword. "My heart is human," he whinnied out. "My blood is boiling." "Your brain IBM?" said Athena. The horse cocked his head, then stabbed at her. She parried, snatching the sword away, and ran to the cliff, jumping out in desperation! She snatched the side of the rock wall, dangling above the river of death. Climbing up, her eyes came upon a fearful sight -- the minotaur. "Die, you bovine!" she said as she ran up, stabbing her sword through the creature. It toppled over, mooing in pain. The tortuous sound echoed in the caverns of Hell, reverberating in its eternally large stomach as the creature slowly collapsed. "Oh, stop milking it," she said.
Tunnels led to caverns led to tunnels. Finally, a large room opened up in front of her, and she hopped down, brandishing her sword. A voice echoed out, "Wasn't the way you got that sword... shellfish?" There it appeared -- the Doom Lobster! "We already made that joke!" said Athena, raising her shield as she stood on the deck of the terrifying crustacean. "Fight me!" he said. She hesitated. "What? Don't got a spine?" The pun rang through her mind -- the ultimate pain of Hell! Insanity vibrated around her, crippling her to the ground. She looked for something -- anything -- to mentally fight back with. But then, an idea! Perhaps the pain could be reversed. "Hey, Doom Lobster!" she said. "Where do lobsters go to have fun?" Doom Lobster glared at her. "Where?" "The Canadian Merrytimes!" The room shook as the arthropod squealed. "That... was... so... forced!" But it was too late for him. She leaped up and stabbed him in the tomalley, extinguishing the poor creature. The path opened before her, and she walked forward towards what she knew would be the end of her pain. A jump, and she was gone.
The name "World of Hell" is perfect. This is the stage that almost always ended my runs, and if I got past it, I usually made my way to the final boss. I choose to get a red sword for a few reasons. First, in the thin corridors, I can kill minotaurs in one hit. With the yo yo, it takes a few. Second, after killing them with the sword, I can walk through all the bad things they drop without picking them up. If I have the yo yo, I'm usually at a distance, and I have to wait. Also, if I try to kill them up close, I almost always die. This is my experience with the level, and if others can use the yo yo here, I applaud them -- in my experience, though, the sword is faster and much more reliable. I do lose time getting the sword because of random drops and the fact that an enemy took the yellow sword away.
By the way, if you fall, you have to restart the level. And if you restart the level, you probably lose the box you collected on the previous level. If you lose that box, you cannot kill the boss. And you have to restart the entire game.
Doom Lobster dies in one hit. I'll get the key later.
The Final World:
The haze cleared from Athena's eyes, and she stared across a vast, convoluted wasteland. "I've been here before," she said, and indeed she had, for she faced a land of time compression. The name escaped her breath -- "Ultimecia." "We don't need a cross-over," said Squall. And she agreed. She charged forward, thrashing her way through the enemies -- Woody, the Pharaoh, Tent-a-cleese, Trogdor, Bubble Bobble, and the Doom Lobster, snatching the key on her way. What the key was for, she knew not, but she jumped, wishing for the end.
Boss rush is stupid. The hardest boss is boss 2, the Pharaoh, mainly because I went with the sword. With the yo yo, you can kill him in one hit. This may make up the time lost in World of Hell if you're caught waiting for items.
If it looks like I'm looking around, I was low on health, and I needed life bad. I'm usually much better with health at that point, so I wasn't as familiar with flowers as I could have been. Nerves didn't help me remember, either.
Also, my biggest mistake happened during this point. After Bubble Bobble, I was supposed to pick up the box. I forgot and had to go back. I was nervous at that point, and I should've known I'd make a stupid mistake. This section has the most mistakes and would be a good chance for improvement in future runs.
World of Labyrinth:
Green shadows enveloped her body, and she opened her eyes to the horror around her -- a giant yet mostly-linear maze. "I... don't understand," said Athena as she shuddered. Yet she pressed forward, digging through the ground to find a lamp. Suddenly, she stumbled across a pit with archers shooting at her! "Are you ready to bow to our will?" they shouted, snickering. She shook her head. "No, but I think I can sw-ort you out!" The men screeched and ducked into their holes. Athena summoned her courage and leaped, barely landing on the edge. Breaking blocks, smacking shriveled cyclopses, and feeding off the hearts of fallen tree-men, she found a pair of wings and flew through the mass of walls and chasms.
Finally, a layer of bricks laid in front of her. Athena felt like she should break them, and so she thrust her sword into the mortar, chiseling the blocks apart. A head appeared from the broken pieces! It flew past her, and she realized it must be a Dead Head! "I will steal your face!" it croaked, hurling itself through the dark, dank air. "Go to heaven!" she yelled. Her sword dug deep into the skull, flames spewing through the flesh. The horrors of this world haunted her until, as she dug, she saw the beautiful face of an angel holding a harp. Such beauty, such perfection had not been seen in ages, even in Olympus. She reached out and took the harp, feeling the gentle strings -- so tight, so soft. A tear dropped down her cheek, and she knew this symbol of beauty would destroy the hauntings of the underworld. With harp in hand, she flew down the labyrinth, straight Dante.
World of Labyrinth went pretty well. Except I got lost for a second, going above the stairs instead of under. The wings and sword are particularly useful when digging through all the blocks. The sword can kill the heads flying around, so I really prefer to have the sword there -- it lowers lag and keeps me from losing items.
The Last Battle:
The musk of the labyrinth only strengthened as she flew through the turning halls, the dampened air. Her sword caught fire, and she blasted a wall in front of her to smithereens. Dante, the three-headed beast, stood before her, his six eyes glowing wildly. "Ah, girl," he said, "it looks like you've been sweating! Too hot down here for you?" "It's an inferno," she said. He laughed. "You're telling me," he said, and his heads erupted off his neck, flying through the air. Flames burst from his body, but the goddess flipped up into the air, cutting off the arm holding the shield. She ducked a head as if she were playing limbo, and fell onto the creature's back! "Don't get greedy, girl!" the heads yelled, but her anger caught her as she stabbed the beast, sending his sword flying across the room. She thrust her sword through the body, then flew through the air, slicing at the heads. "What a comedic act!" they shouted, but she killed one, then another!
Panting, she faced the hovering head, both of them covered in blood. The head shook, and fell to the floor, rolling on the reddened brick. "What a pitiful role you've played down here," said Athena, walking over to the face. It gasped. "I... thought my role was... divine." Athena screamed, thrusting her sword through the skull of the demon. The world around her shook, the ceiling fell, and light was cast upon her. She looked up, blinded by the bright world!
And then... it was gone. There, on the horizon, was a castle. "What castle is that?" she thought, but it mattered not! She had defeated a lord of the underworld, and the world -- unknowingly -- owed her everything.
Dante scared my pants off of me. I could barely hold my controller in my hands -- simply put, I probably get to him 1/200 of the attempts I do. The heads seem like they sort of respond to directional inputs, but they're so chaotic that they really can't be predicted. They could be killed faster, but the end was a normal-length battle. I also get down to three bars of health. Losing one more, and I would've lost my wings. I've never beaten Dante without wings. It was close.
In all, I've had this game for almost a year now. It's my first real speedrun outside of marathons, and I know it's not perfect. If others feel inspired to pick Athena up and improve this time, I welcome you into the warm embrace of the Greek goddess.
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