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Stories from the Past: The Battle of Olympus


[We tend to forget that every person will experience a game in a different way. Weíre all unique people with unique pasts, after all. It was this consideration that bred the idea for this series. Like the name suggests, Iím going to use this series as a platform to simply talk about my experiences playing certain games in the hopes that you can share in the experience through my eyes.]

In todayís world, non-linearity is seen as preferable in many genres to linear, point A to point B experiences. There are plenty of reasons for this: more replayability, richer experiences, a greater responsibility on the player to create the story, etc. Such experiences are especially enjoyable to me now, both due to my experience with games, which makes me feel much more comfortable in open worlds, and due to the technology of games today, which helps to make non-linear experiences feel more cohesive and less daunting.

However, non-linearity is the curse of the young and the inexperienced, and when I originally played the 1990 NES game The Battle of Olympus, I fit into both categories. Though the game wasnít a true open world, it was just open enough to confuse the hell out of me, forcing me to walk around the game world like a bumbling idiot, dying as if it were my job. The Battle of Olympus turned out to be the battle to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do.

Some basics: The Battle of Olympus was, in many ways, a cross between Zelda 2 and Metroid, combining the sword-wielding, side-scrolling action of the former (while basically copying the look) with the labyrinthine design of the latter. To me, however, this game took it all one step further, making the game nearly as difficult as a Mega Man title while upping the ante with some bizarre level design.

See, the paths that you took to get from one place to another were entirely unpredictable and, quite frankly, insane. For instance, you progress from screen to screen either by walking to the edge of the area or by passing through doors, which were often and inexplicably built right into trees, rocks, and other places where a normal person doesnít expect to find a door. Even more insane is that passing through certain tree doors might just take you to an entirely new city without any warning that it would do so. Want to go from Peloponnesus to Arcadia? Just walk right into that tree. Totally sensible, right?

Suffice it to say that navigation in the game was a nightmare for someone unaccustomed to a general lack of guidance. Sure, there were gods and townspeople that attempted to tell you where to go, but the advice was cryptic and understandably unhelpful most of the time.

The basic plot of the game involved the hero Orpheus trying to figure out what has happened to Helene, his love. To do this, youíll need the help of the gods, and eventually youíll travel to the underworld to battle Hades and rescue Helene.

As I alluded to before, this really wasnít easy. Hell, I was never even able to find the final area since the damn entrance is out in the middle of the damn ocean and you have to ride a damn dolphin to get to it. At another point, you have to attack a pillar to open a hole in the ground. Perhaps one of the many random NPCs in the game might have been able to tell me these things, but the last thing a young boy wants to do when playing a game is listen to cryptic hints from crusty Greek guys.

The hardest thing for me was that you could go nearly anywhere you wanted to right from the beginning. Sure, there were certain areas that were off-limits until you talked to a certain god and obtained a new item, but plenty of the towns were accessible right away. So you could just wander around the world, traveling aimlessly from city to city.

In the midst of all of the traveling were plenty of monsters ready to hand your ass to you. There were the typical bats, monkeys, and snakes that rained from the sky onto your face, and even they were enough to kill me in many cases. The bosses were far worse. Cyclops was a real bastard, made worse by the fact that you fought him three times throughout the game. Plenty of other creatures from Greek mythology rounded out the cast, including the hydra (a jackass), the centaur (a jackass), Cerberus (an insufferable jackass), and Hades himself (whose jackassery cannot be properly described).

Perhaps if I were to play the game today I might not struggle so much to defeat these enemies, but simply whacking dudes once with a sword became a victory worth celebrating. In the case of Hades, hitting the guy was damn near impossible since he spends the first half of the fight invisible, and the only way to track him is by using an item to view his shadow.

In all likelihood, I should have hated this game. But I didnít. I constantly struggled through the game, playing without the hopes of actually finishing it. I wandered from tree door to tree door just to see where it would take me. I spent hours walking in circles, killing baddies and collecting one of the gameís two forms of currency.

Most surprising of all, I somehow enjoyed my utter confusion. I had no idea what was going on, and I loved it. Though it was incredibly frustrating, it was also a blast to stumble upon a new ancient Greek city by wandering into a tree. If my memory serves me correctly, The Battle of Olympus was my first experience with ancient Greece. The pantheon, mythical creatures, and stories of ancient Greece were all fresh to me, and it no doubt sparked my future interest in that field.

As a game, I donít even know what to say about The Battle of Olympus. I think it was a good game despite being totally ridiculous, but thereís a reason that you donít see many seven-year-olds reviewing games. I would imagine that the game isnít even that difficult for the average player, but the design was a nightmare for my younger self. As a memory, though, The Battle of Olympus is one of those games that remain in my mind for no particularly great reason.
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About Andrew Kauzone of us since 5:10 PM on 04.30.2009

In loving memory: PAX 2009 (thanks ZombiePlatypus! And WalkYourPath, of course)

I'm Kauza, which is pronounced like cause-uh. My real name's Andrew Kauz, if you'd rather go for that.

I like talking to Dtoid people, so please add me on your favorite social networking site:
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/kauza
Gchat: santakauz[at]gmail.com.

Basics: I'm 25, and I write things.

Eternal thanks go out to Y0j1mb0 for the amazing header image you see above. So, thanks, sir!

Look at some of the things I've written.

Things on the Front Page:

Mass Effect, Metal Gear, Moon Unit, and more: An interview with Jennifer Hale
The Future: Demanding more from the voices of videogames
Love/Hate: A plea to play as a female Shepard
A warning: Regrets from a former life and experiences yet unlived
Top ten games for people who hate Thanksgiving
The wrong thing: Being evil should be more like sex
Staying dry in a sea of spoilers is a matter of building a boat
Lessons on taking games just seriously enough
Come, take your pilgrimage to gaming's one true mecca
Here's to you, random-JRPG-dialogue-writer-man
The forgotten: Crushing disappointment at the hands of Crash 'n the Boys
The people who have the power to change the world
Improving game communities: Enough with the negativity
The draw of exploration: Antarctica to Oblivion, Shackleton to Shadow Complex
I suck at games: BlazBlue and a slapdash attempt at fisticuffs
I, the Author: My Everest
Untapped Potential: The Gamer's Education
Other Worlds than These: Our World, Only Different

A series sort of thing about status effects
Toxic Megacolon and other fresh status effects
Curse you, status effects, stop confusing my heart
Status effects are poisons that turn my silent heart to stone
Also check out the related forum thread.

The Fall of the Titans (wherein I talk about dead or dying gaming companies)

The fall of the titans part 3: What once was shall be again
The fall of the titans: Sega died so that we might dream of the future
The fall of the titans: Why do the giants of gaming die?

Stories from the Past (a series about my experiences playing certain games):

Stories from the Past: Tobal 2, Tomba! 2, and console double-vision
Stories from the Past: Diablo and the Dark Ride
Stories from the Past: What the f*ck, mom?
Stories from the Past: Xexyz and the battle aboard Turtlestar Lobsterica
Stories from the Past: The One-Balled Man-Bear
Stories from the Past: The Battle of Olympus
Stories from the Past: Suikoden 2

Storytelling (a series about, well, storytelling):

Storytelling: The Problem of Genres
Storytelling: Mass Effect, Vonnegut, and the Fourth Rule
Storytelling: Doing Nothing in "The Darkness"
Storytelling: The Power of a Single Line (Yeah, it was my first post.)

Other stuff that is good:

Lessons on taking games just seriously enough
A consuming power: The demon and the borderlands
Can games transcend good and evil?
Nothing is sacred: We won't let you go alone, but we have made a tragic decision
How Destructoid single-handedly changed my motherís opinion of gaming
Why Tecmo Super Bowl is the greatest sports game of all time
Seven reasons that I will end you in creative ways if you don't play Folklore
Mother Nature and the Impending Death of the Gaming Spirit
Times Games Forgot: The Dark Ages
The Sins and Successes of In-game Collectibles
The Lock is Broken
When Music Surpasses the Game
Truckasaurus Rex and the Humor of Games
I Want to Cry (storytelling related, but not part of the series)

I have others as well that you can check out on my blog. You'll enjoy them or your money back.

Since it seems like the cool thing to do, here a list of my favorite games that is coming straight out of my ass and onto your computer screen, and in no particular order.

Fallout 3
Uncharted 2
Suikoden 2
Mass Effect / ME2
Metal Gear Solid followed by any number you can think of
Tales of Somethingendinginia (OK, and the Abyss)
Battlefield: Bad Company
Xbox LIVE:kauza
PSN ID:santakauz
Mii code:kauza


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