Athena is a platform action game featuring a female lead character called Princess Athena and was developed by SNK and first released into arcades in 1986.
At the start of the game Athena is examining a cupboard in her castle when suddenly she falls into it and through a hole which takes her to the “World of Forest“. She is immediately attacked by monsters and has only her kicks to defend herself, but soon enough one of the monsters will drop a weapon which she can pick up and use. Thus begins Athena‘s journey through eight hazard-packed levels, where the aim is basically to survive to the end of each one and beat the boss to progress to the next.
The most important aspect to understand about Athena‘s movement is the way she jumps. Her first jump is small, but her second and third jumps are much bigger, allowing her to leap further and higher, so you have to use them to your advantage. Another important aspect of the gameplay is Athena‘s life bar, which is shown on the left. If this reaches zero she loses a life and you’ll have to re-start the entire stage from the beginning again, which is a pain, so the idea is to play as carefully as possible – preserving as much life as possible for the boss fight at the end. Which is easier said than done. Special flowers, when hit, release hearts which can be collected to top-up Athena‘s health.
To help Athena she can smash breakable rocks with certain weapons (like the club or the hammer), or her head (if she’s wearing headgear), to uncover useful power-ups, such as armour, potions, and magical rings. Athena cannot break rocks with a basic (blue) sword, which is often dropped by certain enemies, so it’s important to avoid picking those up when you have a good weapon. Other useful weapons include the power sword (which is red and is extra long) and the extendable mace, both of which are useful in boss battles because they can shoot out in front of Athena, damaging enemies without her having to get close to them. The idea, therefore, is to try to collect more powerful weapons and armour before facing a boss. Especially the first boss – an evil tree – which is almost impossible to beat without enhanced weaponry.
Each stage has a time limit and also more difficult enemies seem to appear if you linger too long in one area. Overall: although Athena looks like a cute game, with colourful, cartoony graphics and jolly music, it is actually very challenging to beat. Getting off the first stage requires some experimentation and also knowledge of how and where you can power-up Athena‘s weapons and armour. Rushing towards the boss at the end will not work and you’ll just end up dead and having to start again if you do that. If you want to learn how to play Athena properly, watch a video on YouTube.
Athena did make a few cameo appearances in a number of other SNK games after this and was also converted to the NES by Micronics, and to the ZX Spectrum and C64 by Ocean in the late 80s. Otherwise, this is her only appearance in a video game of her own.
More: Athena on Wikipedia