The Battle Of Olympus

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Genre: Adventure

Publisher: Broderbund

Total time played: 6 hours

Short review:  A clone of Zelda II that is harder than Castlevania III and more cryptic than Castlevania II featuring characters from Greek Mythology.


Interesting links related to The Battle of Olympus


My first memory of this game was during the brief period of my childhood when I was obsessed with Greek and Roman Mythology.  I would rent this game and the movie Clash of the Titans on a regular basis.  I always enjoyed the game but never beat it. Playing it as an adult I see why, it is probably the hardest game on the NES that I have played for the blog up to this point.

Let’s get this out of the way right up front, I had to use save states to beat this game.  In the game your currency is olives  which enemies drop when they are killed. In most games to pick up an item you walk over it, in Battle of Olympus you have to kneel down in front of the item, a realistic touch. When you die you lose half of the olives you have collected.  At the beginning of the game this isn’t that big of a deal but when you have to get through a maze of enemies while trying to not fall into holes to get to a remote location with 70 olives to buy a sword or 80 Olives to buy the Power Bracelet it becomes an issue.

At first, I tried to play the game legit only using the save states to not have to write down the extremely long passwords. Honestly, the passwords in this game, and Metroid, are so long that it would take 5 or more minutes to input them just to start the game.  The save states allow me to just turn on the system and start playing which means that 5 minutes that used to be for inputing a password is now for getting farther in the game.

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The Retron 5 save states saved me from having to enter a long password like this each time I turned on the game.

I ended up dying over and over trying to get the final sword in the game.  Each time having to spend 20+ minutes getting back the olives I lost when I died.  After several tries I gave up and just decided to create a save state at the beginning of the part of the world where the sword was and when I died I would reload that saved game so I didn’t have to spend all the time collecting olives again.  Technically this is cheating, but I never used the save states to advance slowly through hard sections, I used it solely to save time from collecting the olives over and over again.

The story is very typical of an NES game but features a lot of the mythological Gods and creatures that I loved as a kid which made it a little more special (even if all the Gods look just alike).

The game has a few major flaws.  First off, it is impossible to know where to go or what to do.  You can walk into each cave or building and talk to the townspeople who will give you hints on where to go next but I didn’t find the hints obvious enough to help.  I had to rely some on video and written walkthroughs.

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World map – looks simple enough, right?

The game starts you off inside a house in Arcadia.  When you leave you can walk to the left or right.  If you walk one direction you end up going to Argolis, the other direction takes you to Attica or Peloponnese?  I honestly can’t remember, it made no sense.

I would have been ok if you walk right or left and ended up walking to another part of the map but that isn’t how the game works.  The small hut in the picture below takes you to a different spot on the map.  It is almost as if that entire part of the map is inside this small house. The map made even less sense to me than the map in Friday the 13th (which at the time of this review I still can’t beat).  Luckily you eventually get a harp that allows you to call pegasus to pick you up and take you to a pre-determined location on the map (but, there is no rhyme or reason as to why calling Pegasus in Pythia takes you to Laconia.) Unfortunately you can only use the Pegasus when you are standing in front of a specific small statue.

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Walking into this house takes you to a different spot on the map

 

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Riding the Pegasus to somewhere.

Or what about this one.  Do you see the black rectangle in the middle of the black area behind this woman that is inside a tree?  This takes you to another spot on the map as well, things like this are so easy to miss.

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How did I miss the door behind the old woman? Because it is nearly invisible.

Once you get a handle on how to navigate the world (you won’t ever feel comfortable) you have to stay alive.  At the beginning it isn’t too bad but as you progress and get stronger weapons and items the enemies get harder.  There are bats throughout the game that I never once felt comfortable attacking.  Their patterns seemed random and they were perfectly positioned to knock me into a hole on a regular basis.  I found them to be more annoying that the Medusa’s in the Castlevania games. Speaking of Castlevania, there are also little jumping monkeys similar to those in Castlevania that I never felt comfortable fighting.

Castlevania monkey on the left, Battle of Olympus monkey on the right.

I appreciated that the game had secrets but I didn’t like that the things needed to advance even a little bit into the story were hard to figure out.  The walking between different sections of the map never felt comfortable and as the game progressed there were more mazes.  Mazes in the forest, mazes in the mountains and mazes inside castles.  The final stage of the game is a maze of death.  I gave up and had to look at the map online because I was tired of wandering in circles getting killed by bats and monkeys  and gargoyles and snakes and medusas and never getting anywhere.

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The menu featuring the 4 weapons you use throughout the game on the first row. The second row is the harp that calls Pegasus, the Ocarina which calls a dolphin, the flask which refills your life bar and the two crystals which make hidden doors and the final boss visible.  Third row is the shoes that allow you to jump higher and walk on ceilings, the shield, the number of salamanders you have (another form of currency that I never even had 1 of), the power bracelet which makes your attacks stronger and a key that opens a door.

When I started playing the game I thought “this game is very fun, the controls are tight, the graphics are bright, the music is good and each part of the world looks different so it is never boring.” At first it is every bit as enjoyable as Zelda II and even non-gamers could pick up the controller and have some fun. But, if you goal is to beat the game it isn’t going to happen without some help (save states, video walkthrough, written walkthroughs or 100 hours of practice).

If I wasn’t dying I was getting lost.  This could have been a perfect game if the difficulty had been ramped down by 50% and there was an easy way to navigate between worlds and the townspeople actually gave you better clues to find hidden doors and items that only appear if you are standing in a certain location and blow on your ocarina.

I’m glad I’ve finally beaten Battle of Olympus but I’m sad I couldn’t do it without the use of save states. The controls, graphics and sound are all an 8 heart game, the difficulty, mazes and cryptic gameplay are horrible meaning I couldn’t justify giving the game more than 4 hearts.

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