Saturday, August 1, 2009

NES Revival: Rendezvous with Zeus

Long before TITAN QUEST or GOD OF WAR, Greek Mythology already bore a substantial appeal to the videogame playing audience. Infinity's THE BATTLE OF OLYMPUS was without a doubt one of the most impressive titles in its time, more so than its thematic predecessor HERAKLES NO EIKOU: TOUJIN MAKYOU, also released for the Famicom. In the role of Orpheus, the player must travel across the Greek peninsula and islands in order to save his beloved Eurydice from the underworld of Hades - the original Japanese title refers to the game as LEGEND OF LOVE. In order to reach the final enemy, the player must meet with the gods, earn new powers while recollecting items, weapons and the crucial fragments of love that will enable Orpheus to travel to Tartarus.

I learned about this NES title long before I got the chance to try it in a French version of Super Power, the Official Nintendo Magazine. In that particular issue there was a guide with several pictures showing the different locations of the game that captivated me deeply. In spite of how similar it looked to LEGEND OF ZELDA II: LINK'S ADVENTURE, I've always recognized this game's merit in the portrayal of Greek mythos - a task in which the game was quite exceptional bearing its context in mind. As a post-METROID production, it came to include a non-linear exploration of the maps that provided, perhaps for the first time in the history of videogames, a small but authentic taste of a virtual Hellas: an alluring invitation to enter another world where the legendary cities, temples, divinities and monsters have come to life once more after centuries of slumber.

I sat down a few days ago not only to renew my acquaintance with the NES, but also to play this game more extensively. As expected from a 1988 title, the level of skill required to play it is very demandind from the get-go. The experience itself, nevertheless, is as charming and beguiling as it ever was.

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