I’ve gone to PAX East for the last two years, and am always amazed at what companies put into their advertising. Last year, the main entry boasted a huge display from BioShock Infinite. This year the exhibition floor touted larger-than-life sized sculptures for Borderlands 2, and companies doling out swag in the hopes of peaking gamers’ interests. Through all that, it’s easy to find the games that become overrated: games whose advertising schemes outweigh the real appeal. But what about those games whose developers don’t spend a lot in advertising, don’t get announced or flaunted at things like E3 and the PAX conventions, and mostly slide quietly by, generally unnoticed in the chaos?
I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in the NES generation. There were gaming magazines, like Nintendo Power, but not the same kind of hubbub that exists today. Games were advertised on TV, sometimes stores had posters up, but generally the advertising was low-key. The big franchises certainly got their share of exposure, but the smaller games, not so much. It was during this time that I, as a 12-year-old gamer girl, saw a single commercial for the game Battle of Olympus. At the time I was obsessed with Greco-Roman mythology (still am), and that one ad, showcasing the potential to play through mythological settings with mythological creatures, excited me. Luckily my brother’s birthday was coming up, so I asked my parents if we could get that for me. I mean him. Right.
Battle of Olympus is a side-scroller in the same style of Zelda II, Link’s Adventure. It was released in North America in 1990 for the NES by Broderbund. It played nearly the exact same as Zelda II, down to the animations. It didn’t get much publicity, and didn’t get a lot of hype, and even now when I bring it up, most people don’t know anything about it. Imagine my glee when I mentioned it to Bard and he not only knew of it, but also has a copy!
The game had several settings from ancient Greek myths, and dealt with such mythological creatures as Gaea (mother earth), the Hydra, the Centaur, and the Minotaur. One section had you, as Orpheus, traversing the labyrinth of Crete in a quest to find your beloved, kidnapped by Hades. You could call on Poseidon’s dolphins, or play the lyre at the shrine of Apollo and call Pegasus. The worlds were bright and colorful, the game play fun, the mythological references awesome (if a bit skewed, as I now know from my experience teaching it), and most of all, it had the best music.
If I search Youtube for Battle of Olympus now, I can come up with many videos of the music and the gameplay. It brings back many memories, all of them fond. It reminds me of a time before God of War, before xbox, before all this financially-based advertising craze. While that’s all necessary now, remembering Battle of Olympus reminds me of what it was like to be excited for a game’s release for the very first time ever.
I never saw another ad for Battle of Olympus, and it seems to have been lost to the annals of gaming lore and legend. There are some who know of it, and understand how great it really is. But the vast majority haven’t ever heard of it. It’s for that reason that I think Battle of Olympus rates as a truly underrated game.
Tomorrow: Day 4, Your Guilty Pleasure Game