Written by  :  Luis Silva (13621)
Written on  :  Jan 08, 2006
Platform  :  SEGA Saturn
Rating  :  4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars

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A good button-masher

The Good

For starters, it's good how AM#3 decided that instead of picking an handful of varied sports (sometimes completely unrelated), they went with Decathlon, a real event but still varied enough to allow some variation in gameplay, with the added bonus of being the same athlete on all events. The eight competitors are all finely designed, although some a bit more cartoony than others-

Gameplay is pretty much what's to be expected from these kind of games. Mash power buttons away with the occasional action press, the exceptions being the shot put (which requires only a press to set angle) and the discus, which requires the D-pad to be circled counter-clockwise. Arguably not innovative in any grounds, but works as expected for an arcade title: easy to learn, hard to master.

Now, graphics. The character models are amazing, all finely textured and no clipping (except on some poses and replay cameras). It's fair to say graphically it's one of the most impressive games in the console, and if it wasn't for the less impressive stadium graphics, it could well be a contender for the top spot. The superb animation never drops frames too noticeably, and it's fun to see an heavyweight like Rigel running cumbersomely along the grace of the lighter competitors like Karl Vain or Li Huang.

Record Keeping is also excellent: not only it saves to top results/times in individual events and decathlon/arcade, but also the event results in each of the five top scores of both modes.

The Bad

I really wanted to check the Japanese version before saying this, but the character portrayal is a weak, particularly Ellen Reggiani, supposed to be French but with a somewhat more Italian name and speaking with an American accent, Femi Kadiena, Jamaican but celebrates dancing to a Samba tune and generally allvoice acting leaves something to be desired. Kind of shows a lesser attention to detail than Sega has got everyone used to.

The two games modes are pretty much one and the same. In Decathlon, the player has to compete following the real order of the events, in Arcade the order can be selected by the player, but there's a minimum result in each one of them. And that's all - they could have well added a real competition in the Decathlon, going head to head against all other 7 competitors (although I believe this could put the console in a graphical strain in the 1500 meters). The arcade mode requires some results which are far beyond the 1000 point mark, even in easy, like discus throw.

Finally, a minor nuisance in graphics are the trails when the right angle hits in some events, that block the view and are far too distractive in the high jump. And of course, athletics buffs will laugh at the results Decathletes are able to achieve and some errors in the track design, but as it is an arcade game, so this is excusable.

The Bottom Line

Athlete Kings is a game in the same vein as the classic Track and Field with the addition character selection twist. While it won't leave non-fans looking for more after clearing out the game, button-mashers will find the game enjoyable, and will last a while until all records are at a top level. While it might lack the variety of events of International Track & Field, the game feels less loose-ended and as Decathlon is a truly point-oriented competition, it feels right at home for an arcade game. Highly recommended.