Athlete Kings

Athlete Kings
Game Name: Athlete Kings
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): SEGA
Developer(s): SEGA Sports
Genre(s): Sports
Release Date: 1996
Serial Number: MK81115-50
Region: PAL

The original ‘Track and Field’ arcade game has a lot to answer for. It’s rather simplistic but addictive button-bashing, stick-wiggling gameplay was converted to practically every home video game system ever made. If it wasn’t a straight conversion of Track and Field then it was a clone of it: Summer Games, Daley Thompsons Decathlon and Olympic Games to name but three.
Over the years there must have been a profusion of broken joysticks, all caused by the desperation to do a sub-10 second 100 meters. However, if this is your idea of video gaming heaven then your in luck on the Sega Saturn thanks to Athlete Kings.

Athlete Kings Screenshot 1

“No matter what the event, and no matter how fast you’re going, you never get the impression that your character is really shifting.”

Athlete Kings is a conversion of the 1995 Sega coin-op Decathlete in which you get to compete in all 10 events involved in a Decathlon. The game is split into two modes. First is the Decathlon mode itself in which you can play through all 10 events in standard order.
Points are awarded for your performance in each event and, when completed, you will be rewarded with your final decathlon score. There is also Arcade Mode which, unsurprisingly, is a straight port of the arcade game. 
In this you can select which of 5 events you want to play from day one but must achieve a qualifying mark on that event in order to progress. Once you’ve qualified from all five events you then move on to the next five in day 2.

The main thing with athletics game is how the actual events play. You can have all the bells and whistles in the game you want, but if the events suck then the game will suck. Also with 10 events involving running, jumping or throwing there needs to be enough variation in gameplay between them. Athlete Kings succeeds on both these points – just! Of the running events, the 100m and the 110m hurdles are the same with just the odd button press to jump. The 400m and 1500m are slightly different in that you need to strategically pace your button-bashing to conserve energy over the extra distance. 
The throwing events are standard fare with the objective being to achieve full power and the optimum release angle. 
The discuss tries to shake things up a bit by having you rotating the joy-pad or stick to accumulate power. 
The jumping is slightly more complex with both the Pole Vault and High jump requiring you to use the joy-pad to arch your body during the jump. 
Before each event there is a nicely animated explanation of how to play the event. However anyone who’s familiar with any track and field games before will quickly be at home with all events.

The graphics are certainly more arcade style than simulation. You have a choice of 8 characters all of which have a rather cartoony appearance, from Jef Jansens with his huuuge afro, Aleksei Rigel with his huuuge muscles to Ellen Reggiani with her huuuge, err, ability. The animation is smooth enough although one gripe is the lack of a feeling of speed in the game.

Athlete Kings Screenshot 3

“Where Athlete Kings does become great fun is the multiplayer mode.”

No matter what the event, and no matter how fast you’re going, you never get the impression that your character is really shifting. The backgrounds to the events are OK without being jaw-dropping and the

obvious problem with the appearance of games of this ilk is that most events look very similar. There is a good use of bright primary colours which again portray a cartoon style atmosphere. The sound is fine during the game but the noises as you navigate the title menus are very annoying. “Uh-huh”, “Uh-huh”, “Uh-huh”. Sounds like a poor Elvis impersonator!

 Where Athlete Kings does become great fun is in multi player mode. Games like this are always about competition. Who can get the highest score, who is better at which event and can you break the world records. The field events are mainly ‘turn based’ but the track events are directly against each other.

If you’ve played the game enough times then eventually you can get decent world records set which last for weeks, and the satisfaction of turning round and taunting you’re mate after finally breaking his 5 month old Javelin world record is great. Obviously in single player mode it’s not as fun. If you’ve played enough to set your own tough-to-beat world records then you’ve got a competitive edge. If not however, then there’s no computer character to play against so you’re relying on the Arcade mode to pose a challenge. This is fine although it can be very frustrating as you can qualify from most events easily but then there is just one event where the qualifying time seems ridiculously hard.

 In summary Athlete Kings is a decent athletics sports game.

If you’re fans of the genre and have mates to play it with then it’s a great title. If you’re playing it on your own then you may find the game limited but should it should still provide some enjoyment.

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