Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Athena, World of Hell

We're getting near the end of Athena on the NES now, but it's going to be rough going from this point onward: I've only seen the World of Hell once before this playthrough. I'm starting with the Ball and Chain, so it's the same old story of trying to avoid Pyutans and the Blue Swords they drop.

I'm threatened by a new monster with an ox skull head, but he doesn't seem to be more dangerous than the other land-based enemies. They're most deadly when on the edges of ledges, trying to mess up your jumps.

There's another trick in the World of Hell that we haven't seen before: dark areas. Certain sections of the level have a black background, and blocks in the dark area are also black, making them effectively invisible.

After the dark area, I miss a jump and fall to the lower level... which is full of water?

It's neat to have unexpected underwater gameplay (is this the River Styx?), but unfortunately I'm still terrible at underwater levels and pick up a wand by accident. Let's upgrade it to the Scroll, which is the higher-tier weapon of the Magic line.

That's not a fantastic screenshot of the Scroll, but that disc that it throws out moves in a straight line and destroys any blocks that it touches. It's powerful, but it isn't enough to keep me from the death screen.

'It's just as well,' I think at the time. 'Maybe I can avoid falling down to the lower level and having to deal with the swimming.' I didn't know at the time, but I had just made a drastic and game-ending error. But we'll let Past Me catch up.

Without a K Slate, I've lost all my equipment and items. With all the Pyutans on this level, the Sword line is a clear choice, and I collect a helmet and a shield. I'm slowly rebuilding my gear, and take special care on the tricky jumps that sent me down to the water last time.

In a later dark area I find a Flaming Sword! Things are going great as the Boss slowly scrolls into view. His name is Mado, and he seems to be a multi-armed red lobster sort of creature.

Mado begins shooting fire even as his room scrolls into view, and it can hit you while you're locked into the scrolling of the screen, which is annoying. He disappears and reappears in one of several locations around the room, spewing fire. I wail on him with my Flaming Sword, getting in a lot of hits, and... nothing. For awhile there I have a good run of avoiding his shots, and still he's taking forever to defeat.

I look to the Internets, and it seems that Mado is completely immune to all forms of damage if you don't have Pandora's Box, which drops from the Boss of the World of Ice. Well, that's no problem, because I have... I have... oh World of HELL.

When I dropped down to the lower level and died without a K Slate, I lost all my gear and equipment, which means I also lost Pandora's Box. Worse: there's no way to get it back, since it's impossible to return to the World of Ice to get it again. Through the magic of modern Time Distortion technology, though, I can restart from the beginning of the World of Hell, complete with Pandora's Box. So let's!

That's Pandora's Box up there in the upper-left corner. So I play through the entirety of the World of Hell again, staying on the top level. I make it to Mado, and...

... well, that was anticlimactic. He dies in about one hit if you have Pandora's Box. Somehow that makes me even angrier about the whole thing. World of Hell indeed!

He drops the Labyrinth Key, which opens the way to the next World: the World of Labyrinth. Could it be more frustrating than the World of Hell? Spoiler warning: yes.

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