Monday, March 21, 2011

Athena, World of Ice

We've arrived at the fifth stage of Athena, the World of Ice. In his book How to Win at Nintendo Games #2, by Jeff Rovin, he had this to say about this level: 'You'll go to the World of Ice after that [beating the dragon Boss of the World of Sky], but it's neither slippery nor very different, strategy-wise, from what's gone before.'

Jeff Rovin may, in fact, be a liar.

I'm joking, of course, but there's one very significant difference about the World of Ice that's going to cause me trouble on this leg of the journey, and has caused me difficulty just about every time I've tried to play Athena. But more on that in a moment.

The upper level of the World of Ice is a palette-swapped variation on the World of Forest, in dull and muted tones, and the lower level is a similar variation on the World of Cavern. I grab a Life Flower right at the outset, but I'm in pretty rough shape: my life gauge is still low and I'm on my very last Athena. It might be most painless to just get it out of the way and start fresh from a brand new Continue.

I go ahead and choose Continue, and my K Slate lets me keep what gear I still had. I'm trying to hang onto my Red Sword for while, so I avoid picking up the numerous Clubs that keep dropping.

That Flying Pyutan up there is what killed me last time; he shoots deadly Ice Arrows. Continuing on a ways, I find a Flaming Sword in a block near the bottom the screen! Flaming Swords require a little cost/benefit analysis: they're extremely powerful and completely fill up your life gauge. But they also cost one unit of your life gauge to swing, so unless you pick up a Goblin Hand to downgrade the Flaming Sword after a time, you'll swing most of your life gauge away!

I decide to pick it up, because firepower is a great thing to have in the World of Ice. Shortly afterwards, while I'm concentrating on not losing the Flaming Sword, I mis-time a jump and fall to the lower level!

Luckily I find another one on the lower level before too long, and also a rare Crystal Ball. The Crystal Ball reveals the location of items inside blocks by displaying question marks.

I move further to the right and... oh. It's the Boss already? I really thought at some point I'd hit a wall and climb back up to the surface. I wasn't expecting to see this guy yet!

Here's the problem: Gryupus (which is apparently his name) is completely immune to any weapon that isn't part of the Bow and Arrow line. If you arrive here with a Yellow Sword, like I have, you're simply out of luck. So the World of Ice is, in fact, a little different strategy-wise than what's come before: you need to ensure that you pick up a Bow before arriving at the Boss, or you're just going to get stuck.

A short distance before the Boss, there's a Bow hidden in a block; that's what I should have gotten. If you have the Bow, he's very easy: just stand to his right, jump and fire arrows.

Once he explodes, he'll drop three items: a Club, a Schoolgirl Dress (for an extra life), and... a box? Each of these are important:

1) The Club - if you only have a Bow and never upgraded it (which you won't have if you got the "last chance" bow right before Gryupus) you'll need this to break the blocks in the tunnel to the last room, or you'll be stuck.

2) Schoolgirl Dress - if you're playing without the aid of useful modern tricks like the ability to save anytime, this Schoolgirl Dress feels like a consolation prize since it's so easy to arrive at Gryupus without the proper weapon.

3) Pandora's Box - I didn't recognize the significance of this box, and it'll cause me trouble soon. Just remember that we picked it up from Gryupus with no explanation of what it does.

This is the last room of the World of Ice, and beyond lies a level I only saw once before this current attempt to finally make it through Athena on the NES: the World of Hell. Ominous! And if Jeff Rovin led us slightly astray with his brief description of the World of Ice, it's just as well that his chapter on Athena didn't get to the World of Hell, because in terms of unfairness, this is the worst level of all! See you next time for a real barrel of monkeys.

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