Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Athena, World of Labyrinth

My journey through Athena on the NES nears its end! We've arrived at the World of Labyrinth, which I've only seen a couple times before; it's either the second-to-last level in the game, or the third-to-last.

Huh? How is that possible, you ask? The answer, which I've only learned since the Internets have come into their own, has to do with the Labyrinth Key I picked up in the World of Hell. You see, the Key makes you play through the World of Labyrinth as your next level. So if you pick it up in the World of Hell, like I did, then the next level you do will be the World of Labyrinth. However! There's another Key in the game. You can find it somewhere in the World of Sky, though I didn't on this playthrough, and if you do you'll play the World of Labyrinth between the Worlds of Sky and Ice.

So that's the solution to how, when I played Athena as a kid, I was able to see the World of Hell once, and the World of Labyrinth a couple times, and have no idea why the game seemed to be so uncertain about the sequence of the stages. Mysterious!

The World of Labyrinth is an extremely complicated maze. Like the other stages, it consists of an upper level and a lower level, but in this case each level generally has three separate corridors which connect and intertwine, separated by blocks and pits. Since my childhood arrivals at the World of Labyrinth were so fleeting and opaque, I have no idea where to go and die easily.

No K Slate, so this means I start fresh and have to reacquire my gear. I get a Club and a Hammer from the cyclops guys, and encounter a room that will be very familiar before this is over: a column of space the whole screen tall, with three archers popping out of windows in the middle of it. Further along I find the K Slate I wish I'd had earlier.

I find a Blue Hourglass, one of the more important items in this level, given how long it's taking to find my way. At some point I fall down to the lower level, find a Ball and Chain, and climb my way back to the upper level again.

And now I'm trapped, because the only way forward requires me to break blocks below me, and the Ball and Chain can't do that. This might not be the best weapon to hold onto for this level. Next time I get equally lost and find the Pegasus Wings.

You can see that I'm wielding a Club, too. I'll gladly take a Hammer, but that's as high up the chain as I'll go -- mobility in the World of Labyrinth is much more important than damage. Before we leave, it's apparently important to pick up the Harp of Protection.

Not that one! That's not the Harp of Protection, that's a fake! That angel is a Bad Goddess, and can't be trusted! Her Harp will cause you to lose all your items and equipment. In the room after the Bad Goddess, Athena dies. What?

It turns out there is no Boss in the World of Labyrinth, so the only way to escape is to use what in other Worlds was just optional: we need to find a Lamp in order to safely make it past the last room.

There are apparently two Lamps hidden in the level, but the one I find is hidden in the ceiling not far from the start. Now that I have a Lamp, I need to not die, find the location of the Harp of Protection, and get back to the end of the level... in that order!

Those discolored cylinders in the floor look suspicious. I bet that's where I need to go. Sure enough, beneath those cylinders leads to a section of the lower level I couldn't reach before, a giant room full of blocks. Breaking all those blocks reveal a second Goddess, in addition to a number of floating heads that exist just to make things interesting.

This Goddess has the Harp of Protection! Now I need to work my way back to the last room of the level, past the Bad Goddess with the fake Harp (DON'T pick it up!)...

... and to the last room of the World of Labyrinth! As long as we have the Lamp and the Harp of Protection, we should be all set for whatever awaits us in the final stretch. I've never gotten this far before. Next time: will I finally see the end of Athena on the NES?

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