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Athletic World Review

Developer: Bandai Publisher: Bandai
Release Date: 1989 Also On:7

Holy balls this is fun! Athletic World was one of the first NES titles to utilize the hot new item of the era, the Power Pad. Originally held by Bandai as the Family Fun Fitness mat, it was in many ways the predecessor to stuff like Dance Dance Revolution and essentially any game involving stomping about on some sort of peripheral to play a game. This was the first time I really took the time to use the Power Pad and man, was I impressed!

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Graphically, Athletic World does its job very well. It has that early-NES feel and look to it, but this was right at the time when they were starting to create more detailed backgrounds and were better able to utilize colors. Athletic World looks wonderful. It has this cartoony atmosphere that makes it look as fun as it plays, the characters are clearly displayed, clearly designed, and there isn’t a hint of flicker to speak of or the slightest slow down. Excellent.

The sound is perfect, throwing Athletic World up yet another notch. It creates a wonderfully fun atmosphere. The sound effects fit nicely too. I can’t say I had any complaints at all in this category, so let’s move on to the next.

So what’s Athletic World like? Well, it’s simple, you have a variety of events to play through, most of which are more fun than realistic, and a variety of ways to play them. Play is only accomplished through the Power Pad, a mat with row of giant spots that function as buttons. Moving your feet on these positions enables your character in the game to move and complete each course, with different movements required for different events. Check out how it looks before I explain some of the cool details of this title:

One thing that impressed me with Athletic World is the sheer amount of variety. When you start you can input a hell of a lot of personal data the game utilizes to determine how you should be playing! Thus, if you’re older, it will tailor scoring and time limits to fit your assumed abilities. Do better, get a higher score and then it gets more challenging the next time. Plus, each event is quite different than the next and put together in the perfect order. You have the hurdles, animal trail, dark tunnel, hop a log, and rafting. First one is obvious, second one involves running and dodging animals, the third involves running up steep inclines, the next involves some serious single-foot hopping action, and the last involves jumping and crouching to avoid obstacles on a river. Simple, but man, talk about a work out! I was impressed with how intensive it was, not to mention responsive. You can try out the events before play and there are different difficulty options to choose. My only complaint is that the pad tends to slide on a carpeted floor and makes a damn lot of racket from all the jumping, so living in an apartment above someone won’t make this the best game to play!

Athletic World was leagues ahead of anything else at the time. There were some pathetic attempts before the NES, but at this point they definitely knew what they were doing and Nintendo was smart to grab this thing before Bandai cashed in. Athletic World makes beautiful usage of the Power Pad and is one of the most creative sports/educational-type games I’ve ever played. Very original for its time.

I’ve come back to Athletic World a number of times. It’s a lot of fun, not to mention a real workout. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such as workout as the cave section, and I run regularly. This game will beat you to the ground! Lots of fun with friends too, in spite of its age. And play time isn’t very short, but it’s long enough to get your heart pumping. Plus, you can either select training sections or go through the whole thing. Lots of options here.

Athletic World is a spectacular title. If you’re looking for one to round out your NES collection for Power Pad titles or if you’re curious what that old thing could do, then this is the game to check out. I haven’t tried the other ones out yet, but thus far I have to say I’m happy with what this game, and the peripheral it was built around has to offer. This is one to come back to from time to time.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9.5
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9
Written by Stan Review Guide