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Power Athlete – Super Famicom

Power Athlete – Super Famicom

shvcp3frontPlatform: Super Famicom (SNES)

Developer: System Vision

Publisher: Kaneko

Release Date (JP): November 22nd, 1992

Genre: Fighting, RPG

Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10

POWER ATHLETE! YEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!

Doesn’t that title just make you want to punch things?

Fight a bear?

Eat an entire elk!

Scale the highest mountain with your bare hands, then proudly stab the peak’s surface with our star-studded flag?

Yeah, America!

But wait, this game was made in Japan…

That’s right. Power Athlete is a Japanese game made for the Japanese Super Nintendo. The Super Famicom.

So, what exactly might I be doing with a Japanese console, you may ask? Well, that’s not such an unusual thing in this day and age where eBay unites world cultures, bringing foreign curiosities to the foot of your door with one click of a button. Not to mention the huge explosion of video game collecting over the last several years.

What is unusual is running across one of these bad boys at a flea market. But now I’m just bragging.

Okay, so after doing some quick research, I learned they actually did release Power Athlete in the states as Power Moves. What a dumb name. Fitting for this dumb game.

snes_power_moves_p_58qigc

Wow. This couldn’t look any stupider

Anyhoo, I have it for the Super Famicom, so that’s what I’m using as the basis for this review. It’s exactly the same game though (as far as I know, which isn’t very far…).

I have to come clean; before I even turned it on, I was ready to write this game off. I already had a low rating in my mind. My initial impression was bad, simply based on the title, the box art, and the relatively low price tag. But as I settled into it and played the game seriously, I was surprised. Let’s just begin with some of the faults that initially misled me.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 1.03.59 PMThis game is seriously ugly. I mean hideous! Just look at the screenshots. Bulky/poorly-drawn sprites and a generic art style. Some games can look bad but still have a certain appeal. This one doesn’t.

You can only imagine how I first reacted when my eyes were greeted by the poor visual presentation as the ridiculously laughable audio track stuttered its way onto the scene. It’s so silly. Plus, you have intermittent battle cries thrown over the tune to make it even more of a joke. What you see and hear colors your impression entirely as to the kind of game you’re about to play.

One other major flaw is your set of moves. Like many other games, each character has a unique set of special attacks. But for the purposes of this review, we will focus on single-player mode, which forces you to be the default fighter.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 1.03.25 PM

You play as Joe – an all-American man with a face only an anime fan can love. Joe has two basic moves: something that looks like a Hadouken, which is jettisoned from his palms as he shouts something that sounds suspiciously like “Hadouken,” and some flying move. These attacks suck. The flying move is highly ineffective as most of the time you’ll simply soar over your opponent, leaving you helpless as you drop right into their fist. It works occasionally, but most of the time it does more harm than good.

The Hadouken is fairly useful, though it is hard to pull off. Many times you’ll attempt to shoot your challenger with this projectile, but instead, will perform that counterproductive flying move,Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 1.18.00 PM putting you right within the enemy’s grasp. This is due to the awkward button combinations needed to perform both special moves. The flying attack is punch+kick+forward, whereas the Hadouken is back+forward+punch+kick. This is particularly frustrating when you consider how poorly they mapped out the controller.

Your Super Famicom/SNES controller is terribly underutilized here. Shoulder buttons, the X button (by default), and select do nothing! Power Athlete also came out for the Mega Drive/Genesis (as Deadly Moves in the states), so you might be inclined to blame Sega for this one, though the SNES has picked up the slack in games like Street Fighter II and The Lost Vikings (both of which recommended using the Genesis 6-button controller). But even still, typically empty buttons at the very least repeat a function instead of firing blanks. This can be a problem when you’re getting used to controls and find yourself hitting a button that’s about as useful as male nipples.

This brings us back to the lack of moves in the game (Especially strange when the US title is Power Moves). All you have is a punch, kick, two special attacks, and a throw, which I’m still not sure how to perform. It seems to work whenever it feels like it, but perhaps I’m doing something wrong.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 1.28.21 PM

Hey, I did it! I threw my opponent!

The Super Famicom/SNES controller is designed to grant you way more freedom in terms of commands than what Power Athlete gives you. It’s too bad, because fighting could have been more complex, and specials could have been greater in numbers/easier to execute. Then again, maybe they were intentionally made to be difficult to perform. I dunno, all I can say is most of the time you’ll just want to avoid your special attacks altogether.

With all that out of the way, let’s talk about what makes Power Athlete/Power Moves stand out from the crowd.

Now I’m not a huge fan of fighting games. Because of this, they all tend to blur together for me. Often I feel they play similarly and have the same objective, which is to beat the other guy. I’m certain a fan of the fighting genre could edify me on the subtleties of different games in this category, but I tend to play them all like button mashers. Power Athlete, however, is kind of innovative.

If you look at the character selection (which allows you to choose the opponent you face), you’ll notice each fighter has a different set of stats. This is crucial to the game, as you will actually level up your brawler for every sparring partner you defeat, adding an RPG element to the game.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 1.30.49 PM

While I find most fighting games to be repetitive, lacking an end goal other than to simply win a tournament, this leveling system gives me a greater notion of accomplishment. I feel as though there is a sense of progression with something at stake in each round. It’s exciting and immerses you deep into the game.

Another somewhat unique feature is that movement is not limited to backward and forward, but also incorporates up andScreen Shot 2016-03-11 at 1.05.43 PM down like you’d typically see in side-scrolling beat ’em ups. You aren’t given a huge amount of wiggle room on the Y axis, but it’s enough to make a difference. Having the ability to move up and down brings some strategy to your attacks, giving you an advanced way to dodge your foes’ strikes. Certainly for its time, this was pretty innovative.

What really makes Power Athlete stand out is the type of strategy involved. You choose who you face first based on their skills. You fight each challenger differently depending on their own style of combat. Your attacks are limited, but there is enough directional maneuvering and nuance at play to make up for this deficiency.

The backstory plays into this concept of leveling up quite well. Sure, it’s a flimsy plot, but for our purposes, it works. Basically, a young man (Joe) has trained his entire life to compete in this new brand of martial arts competition. So, the long and short of it is, he travels the world to train under several grand masters so he can become the ultimate fighter and compete in this new tournament.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 1.11.07 PM

This plot is nearly laughable. There ain’t nothing unique about the tournament itself, as far as I can tell.

There’s not much to it, but I really dig how the bulk of your fighting is actually with your teachers, almost as if it’s a Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 1.22.20 PMseries of training sessions. It only makes sense that once you defeat your sensei, you’ll build up stats and become more powerful. And it’s something different from the standard “fight the other competitor” mentality. If you look at it this way, story-wise it’s anticlimactic, as the majority of the game will be you up against your trainers, with the tournament itself consisting of one match. Sure, having more stages take place in the tournament would be nice – perhaps three rounds, three challengers? But as it stands, the difficulty is fairly balanced here, so I’m going to give Power Athlete a pass on this one.

The music, other than the goofy character select/bonus stage track, is pretty righteous. Definitely carries the 90’s action tone pretty well. My one complaint in this department is that while the music is pretty rad, it all mostly sounds the same. Although, when good music is good, you can’t really complain, right?

I like this game. I found it fun, challenging, and a bit addicting to play. It definitely has plenty of room for improvement, and I wouldn’t call it a great game, however, if you can overlook some of its flaws, it might be worth adding to your collection. The stiff, limited moves probably won’t appeal to fans of the fighting genre, but for people who appreciate eccentricities and unique gameplay mechanics, this could be a fun title to pick up and play.

There’s a lesson to be learned from this review: Never approach anything with a preconceived notion – or, never judge a book (game) by its cover. Although I think I’m starting to like the box art.

Written by ZB

ZB

Since the tender age of four, I have been playing video games to occupy my free time. Raised on Nintendo and Sega Genesis, I have an extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the classics. Also an avid collector, I have accrued such consoles as the Atari Jaguar, Super Famicom, Odyssey 2, Sega Nomad, just to name a few.

Got any questions, comments, concerns, or threats? Feel free to email me at zb@nerdbacon.com. I am happy to hear your feedback!

 
 

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4 Comments

  1. Bro, that American box art is hot liquid garbage. Who thought that was good? Who thought that would draw in sales? Who approved that shit to go out to stores?

     
  2. Dude what’s with the fighter’s names?? Joe vs Nick! Warren! What in the world.

     

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