Format reviewed: Sega Saturn
A classic decathlon game in the style of Track & Field, Athlete Kings didn’t have an awful lot of competition on the Saturn but still managed to impress with tight gameplay and attractive high resolution visuals. Not only that, but it was a perfect port of the arcade game Decathlete, though this is a bit of a cheat as it comes from the Saturn based ST-V board.
While the button-bashing gameplay was about as deep as it had been about a decade earlier (that is to say “not very”), the charm of Athlete Kings was its inclusion of an international cast of characters with their own individual strengths and weaknesses. British beefcake Jef Jansens was great at throwing events while Chinese teenager Li Huang was a champion sprinter, while the stereotypical arrogant German Karl Vain got to feud with all-American athletic hero Rick Blade. Every character had trademark mannerisms and taunts more akin to the cast of a fighting game than a sports title, which greatly increased the amusement factor during two-player games.
Such was the quality of Athlete Kings that the game’s Dreamcast successor Virtua Athlete 2K failed to live up to its legacy, with fewer events and a lack of amusing competitors. Once you’re bored with Athlete Kings, the winter sports sequel Winter Heat is well worth a look. That game takes many of the Athlete Kings characters and allows them to compete in a variety of sports that revolve primarily around sliding.