After Shinobi X (aka Shinobi Legions) and WipEout 2097 (aka WipEout XL) this is the third game I'm reviewing which causes some confusion concerning the title due to the fact I live in Europe. Over here this game has been released as Athlete Kings, however in the United States (as well as Japan) it is known as Decathlete. I have no idea why the title was changed for the European release.
Athlete KingsDecathlete is an old-fashioned button mashing track and field game just like the original Track & Field for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This means it's more like a series of mini-games than what I'd call an actual sport title. It's also clearly a direct port from the arcade and Sega didn't bother to add too many bells and whistles for the console version (there is a Saturn and practice mode, but they do not differ too much from the arcade mode).
In total there are 10 mini-games ... did I say 'mini-games' - I mean decathlon disciplines available. Before all the events you get a quick tutorial how to handle the event, but most events are fairly easy to pull off. Especially the three running distances (100, 400 and 1500 meters) just involve banging on one button as quickly as possible. The balance between the difficulties of disciplines isn't very well balanced though; especially the high jump and pole vault were impossible and I didn't manage to perform them adequately once.
The graphics are Sega's typical arcade style of the '90s and made me think of Die Hard Arcade well rendered, but a bit blocky. The camera angles atomically change and aren't always at the spot you want them to be and the scenery isn't very interesting. The sound is nothing out of the extraordinary either, but works fine for the most part. The eight available characters are all complete retards, especially when they perform their 'winning lines' like SUPERRR! (The gay German), I'M NUMBER ONE! (The tough American), HIHIHIHI! (The lunatic Russian), which is so ludicrous that it's actually kind of funny.
I read a lot of praise about this game, so maybe I was expecting too much, but I found the gameplay rather shallow. All you do is press some buttons and you've played through all the disciplines rather quickly, because 10 events isn't really that much. It's more fun in the 2-player mode than against the CPU, but unfortunately that mode also has some flaws. First of all, the loading times between events that players perform separately (e.g. discus throw, long jump) take just a little too long which becomes annoying very fast. Also, in the running disciplines, when the players are on screen simultaneously it's possible to outrun your competitor off the screen! Maybe it's fun, but not very convenient. And why do women compete against men, were there some feminists in the developing team.
So, what this game also has in common with Die Hard Arcade, besides its graphics, is that it's just too little and too short to hold your attention on the long run. It works as an arcade game, if you have a limited amounts of quarters, but for a home console one is just expecting to get more value for their money.
Overall, I can only say that I was very disappointed by Athlete Kings. It isn't really bad, but I was hoping for an exquisite meal, and all I got was some dry sea biscuit. This would be fine if you're on a boat and there's nothing else to do, but if you're a spoiled and decadent gamer, just like me, you look for more than Athlete Kings can offer you.