The promised next entry in my hopefully endless series of esoteric developer profiles and firsthand making-of accounts is live: A retrospective on The Battle of Olympus. It is, I think, a pretty fantastic piece, bringing to light a lot of information about a mostly forgotten but still somewhat beloved adventure that has never appeared on the Internet before. It’s fun to write something like that.
I have a definite fondness for the game, although I was also part of the problem: I never owned a copy until many years after the fact. It wasn’t lack of interest, just lack of cash. In fact, I had an odd relationship with a rental copy of the game one summer: I really wanted to play it, but I didn’t have any money and was forced to rely on rental vouchers that would show up in weekly fliers for the video place I frequented, which was about a mile from where I lived. Whenever those coupons came in, I’d bike over to the place (in 100ºF+ Texas summer heat) and snag a few days’ rental of a game that looked interesting. Battle of Olympus was out, rented, for most of the summer.
The way this place managed rentals is that they’d stick the empty game box in a protective acetate case and place it on the shelf with a plastic tag sitting beneath it, protruding off the shelf. You’d slide the tag out from beneath the case and take it to the checkout counter, where the clerk would find the game cartridge via the store code printed on the tag—kind of like Toys ’R Us’ tag system, but much more finite. Most games only showed up as a single copy. They certainly only had one copy of Battle of Olympus, and I really wanted to try it… but it was never in.
One day I happened to be in the store while my parents shopped (rather than heading there on my own steam for a rental) and, by a small miracle, Battle of Olympus was in. I didn’t have a coupon or any money, though, so I gamed the system: I hid the tag behind some crummy game I knew no one would ever rent. I think I used the Panesian porn trilogy as camouflage, actually. The place had copies of all three of those games which they displayed right next to the non-pornographic NES games, bafflingly enough. No one ever rented the Panesian games, because how embarrassing would that have been, seriously? And really, who would want to touch those carts? No thanks!
A couple of weeks passed, and I finally accumulated a few rental vouchers and returned to the store where—yes—Battle of Olympus was exactly where I’d hidden it. I rented it for a couple of days but didn’t quite finish it, so I had to wait until another voucher arrived. I didn’t want to take any chances, though; I waited until they’d reshelved the tag and hid it again. In hindsight, I guess this makes me kind of a terrible person, huh? But these are the lengths children will go to in order to play video games, because children are kind of weird and insane.
Anyway, because of all the traveling I’ve done this year, I’ve kind of let myself be railroaded into writing retrospectives at USgamer. Not by design, but just because I’m never home and it’s been hard to keep up with current releases. I intend to spend much less time on the road in the coming year, and more time staying on top of new games. This doesn’t mean I won’t write histories and retrospectives, but they’ll need to be more like this Battle of Olympus piece to make the cut. Unless I can get some first-hand info on a classic game or find some other way to bring something new to the table on a given topic, I’m going to avoid writing about bygone days for USG. No one likes to be typecast.