Golden Axe Review

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Golden Axe will be a name unfamiliar to many gamers who have long housed Nintendo consoles under their televisions. To those boys, (now young men) who owned the Sega Mega Drive though, this name will no doubt be fondly remembered.

Golden Axe is a Mega Drive port of the popular arcade game which was released back in 1989. It is a side-scrolling beat-em-up set in a fantasy world with three characters out to get revenge of the evil “Death Adder” who has caused suffering to them and the world they inhabit. Even though it is one of the oldest 16 bit titles out there and was justifiably considered inferior to the arcade original, it still retains its great gameplay and charm today.

The VC release of Golden Axe appears identical in every way to its cartridge original with the added bonus of the Wii save states. The game features a number of play modes including story mode, the duel and the beginner mode. Story mode is where the meat of the package resides with eight levels set against different backdrops such as a village, a forest, a castle and even a giant eagle. Story mode like all other modes can be one or two player but the most fun is definitely had with two. In ‘The Duel’ you can fight a friend or a series of enemies who get tougher and/or more numerous as you progress. Finally, beginner mode is a much easier, three level long story mode and is best avoided by the seasoned gamer.

In each mode you select from three different characters. Tyris Flare is an amazon warrior wearing a highly impractical bikini but making up for this with some impressive acrobatic moves. Ax Battler is a barbarian wearing some equally impractical ‘battle jocks’ and definitely the all-rounder of the group. The final character is a dwarf named Gilius Thunderhead who seems to be every ones favourite with his large axe. As well as differences with combat moves the characters all also have a magic meter which is filled up by collecting blue pots from little thieves in the game. The amount of pots you have dictate the power of the spell cast but there is also a set limit for each character. Tyris Flare has the most powerful spells and Gilius, the weakest. Each character can also hop on a dragon or a ‘chicken leg’ which are found in a few levels in the game and start hurting enemies with either fire or whipping them with a big tail.

The graphics on Golden Axe weren’t considered very good when the game was originally released especially in comparison to the original. In stating this, they are still not bad from the home console standards of the time. The levels are mostly well designed and the character animations look very good. As well as the duel and beginner modes Sega added two extra levels not featured in the arcade game which partially makes up for the visual weakness to the original. Overall the later releases by Sega such as the Streets of Rage series still make me question whether more could have been done to bring this closer to the arcade game.

The sound in Golden Axe is for the most part fairly average and yet another area where the arcade original triumphs. The battle sound effects are probably the best aspect of the game with some nice sword swinging and axe chopping sounds. When the enemies are killed there are a couple of different screams which sound alright but not great. The music is for the most part catchy but still really showing its age today. Back in the day the sound was above average and even though the Mega Drive had a weaker sound chip than the SNES, it was still capable of much more than was on offer in Golden Axe.

Overall Golden Axe probably won’t be seen to have aged well where visuals and sound effects are concerned but the game play is still very good with a lot of fun to be had with a second player. It is not a very long or difficult game but is open to a lot of replay in mastering the three characters and completing the duel mode. I would recommend it particularly to those who enjoyed games such as Double Dragon on the NES but missed out on what Sega had to offer.

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