Golden Axe (Genesis)

Golden Axe Cover

Prediction

I may never have actually played Golden Axe before, but it’s a game that I’ve always been aware of through reputation. It’s held in high regard as one of the greatest hack n slash games of the generation. Personally I love these arcade hack n slash and beat em up games. I grew up playing the Simpsons and TMNT arcade games and they have always been my favorite games. It’s kind of a shame that I never really acquired many good hack n slash games growing up.

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Anyway, I’m really looking forward to playing this game. The genesis was practically made to play arcade ports, so I’m hoping to get that same arcade feel with this game. I love that feeling of just plowing though wave after wave of grunts until some towering boss appears at the end. It’s an amazing feeling and I wish I could afford to buy real arcade cabinets.

Gameplay

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It looks like I’m greeted by death right off the bat. As tempting as it is to play as the Amazon Warrior woman, I think I’m going to go with the Barbarian. I have a feeling he’s going to be the most balanced. I also have to say I’m happy to see at least some kind of story. Too many hack n slash games fail to give even a pretense for why you should go around killing everyone.

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Unfortunately it looks like I’m going to be the one doing most of the dying. For starters, the controls feel kind of sluggish. It’s as if you’re walking through mud the whole time. Also, it seems to retain the arcade difficulty it was ported from. I felt really weak pretty much the whole time I was playing. Enemies were constantly knocking me down, or cornering me and just beating me senseless while I flailed in pain.

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It’s not all bad though. The graphics for example I thought were very impressive. It seems like the characters have a lot more frames of animation than other similar games. Things like when you bash the hilt of your sword on an enemy’s head, or the fact that you kick the small little blue elves instead of swinging your sword. It’s the little touches that really bring out the charm.

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Speaking of the little blue elves or whatever they are, they supply you with potions you need to cast screen clearing magic spells. These are fun to perform, and well worth it to store up your potions for the higher level spells. They won’t ease the difficulty however, and I quickly lost all my lives and continue by the 3rd stage.

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On a second play through I thought I’d try it on beginner mode and with the Amazon Warrior instead. I must say that this is exactly how I wanted the game to feel. It’s still kind of sluggish, but the enemies have backed off significantly. You actually feel powerful this time around. It’s not a cake walk however, and you still need to be on your toes. It’s practically the perfect balance for a home console version I think.

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Her magic is also a lot more impressive. While the Barbarian simply filled the screen with fire, she summons a giant dragon to breathe death down on the enemies. Unfortunately, the beginner mode ends at level 3, leaving me quite unfulfilled. Looks like I’ll have to actually play the arcade mode if I want to fully enjoy this game.

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I gave it one more try on arcade mode, again playing as the Amazon Warrior, but this time increasing my health from 3 to 5 to make it a little easier. Maybe I’m just more used to playing the game now, but it felt much easier this time. I was actually really starting to enjoy myself with this game.

 

This apparently angered the gaming gods. How dare I enjoy myself! In spite, they took control of one of the enemies, and told him to just kind of walk away off screen. Just watch the video, one of the enemies just starts walking to the top left corner and keeps walking clear off screen. Of course I can’t progress unless I kill everyone, and he’s nowhere to be found. So that’s it, I’m stuck on this screen forever with no way of progressing. My 30 minutes are up anyways, but still, I was enjoying myself and wanted to see how far I could get. Oh well, maybe next time.

Verdict

Well, it wasn’t quite what I expected, and I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed. It was still pretty fun, and I can see how other people could really like it. The graphics were great, as was the music, but the controls just felt sluggish. I know the characters usually walk around in these types of game, but Golden Axe had them moving just a little too slow to be tolerable. Compound that with the brutal enemy AI or getting pinned between two enemies writhing in pain, and the game becomes very aggravating. Beginner mode felt more like what I was hoping for, but it doesn’t let you play the whole game, so it doesn’t really satisfy. Then that glitch when I stopped playing could really swing this in either direction. On the one hand it was annoying that it pretty much broke the game. On the other hand it’s kind of funny for an enemy to just kind of run away, and I’m so glad I got it on video.

Price – $20.00

I actually managed to pick this up as part of the Genesis 6-Pak Cartridge. In addition to Golden Axe, it also has Sonic the Hedgehog, Columns, Revenge of the Shinobi, Streets of Rage, and Super Hang-On. For 6 good games in one, that’s a great price.

Fun Rating – 7 / 10

The sluggish movement really killed the excitement of this game. Then being pinned down by enemy attacks piled on to make it frustrating as well. But the screen clearing magic attacks are what kept it fun. It’s definitely on the harder side, which might make some people shy away, but with practice I imagine I might actually become good at it eventually.

Play Again? – Possibly

I was actually doing pretty well before the game broke, and I’d like to play this game again some time. It feels like one of those games that get more enjoyable the more you play it. Plus I’d like to see how the story goes along.

Total Deaths – 20 Deaths

The game is brutally hard, which is to be expected from an arcade port. Arcade games are designed to make you pump all your money into them. Ports actually make this method harder because you don’t have the option to add more quarters for more lives. You’re forced to try to beat it with only the limited lives allotted. Beginner mode felt like the right balance for a home version, and I’m sad to see it doesn’t let you play the whole game like that.

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A+!!! That’s going right onto the fridge!

 

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