Golden Axe (Video Game Review)

Video Game Review
Golden Axe
Sega Genesis
1989
Developed by: Sega
Published by: Sega

Golden Axe is a bad game. Why Sega felt it necessary to release this along with the launch of the Sega Genesis makes no sense. While the game does show off what the system is capable of graphically (although this game isn’t giving Sonic any run for its money in the speed department), the gameplay is dull and broken. There are much better beat-‘em-ups on the Genesis and even if there wasn’t, it’s the type of game that parents should buy for their kids to get them to stop playing video games.

Death Adder has captured the King of Yuria and his daughter. It’s up to three heroes to stop Death Adder and save Yuria from his grasp. A dwarf by the name of Gilius Thunderhead, a barbarian named Ax Battler, and an amazon named Tyris Flare are all up to the task as well as looking for revenge against Death Adder for what he has done to each of them personally.

Players take control of one of the three characters. Each character has their own fighting style, weapon, and magic spells. There are eight levels of moderate length. It takes only a couple of minutes to beat each level but the game is difficult enough that those playing the game for the first time will not beat the game in twenty minutes. Each environment feels different from one another and gives the feeling like the heroes are circumventing the globe in their quest to defeat Death Adder.

There is also a secondary mode aside from the main game. The duel mode presents the player against an enemy with the player needing to finish off all twelve levels of enemies to beat the mode. It’s an interesting option that gives players a bit of a reason to come back to the game once completing the main part but it is hardly worth buying the package just for it.

The controls are pretty simple for the game. The d-pad moves the player’s character around while the C button makes the character jump. The B button makes the character attack although it can be used in combination with the C button to unleash a jumping attack. The A button can be pressed if the player’s magic gauge is filled up enough to use magic. While the controls are simple enough to understand, they’re a bit on the stiff side and sometimes unresponsive. Characters move at a sluggish pace and are sometimes slow to react to commands made from the controller. Adding to the problem is the game’s poor collision detection which can lead to some cheap deaths. The poor controls are detrimental to any potential this game has at being fun.

The graphics are decent. At the time, they were better than anything on the home console market but very quickly, they looked rather simple compared to other Sega Genesis games. Still, the sprites look great and the level design offers some really interesting layouts which were unique to the genre at the time. However, any beauty shown off by a paused screen soon disappears once gameplay commences because the action on screen is slow. Considering this is the console of “blast processing”, Golden Axe is a game that makes watching paint dry seem like an extreme sport. It never feels like the game is going too fast that one needs to take it easy and mind their step controlling their character. The only time where it feels like things are going a little fast is when an enemy attacks and there’s nothing the player can do about it with the unresponsive controls.

The soundtrack is dull and unimaginative. Ultimately, there is nothing good to note about the game’s sounds. The score sounds like something that you’d hear on the Master System. The sound effects, while interesting, feel kind of out of place. Sound was never the Genesis’s strong suit anyways but this game almost begs the player to push mute on their television and create their own soundtrack with their own music library. At least the sound isn’t unbearable or straining to one’s ears. It’s not unpleasant; it’s just forgettable and lacklustre.

This game has some interesting concepts but it seems like Sega rushed this title out. You can’t blame this on it being a port of an arcade game because the arcade version isn’t much better. The character selection, level layouts, and rideable were all excellently thought out ideas that had they been in a better game would have really made that game standout. The biggest problem it seems for Golden Axe is that the developers were still not sure how to program for the Genesis. Considering that Sega released Streets of Rage just over a year later and played remarkably better than Golden Axe shows that perhaps Golden Axe could have been better served by a little bit more R&D.

However, beat-‘em-up fans that have had their fill of other popular series like Streets of Rage and Final Fight may decide to give this game a try considering some of the elements in this game aren’t in many other games of the same genre (like the animals that can be ridden). The game does provide enough unique gameplay that makes it intriguing to play and, perhaps with someone with enough patience, an enjoyable experience. Somewhere buried within Golden Axe is a great game. However, it’s visual overlay makes it something to avoid.

Perhaps if Sega had released a Golden Axe: Hyper Edition Turbo, it would be worth playing. However, if you’ve got a Sega Genesis and are looking for a great action game, there are many other franchises available on the system that makes this title one to pass. Golden Axe isn’t even worth the nostalgia trip. There are several reasons why the Genesis had trouble gaining ground on the NES (and later the SNES) before Sonic became a mainstream game icon. Golden Axe is one of them.

☆☆

 

Second Opinion From ScrewAttack

Here’s a review for the game from ScrewAttack.com. I think they gave this game a positive review because of nostalgia. I too remember this game from 20 years ago. I wasn’t much of a fan of it back then either.
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