Golden Axe

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North American Genesis box.

Golden Axe, known in Japan as 戦斧 [Sen Ono], "Battle Axe" is a fantasy beat-em-up by Sega, originally released for the arcade in 1989, but then ported to many other platforms. This was the first title in the series which has spawned several more games.

I was in awe of the game when I first saw it in the arcades in the late 1980s because I loved high fantasy movies. Tyris' fantastic fire spirit magic (which reminds me of the ghost from Raiders of the Lost Ark) in the attract was amazing. However, when I finally got quarters and played the game, I learned how unfair it is, and I became disenchanted. This really became apparent when, at my cousin's birthday at a Little Caesars children's restaurant (back when they still existed, circa 1990), several kids at the party were given quarters, and we collectively dumped about $20 in before finally beating the game.

Status

I have beaten the game on the Genesis arcade mode at hard difficulty with a strength of 62.9.

Review

  • Overall: 3/10
  • Best Version: Arcade

Good

  • For the time, the backgrounds are very detailed and attractive, the sprites are well-drawn and animated, the music is memorable, and the sound effects are great, especially the screams.
  • The added graphics for beating up enemies (cracking them over the head, kicking them, tossing them, etc.) is a nice addition.
  • The magic animations are amazing!
  • Letting the player knock enemies off their dragons and steal them was a great addition.
  • I find joy in kicking the gnomes to steal their magic and food, probably because of their annoying giggle.
  • The game's ending is hilariously cheesy.
  • The Genesis port adds an additional final level after you defeat Death Adder.

Bad

  • Player control is pretty poor. Players are left with only a few means of attack (weapon, charge, jump-attack, and roll) and evasion (walk, run, jump), the charge and roll are not obvious, and roll is difficult to pull off.
  • Becoming good at the game requires you to play it non-thematically. Using the simple weapon-swinging attack will get you surrounded and killed pretty quickly, so you have to rely heavily on the roll, charge, and jump attacks. This makes the game look silly and seem like more of a "press the right buttons at the right time" type of game than a heroic adventure.
  • Most of the ports take a serious hit to the graphics and sound, especially the 8-bit computer ports. The Genesis is pretty close, and mercifully allows you to add more health or play on easier difficulties.
  • The Genesis ending lacks the funny run through the arcade, but it's nice to see the cast and credits.
  • The final boss fight in the Genesis port is a pain in the ass. Two invincible skeletons and Death Bringer, who can cast unlimited spells. It basically requires you to hop around like mad trying to whack everyone to the ground before another spell goes off.
  • None of the releases have decent box art.
  • Ax Battler has a stupid name.

Ugly

  • Enemies unfairly have an attack advantage over the player when they first stand up, or when the player is knocked down. This was no doubt added to make the game harder to require more quarters to win, but it results in a great deal of frustration for the player who wants to beat the game fairly.

Box Art

Documentation

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