Golden Axe is a 1989 side scrolling beat em up/hack n’ slash for the Sega Genesis developed and published by Sega itself. The game takes place in a medieval fantasy world making your way through stages and retrieving the titular golden axe. There’s also the plot where Gilius Thunderhead (The Dwarf), Ax Battler (The Barbarian) and Tyris Flare (The Amazoness) are all out for revenge against the evil Death Adder who killed people close to each of the 3 playable characters.
If it were just text alone the title screen might of been a bit boring but as well as a nice simplistic logo there’s also some huge awesome 3D Japanese text in the background which notably seems to have weapons as part of it. The music was also pretty decent too. As for the menu options there is Arcade, Beginner, The Duel and Options.
Arcade is pretty much story mode while Beginner is pretty much practice, The Duel on the other hand is very different. You pick a character and fight in an arena against increasingly stronger enemies with only one (deceptively long) life bar. It would definitely be good practice against tougher enemies although I couldn’t help but wonder if it was only worth playing after you’d already finished Arcade.
As for options you’re given the ability to change your health from the default 3 per life up to 5 which is useful but strangely nothing about continues or actual lives. Secondly there is a controls customisation which lets you switch around which of the 3 buttons you want to be Jump, Attack and Magic which is a life saver even for someone who plays via an emulator and PS3 controller. Last of all there is the sound (and music) test which is what you’d expect although its always a nice thing to have either way.
Getting into the game I noticed everything still seemed quite nice despite its age, the controls were easy to use although a newbie might start to think they don’t work. The reason for that is the game seems to punish those that merely spam the attack button and magic isn’t worth using until boss battles. The reason for this is the enemies seem to have the same (or a slightly longer) reach than you and are completely fine with comboing you to the ground repeatedly if you aren’t careful.
The trick seemed to be to continuously use the charge attack which was not only useful and knocked them over but also really satisfying. Of course it isn’t as easy as merely spamming it since not only can you accidentally run into their attacks but they can charge you too making it a rather amusing challenge overall (against normal enemies).
Enemies could also have mounted creatures that you could hit them off of before mounting yourself but it was disappointing just how useless they truly were in terms of usability with their main attack missing quite a lot and a single hit knocking you off. In fact trying to get on one with enemies on screen is insanely difficult because its slow to get on and you almost always get hit immediately when you do. In fact since the normal enemies suffer the same problems and will keep trying to mount them (if you don’t) they’re best used as distractions to get easy kills which is kinda sad.
Each stage also has boss battles and while they are far more powerful they can be lead into the same trap that any other enemy can where you spam the charge attack with it almost seeming easier in a few cases. They’re also accompanied by a few normal enemies which would be annoying but that’s when most people use the magic they built up so that’s easily avoidable. The designs are nice though and you still feel satisfied whenever you beat them so there’s no problem.
Interestingly the home console versions have an extra 2 stages on top of the original 6 the arcade version has, however after playing them I had to wonder if they were really worth it. The big boss was essentially Death Adder again but this time his attacks were essentially cheats and if it weren’t for cheating myself for infinite continues no ordinary person could stand a chance.
Overall the game is pretty decent and worth recommending if you haven’t given it a try, it may have no real strategy to it and the last boss is a bit broken but its still satisfying to play.