Golden Axe (1989 Sega MD/Genenis)

Golden Axe for the Mega Drive/Genesis was a godsend when it finally was ported from the arcades to the comfort of your own home. Or so i´ve heard since being from freaking Iceland we never had any arcades and got all games like a year later than everyone else…. Anyway i never played Golden Axe until me and of course my cousin decided to pick it up last month since it is a co-op beat’em up. We had always stayed away from the game because of its dated graphics but we are in the process of making a Sega MD top 10 co-op games list so of course we had to play it since its status in the retro gaming is somewhat legendary.

You start by choosing 2 out of 3 characters: The human with the insane name “Ax Battler”, the girl wizard and the Dwarf. Each play a bit differently as the girl is the weakest physically but has the best magic, the Dwarf is strongest with the longest reach but little magic while Ax Battler is somewhere in between them both. Then you start battling your way through the stages with the ultimate goal of saving the land and to exact revenge on  legendary asshole “Death Adder” who all the characters have a personal vendetta against.

The co-op beat’ em up…You know the drill

Golden Axe is the beat’em up game that set the standard at its time of release. Later released side scrolling beat’em ups owe a lot to this pioneer of a game. Yes, it is certainly not without its flaws and has been surpassed by many. The first thing you will probably notice is the dated graphics, but you get used to it after a while so i does not ruin the experience at all. Especially since the spell animations actually look very good i think. Truth be told the overall presentation of the game is pretty good thanks to a bitchin’ original soundtrack and hilarious screams of agony of your enemies that make the music pause for an even more hilarious effect. Yes, from a technical standpoint that is pretty bad but the hilarity of the thing totally makes up for it. The medieval in Golden Axe is spot on, somewhat Conan-like which appeals to us.

Try to tell me this does not look impressive! i will punch you in the mouth…

The controls are solid and responsive. You hit, jump, run, hit while jumping, hit while running and use magic with the A button. Hitting multiple times leads to a combo which is your bread and butter move, jumping and hitting in the air can get you out of tight situations and the running attack can be abused on enemies and bosses alike where you can just keep kicking them over and over again until they finally die which is kinda boring really..but effective. Magic attacks consume all magic bottles you carry to make a powerful spell that damages everything on the screen proportionally with how many magic bottles were consumed. All spells have its unique, impressive visuals based on the spell level that surpass all the other graphics in the game. You are going to want to use the magic scarcely and at the exactly right moments when you are in a pickle or need to do a bunch of damage without placing yourself in danger.

Kick abuse, boring but reliable

The enemies you fight are ok, not many will give you much trouble. The skeletons are probably the toughest common enemy of the bunch but the AI is pretty dumb. Sometimes they get you when they attack spontaneously but other times you can just trick them to walk over a ledge and kill themselves because they always follow you in a straight line no matter what’s in front of them. The bosses are pretty cool though i guess but many can just be killed with the dash attack abuse i mentioned.
Despite its flaws Golden Axe is very fun to play and it is by no means an easy game despite of the dumb AI and dash attack abuse. We always play these types of game in the default settings when we play for the first time and that happened to be the most difficult one. The game only has one difficulty settings but you can chose how many life bars you have: 3, 4 or 5. We went with 3 because it was the default setting and we needed multiple runs to finally beat this one. I didn’t really count but it might have been about 10 since this was the first time either of us played Golden Axe. With the only one difficulty setting and 8 stages we felt the game did not last much beyond the first clear since we already cleared it on its highest difficulty, but you should probably play the game with more life bars if you are a first timer and then you have the incentive to play again but like i said it took us about 10 tries so it lasted quite a bit after all.

In the end Golden Axe is a bit flawed but a really fun adventure that will leave you wanting more. I’m sure we will grab the game again sometimes soon but before that we are going to try Golden Axe 2. The solid gameplay is what keeps Golden Axe going and it makes up for the dated graphics that may keep some from playing the game, but that same “dated-ness” feeling makes it even more nostalgic and comical even especially with some fun animation and hilarious screams of death.
If you are knee deep in the co-op beat’em ups like us you should most definitely try out Golden Axe because it is a pretty solid game and a pioneer in the genre.

Gameplay 8,5
Visuals 6,5
Music 8
Lasting appeal 7,5
Is it fun? 9

Overall 8 a very good game


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