Fantasy beat ’em up with swords and sorcery – fight evil and rescue the king!
The evil oppressor Death Adder has kidnapped the king and the princess, and stolen the legendary weapon called Golden Axe. Only the strongest warriors of the realm can hope to defeat Death Adder and save the Yuria kingdom! Three brave souls gather to challenge the threat; Ax-Battler the terrible barbarian, Tyris-Flare the amazon and Gilius-Thunderhead the dwarf. Together they draw Death Adders attention, and the inevitable battle is a fact.
Golden Axe is a side-scrolling fantasy beat ’em up. The Sega Mega Drive version mimics the arcade version very closely but adds a few extras that fans are sure to enjoy.
You play as a champion who has chosen to challenge the evil lord, and on your journey through the land you will get to fight various creatures and use magic powers. The Two Player co-op mode is of course the main attraction here, but anyone looking for a classic fantasy brawler should play Golden Axe. The gameplay is practically identical to the arcade version and the graphics are quite similar. The two big differences is the quality in the music and the amount of levels.
The three warriors you can play all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Strange enough the dwarf being the shortest of them all does have the longest reach with his huge axe. That makes him a very capable character – probably the best fighter of the three. Tyris-Flare has the most powerful magic, but her trade-off is that she needs a lot of Magic Pots, and has a shorter reach with her sword. The enemies you will face include skeletons, magicians, giants and dark knights. Like many other brawler-type games you will face a boss at the end of each stage.
The Mega Drive version has two new levels added that are not present in the arcade version, meaning there are eight levels in total. The added levels take you into the castle of Death Adder and into the dungeons where the final confrontation takes place.
Other additions to the Mega Drive version is the Duel mode, in which you can play alone or against a friend. If you play alone the game will play like a survival mode where you will face waves of enemies and try to survive for as long as possible. With two players Duel mode is a versus battle where you can settle disputes the old-fashioned way.
Collecting Magic Pots will allow you to unleash magic spells regardless of whom you choose to play as. Magic Pots can be found by hitting the small gnome thieves you encounter from time to time. Magic spells will affect every enemy on the screen and more often than not outright kill everything on the screen.
Ax-Battler masters the power of the earth, causing huge volcano-like effects with this magic. Tyris-Flare uses fire magic, causing firestorms from above, or summoning a powerful fire dragon. Gilius-Thunderhead uses lightning magic, sending shocks of electric bolts rippling through the earth.
Some of the enemies you encounter will be mounted on magical creatures known as Bizarrians – Death Adder’s beasts. You can knock these mounted riders from the back of the creature and mount up yourself, taking control of the creature and its special abilities. Some Bizarrians can spit flames, fireballs or just sweep with its tail. Mounting one of these creatures can be very effective, but it can also make you an easy target for enemies as your freedom of movement will be somewhat limited.
The enemies you meet aren’t very smart – you can quite easily fool them into pits and outsmart them in most situations – at least if you are playing co-op arcade mode with a friend. They do, however, use just about every dirty trick a CPU opponent can use; they have inhuman reflexes, will knock you down the instant you try to mount a Bizarrian, and even time their attacks perfectly when you’re trying to get up from the floor. Needless to say, if you are unlucky they can really be annoying to fight against.
Occasionally the enemies will come in large numbers, and that’s where things get tricky. When you get hit by a foe, you will whimper in pain for a brief duration, potentially allowing an enemy to continue landing blows on you until your legs fail to keep you up. When you have a friend with you, you can help each other out of these situations – and that will be a very big deal because that means that you can avoid a lot of heavy and unnecessary damage.
The graphics are fluid and fast – much like the original arcade version. A huge difference is the amount of colors on the screen, which is a lot lower on the Mega Drive version. The levels look a little bleak when compared to the far superior arcade version, but there’s still plenty of fantasy atmosphere to be found in there. The animations are well done though, and works good with the game.
The music is the weakest part of the whole presentation. In fact the music quality is a little disappointing in this version, even when not compared to the original arcade version, the music just doesn’t do the rest of the game any favors. The melodies are the same, but it just doesn’t sound as rich and by far not as grand as the original. It’s a true shame, because the soundtrack is a masterpiece in its own right. The sound effects are characteristic to the original Golden Axe, even if they tend to interrupt the background music.
If you’re going to play Golden Axe make sure you have a friend to play with. Playing alone isn’t very fun compared to tried and true arcade-style co-op, which never really gets old. With a friend on your side you will have a blast, save that the game is pretty short – but you could pump the difficulty level up and prove you are a real champion of Yuria!