Golden Axe (Genesis) review
"It seems as if some nefarious evildoing knave by the name of Death Adder (how corny is THAT name) has stolen a Golden Axe. The Golden Axe isn't a weapon you get to use or anything, it's just the sacred artifact that needs rescuing, in place of your girlfriend or sensei. As such, it's rather difficult to care about your quest. I mean, if my girl was kidnapped, I'd be quite riled up and ready to choke a few throats, but the disappearance of a kitchen knife or toolshed mainstay doesn't get me going. "
Golden Axe is like Double Dragon, but fisticuffs and cityscapes are replaced by swashbuckling and the backs of giant turtles.
It seems as if some nefarious evildoing knave by the name of Death Adder (how corny is THAT name) has stolen a Golden Axe. The Golden Axe isn't a weapon you get to use or anything, it's just the sacred artifact that needs rescuing, in place of your girlfriend or sensei. As such, it's rather difficult to care about your quest. I mean, if my girl was kidnapped, I'd be quite riled up and ready to choke a few throats, but the disappearance of a kitchen knife or toolshed mainstay doesn't get me going.
In any case, you'll need to choose one of three mighty warriors to do what has to be done. The main guy is your typical Rastan-like barbarian, who is skilled with the broadsword and looks good in blue boots and shorts. There is a dwarf here too, who seems a good bit sturdier, if not as agile. He wears green, plus he's a dwarf, so I was chuckling a bit, thinking that he was a leprechaun, though of course he is not. Finally, there is a female warrior, who wears a killer red outfit consisting of bra and panties. She is super tough though, and doesn't do any overtly sexy or girlish things, which is something you might expect from sexist programmers that we all lo--HATE. But since this is an isometric viewpoint game, where you move from left to right but can also retreat ''up'' into the screen, doing so will allow you to see her behind, and believe me, all is well.
Like Double Dragon, Golden Axe has you thrashing small groups of bad guys at a time. When one group is dispatched, an annoying sound will blare, and an arrow will insist you move forward to the next group of enemies just beyond. Unlike Double Dragon though, things are dark and difficult. This is not for lack of attacks for the hero--you've got a decent repertoire of moves at your disposal (as far as such games go). There is the jump slash, the run and jump downward slash, and the running body slam or jump kick. And of course, there is the pound the button until the enemy is no more approach. What specifically ensues is your enemy getting slashed, butted with your weapon's handle, and then thrown clear. Unfortunately, while the throw knocks down enemies, it doesn't seem to do much damage to the foes being landed on.
When Golden Axe landed on the Genesis, Sega fans were happy that it made the trip quite intact from the more powerful coin-op hardware base. Unfortunately, the arcade blueprint wasn't a dazzling one to begin with. Golden Axe suffers from a dismal disease. I call it, repetition, with complications of utter dismay. Beating groups of foes isn't as easy as it should be, because they circle behind you with far greater ease and expertise than foes in similar games. The foes themselves are not a varied enough bunch, and the tried and true formulas of 1/bringing back bosses as regular guys, and 2/palette swapping foes, are both really stretched to the limit. Thugs with clubs, skeletons with shields, and amazons with axes all figure into frustrating beatings for the player in various pretty colours. Add to these more common folk, the bald giants bearing stone hammers, and the iron guards who can remove an entire bar of energy from your three bar lifeline with a single hit--and there's a recipe for trouble brewing.
With a friend, things are a bit easier, and the fun lasts a little longer, naturally. But this game should be enjoyable as a one-player contest as well, and for the most part, it's not. One repetition-killing feature Double Dragon offered were the weapons that you could retrieve from fallen foes. Carelessly brandishing bats and knives made the game a lot more fun. Often I would figure my weapon use into my level-beating strategies. Golden Axe equips its heroes with weapons from the onset, so Sega cleverly added several beasts of burden that can be commandeered to run roughshod over enemy forces. A beaked variety swishes its dangerous tail in way of approaching toughs, a dragon-like species spits fire in the path of fiends.
Unfortunately, your journey through the Path of the Fiend (as one of the levels is so poetically dubbed) and beyond is just not much fun. The best parts involve your magic powers, and accumulating the means to pull them off. The powers are of Earth, Wind and Fire (the girl uses Fire, for example), and the means are obtained in the form of vials given up when you beat up on little mages that run about between levels, and about twice during each level. It's enjoyable to beat up on what are presumably your allies, and it's fun to let the heavens rain down death at your beckon--and doing so looks great, (for its time, Golden Axe was drawn and coloured splendidly, though no parallax or more advanced 16-bit-ish effects should be expected). But like so much else in this game, playing Merlin loses lustre in short order. Golden Axe's beasts are inevitably boring; the swarming foes, frustrating; and the music, while extremely memorable in places, speaks of utter melancholy, hopelessness and tedium. And that's probably just right.
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 14, 2004)
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