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Golden Axe

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Golden Axe II
Revenge of Death Adder
Golden Axe III

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Ax Battler
Golden Axe Warrior
Golden Axe: The Duel

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Golden Axe: Beast Rider
Golden Axe Myth

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Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe / Ax Battler: Golden Axe no Densetsu (アックスバトラー ゴールデンアックス伝説) - Game Gear (1991)

American Cover

Japanese Cover

Outside of the regular series of beat-em-ups, Sega also released a handful of Golden Axe spinoffs. For the Game Gear, there's Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe, a strange action-RPG hybrid. The opening text tells us that the gods created the Golden Axe to bring prosperity to the land, but all it does is cause squabbles between various factions, resulting in war and death.

In order to stop this chaos, a wise king locks the Golden Axe away, hoping that no further evil will come of it. Naturally, some bad guys break in and steal the axe anyway. Apparently, the only person who can save the day is Ax Battler, who you will remember as one of the heroes from the original arcade game. Except now he resembles the sprite from Dragon Quest and has a stupid looking winged helmet. Other than the name dropping and occasional appearance of familiar enemies, there's little to tie this in with the arcade game.

Much of the game rips from Enix's longstanding RPG series. You walk around the overworld, looking for towns and dungeons to progress. It features the same clunky tile-based movement and awkward menu system, although there's no real equipment or statistics to speak of. While venturing across the land random encounters will pop up, whisking you to a side-view battle segment. Here, Ax Battler grows to more realistic proportions and needs to take down a single foe. Although all enemies take multiple strikes to kill, receiving a single hit will end the fight for you, removing some of the life meter and denying you any victory spoils.

There are no experience points, but you do get magic vases, which act as a form of currency. You can find towns and enter training centers, which will teach you new skills for the combat segments and dungeons - the latter of which usually produce some kind of item allowing progress through the story. The dungeons are also side-scrolling, although they're much longer than a single screen and feature multiple enemies at once. Plus, you're not kicked out immediately when hit; lose all your life and you'll wake up at the local inn to try again.

It's a novel concept, but it falls rather short, mostly because the side-scrolling segments are so crummy. The characters move awkwardly and attack sluggishly, with sometimes questionable hit detection. Some of the enemies pounce erratically, making it nearly impossible to dodge their attacks. The dungeon sections are worse, playing out like an inferior version of Rastan. And the music is absolutely appalling. Sega gets points for trying with this one, but it's far from ideal.

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Ax Battler (Game Gear)

Ax Battler (Game Gear)

Ax Battler (Game Gear)


Additional Screenshots


Golden Axe Warrior - Master System, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (1991)

Cover

Golden Axe Warrior is a shockingly blatant clone of the original The Legend of Zelda. The graphics are all extremely similar, although the expanded color palette makes for a slightly better looking game. You'll fight similar monsters, enter familiar dungeons, and solve the same types of puzzles. There are minor tweaks here and there, of course. There are 10 dungeons in total, and the first five must be completed before the second half of the map is opened up, allowing access to the remaining five.

The status screen is brought up with Button 2, with attacking mapped to Button 1. This is annoying, since you need to interrupt play to switch to a secondary weapon, but it's preferable to hitting the Pause Button on the SMS console itself. You also no longer shoot laser blades at full health - perhaps that would have been going too far. The music is similar in nature, and quite catchy, although not quite as heroically endearing.

Improving a Classic

There are now multiple save points hidden around the overworld, in addition to actual towns, inns, shops, and people to talk to, which is a nice step up from the crazy hermits in Zelda. There's a separate magic meter, so spells and other special attacks won't drain your money. Perhaps most importantly, you also have an axe with a wider attack range than your sword, which can chop down trees - much better than using a candle to slowly burn everything in sight. This really could be like an alternate Zelda II that adhered closer to the original.

Just like the subsequent Ax Battler, there's very little to tie this with the Golden Axe series. You play as some generic little warrior who looks like a beefy dude on the title screen, but more closely resembles the protagonist from Dragon Quest. You'll run into familiar faces in a few spots, like Gilius Thunderhead (misspelled here as "Gillian"), who grants you his thunder magic if you give up a certain item. These events feature the classic Golden Axe theme, which is a nice touch. But other than the appearance of a handful of familiar enemies, like some of the Bizarrians and those huge bald guys who were prevalent in the original Golden Axe, these connections are very loose.

Still, it ranks next to Power Strike II and Ninja Gaiden as one of the best later SMS releases - like these, it only received a retail release in PAL territories, with limited release in North America - and it's worth checking out despite its shamelessness. The game shows up as an unlockable on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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Golden Axe Warrior (Master System)

Golden Axe Warrior (Master System)

Golden Axe Warrior (Master System)


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Golden Axe: The Duel (ゴールデンアックス・ザ・デュエル) - Arcade, Saturn (1994)

American Saturn Cover

Japanese Saturn Cover

European Saturn Cover

With the looming release of the 32-bit Saturn, Sega fans were expecting a new Golden Axe game with even better graphics, or at least a port of The Revenge of Death Adder. Instead, Sega released Golden Axe: The Duel, a 2D versus fighter featuring some of the characters and themes from the earlier beat-em-ups.

The character selection is an odd one. You don't actually get to play as the protagonists from the old Golden Axe game, instead you get to play as their relatives or one of their descendents.

The hero is ostensibly Kain Blade, a standard barbarian and a descendent of Stern Blade from The Revenge of Death Adder. Meanwhile, Milan Flare is a female warrior who's the relative of Tyris Flare from the first Golden Axe. And Gilius Rockhead is an axewielding dwarf who comes from the same tribe as Gilius Thunderhead from the original.

The rest of the cast is generally rather boring too. Zoma is a creepy green-skinned wizard, and Keel is a wizard thief who kills passersby when they come near the land where he lives. Jamm is a girl who was apparently raised in the wilderness by a beast spirit, and attacks with her giant claws. Green is the last of a race that's part plant and animal, and plays like your typical heavyweight. Panchos is an inventor who is looking for the Golden Axe for unexplained reasons. He is a typical heavyweight and fights with bombs, and seems to be vaguely patterned after the laughing bald fat dudes from the first Golden Axe. Finally Doc is a ninja with a katana, who seems a little out of place compared to the rest of the barbarian tropes.

The coolest aspect is the chance to play as Death Adder. He's bad and he's back as one of the better characters, mostly due to the long range of his axe. He also has a fire breathing shield which will shatter if it takes too many hits.

The action is fairly typical of versus fighters and it uses a six-button setup similar to Street Fighter II. This being a weapon-based fighter, one might be apt to compare it to Samurai Shodown, especially since it uses a similar zooming camera. But it's actually pretty fast paced, and it's much closer to being "Street Fighter Alpha with swords". The gimmick here is that thieves periodically run around the arena, much like the older games. Hitting thieves will cause them to drop magic potions - once your magic meter is maxed out, you can enter a "super" mode, buffing your strength and allowing you to execute your character's special move for a limited amount of time. Contrary to their name, these moves aren't actually anything special and pale when compared to the awesome screen-clearing magic spells of the older games. Little green dwarves will also produce legs of meat, which will heal you a bit. The computer AI for the single-player mode is unfortunately quite obnoxious, even on the easiest difficulty setting.

The art is brighter than the previous games, and looks like a cross between Conan and anime. The backgrounds occasionally have some interesting details - Gilius' stage has singing dwarfs, Panchos' stage has a robot that is ironing some clothes, and Doc's stage has one of those bird-like Bizarrians in the background. The music is generally pretty awful and completely forgettable, while the announcer sounds like Sega hired the same lousy voiceover guy from Super Street Fighter II.

Overall, it's not a complete disaster - it's just that it was designed like Street Fighter II or Power Instinct, when at the time people wanted something more. It didn't help that it's completely generic compared to the harder hitters from SNK and Capcom. Furthermore, it alienated Golden Axe fans, who just wanted another beat-em-up, so it pleased no one and failed big time. As such, it's often regarded as Sega's short-sighted attempt to cash in on the Street Fighter craze using a classic property.

Given that the arcade version ran on the ST-V hardware, the Saturn version is, for all intents and purposes, identical. There are some load times but it has enhanced music - pretty typical of Saturn releases. It was also one of the few titles that received a domestic release in North America before the Saturn died. Just note that it doesn't work at all with the analog controller - it won't even boot up.


Golden Axe: The Duel (Saturn)

Golden Axe: The Duel (Saturn)

Golden Axe: The Duel (Saturn)


Additional Screenshots


Characters


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Golden Axe

Page 2:
Golden Axe II
Revenge of Death Adder
Golden Axe III

Page 3:
Ax Battler
Golden Axe Warrior
Golden Axe: The Duel

Page 4:
Golden Axe: Beast Rider
Golden Axe Myth

Back to the Index