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Golden Axe

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Reviewed by Michael LoCascio One of the major reasons that the Sega Genesis got a head start on the rest of the 16-bit world (aside from Nintendo taking a couple of extra years to even release their machine) was their impressive catalog of arcade hits. As mediocre as it was, the success that Altered Beast achieved in the arcades helped sway many gamers who were trying to decide which new system would be the wisest purchase. Such name recognition was lacking on the rival Turbografx-16 system, and as a result, the Genesis took off. One such arcade conversion that most gamers immediately snatched up upon purchasing a Genesis was Golden Axe, a classic hack-and-slasher that undoubtedly brings back fond memories for many veteran players. As one might expect, Golden Axe wasn't the most complex of games. Picture Final Fight in a medieval setting, with characters that prefer swordplay to fisticuffs, and you've got Golden Axe. A typical quarter-muncher, Golden Axe focused on simple, non-stop, right to left action. For what it was at the time, it was spectacular. There are three characters that you can choose from in Golden Axe, none of whom display any originality or creativity. First, you have the short strong guy, who swings a mean axe but lacks the gift of speed and isn't very skilled with magic. Then, there's the requisite "warrior woman", who can move swiftly and has obviously studied magic for quite a while, but can't pack very much of a wallop. She does make sure to wear as little clothing as possible - after all, who needs any equipment or protection when going up against eight-foot-tall swordsman and fire-breathing dragons. Lastly, there's the "all-around guy" - you know, the character who is decent at everything, but masterful at nothing. While there's nothing particularly special about any of these characters, they each possess their own individual appeal, and different players will undoubtedly have differing opinions on which warrior is the "best" to use. A trademark of many early Genesis titles, Golden Axe is a two-player game, so repeated play will lead to each player becoming proficient with a certain character. Once you get used to how each character moves and acts, you will find that they are all capable of getting you through the game - especially considering that the quest in Golden Axe is a rather easy affair to begin with. Speaking of your quest, Golden Axe requires you to do standard good-guy business: save a king and queen and beat the bad guys. In between each stage, the game brings up a map along with a small bit of text. This represents the game's effort to have an ongoing story run throughout the game, but the text isn't very effective - or necessary, as it really has very little to do with the game play. For instance, the text may tell you that one stage takes place on the back of a giant bird, but if you simply played through the stage without reading the text, you probably would have suspected that you had been fighting your way past a generic-looking mountainside. The settings of the game don't work very well with the actual story, but since the text is irrelevant anyway, it's a good idea to just skip the intermission scenes and get on with the action. The controls in Golden Axe are simple and effective. The three buttons on the Genesis control pad allow you to jump, attack, and cast magic. You can also pull off some dashing and throwing moves very easily. Occasionally, you will be granted the opportunity to climb atop certain creatures and let them do the dirty work for you. Magic works well enough, and adds a bit of strategy to the inelaborate game play. Prudent gamers will know when to use their magic and when it is wiser to hold on to it and strengthen it further. Swift little thieves come running by quite frequently in Golden Axe, and by giving these miscreants a good smack with your weapon, you can make them drop magic bottles. Collecting these bottles will make your magic more powerful (up to a certain point). Golden Axe has some rock solid visuals. The backgrounds are drawn well (even if they don't quite match up with the text sequences), and most of the characters in the game are large and detailed. The huge bosses in the game were particularly impressive; such tremendous characters were very rare in the days of the NES, but Sega transmitted these behemoths perfectly from the arcade to the home console. The music and sound effects are low key and unimpressive, but they certainly won't require you to mute your television. Golden Axe is an enjoyable hack-and-slasher that you will probably come back to many times, thanks to the two-player mode and the impressive enemy cast. After many years of playing the game, I purchased a copy of the game used not too long ago - simply because it's a fun title that provides some solid multiplayer entertainment. It shouldn't be at all hard to find, so if you own a Genesis and don't have this game, I highly recommend that you stop by Funcoland some time and add it to your library. Overall: 7 / 10

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