Golden Axe trilogy (Retrospective)

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Zack Burner
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Golden Axe trilogy (Retrospective)

Postby Zack Burner » July 7th, 2020, 8:40 am

Time now for a retrospective of Sega's beloved Golden Axe games, the original trilogy. Do these games hold up, or are they relics of the past now? Let's find out!

Golden Axe (1989)

The one that started it all, the big three Ax Battler, Tyris Flare, and Gilius Thunderhead doing battle against Death Adder who killed a member of each family of the three. The gameplay is standard though effective hack n slash style, though not without a few flaws. The throw doesn't do much damage and you can't throw enemies into each other. The power attack move (where Ax and Tyris spin their sword around and Gilius does a rolling attack) is a little difficult to pull off, and the running jump stab more misses than it hits. The magic system is cool though you can't control how powerful you want it to be. Riding the bizzarians is fun, though the chickenleg feels kind of awkward today, and the dragon's attacks feel a little sluggish. Once you beat the game, there are no alternate routes or multiple endings, though the challenge alone might make people go through it, though you could get burnout depending on your style, myself included. What helps alleviate the trouble is the duel mode which is still quite challenging (I still haven't beaten it), though you can go head-to-head with a friend which helps a bit. The music is quite memorable, though the graphics look kind of washed out and some graphical quirks from the arcade game are missing such as splashing water, the eagle's eye moving, feathers blowing in the wind, and the biggest of all, when you defeat the final foe and his axe gets lodged in his chest, you won't see any blood fountaining. Overall, good but not great today.

Golden Axe II (1991)

The sequel contains the original trio with some new quirks and fix ups, but also some familiarities. While basic gameplay hasn't changed, the magic system got a nice upgrade which is good, you can now control the power of our magic rather than just let it all go out when you use it. The bizarrians here are more interesting, looking more like dinosaurs, the chickenleg still tail whips, the green dragon just kicks with hind legs and the red one breathes fire. The music is quite nice reflecting the desperate situation the characters are in. The graphics are less washed out than the predecessor. The biggest draw is the bestiary in this one, from minotaurs, headless knights, lizard men, and wizards instead of those annoying thieving gnomes to drop magic pots and food. The modes haven't changed except for no beginner mode in this one, and like the predecessor the same straightforward playthrough and no multiple endings. This one holds up a little better than the first, though some claim it's too similar.

Golden Axe III (1993)

The final installment of the trilogy, has some newcomers to play for a total of 4. Gilius you'll see at the beginning, but he's on a crutch. You get Kain Grinder replacing Ax Battler with element of water magic (though he can shoot fire out of his sword), Sarah Burns replacing Tyris Flare, plus Chronos a humanoid panther, and Proud Cragger a half giant. The gameplay is deeper than the predecessors with many hold attacks, the throws actually hurt those you throw into, you get great dash attacks, projectile attacks (hard to pull off but worth it if you can), and the coolest of them all coop magic attacks which are quite cool (you'll need to be close for this to work). You can now build up your life bar by obtaining hearts, and you can even gain extra lives as well by rescuing people (rescue 5 people and you get an extra life). You now have multiple stages and ending which boost replayability big time. The bizarrians are a step down in interest and only one I actually use, you now have a snail with a mace tongue (????), and two dragons green one bite throws the other has a crawling fire (the only one I use and I only use it in the desert stage which proves quite useful against the boss group). The enemy list are half interesting half uninspired, you get basic spearmen and mace women, lame fat club men, though we do get two types of giants: hammer giants and four armed goat-head ones (I call them the cousin of Goro), plus lizard men skeletons. You get one recurring boss an eagleman who's quite formidable and holds a great secret (I won't reveal here). The graphics don't look washed out, but crystal clear now, the music is a mixed blessing, sometimes work sometimes don't. The duel mode gets a major upgrade, you now fight the other characters and after every bout your health gets restored rather than carry what health you have left from a previous fight plus you can choose your battle area as well. Overall, this one has stood the test of time, though some will criticize it for not having the original members. This gets a lot of bad rap which I feel is unjust as I consider this my favorite beat em up of all time.
Last edited by Zack Burner on July 7th, 2020, 9:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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VideoGameCritic
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Re: Golden Axe trilogy (Retrospective)

Postby VideoGameCritic » July 7th, 2020, 8:49 am

Was Golden Axe III a Japanese only release? I don't recall that one.

Zack Burner
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Re: Golden Axe trilogy (Retrospective)

Postby Zack Burner » July 7th, 2020, 8:53 am

VideoGameCritic wrote:Was Golden Axe III a Japanese only release? I don't recall that one.


Afraid so, though there are other methods to play it such as Sega Genesis Collection, Sega Genesis Ultimate Portable Player (which I have, and bought mostly for that game), Sega Channel, and Wii's virtual console.

TheEagleXIII
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Re: Golden Axe trilogy (Retrospective)

Postby TheEagleXIII » July 7th, 2020, 4:44 pm

Golden Axe was always 2nd to Streets of Rage, but still a firm favourite amongst my circle of friends.

I was surprised a few years back when I found out the third instalment was never released outside of Japan, cos I coulda sworn I'd played it. Unless one of my friends got it on grey import - but I highly doubt it.

I was also surprised to learn recently that there were two spin-offs:

Golden Axe Warrior on Master System is an action-adventure RPG. And Ax Battler on Game Gear is just plain action-adventure. I've heard mixed things about both.

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MSR1701
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Re: Golden Axe trilogy (Retrospective)

Postby MSR1701 » July 7th, 2020, 6:00 pm

VideoGameCritic wrote:Was Golden Axe III a Japanese only release? I don't recall that one.

Yes it was, and I was always amused how EGM and other game mags of the day used to warn DO NOT BUY, NOT WORTH IT every time they mentioned it...

Oddly, aside from the original Golden Axe, the only other game in the series I had any interest in was the Street Fighter Clone Golden Axe - The Duel. Now there's a game I'd like to see try to come back.

Zack Burner
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Re: Golden Axe trilogy (Retrospective)

Postby Zack Burner » July 8th, 2020, 8:47 am

MSR1701 wrote:
VideoGameCritic wrote:Was Golden Axe III a Japanese only release? I don't recall that one.

Yes it was, and I was always amused how EGM and other game mags of the day used to warn DO NOT BUY, NOT WORTH IT every time they mentioned it...

Oddly, aside from the original Golden Axe, the only other game in the series I had any interest in was the Street Fighter Clone Golden Axe - The Duel. Now there's a game I'd like to see try to come back.


Ha! Don't believe a word of those outdated reviews. This game is actually a lot better than they say. I say it deserves more attention and respect. Might be a little bumpy at first, but if you give it a real chance, it will grow on you. Remember Castlevania 64? Same thing. At first it will frustrate you, but if you persist you'll find something quite rewarding.

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Re: Golden Axe trilogy (Retrospective)

Postby VideoGameCritic » July 8th, 2020, 8:51 am

MSR1701 wrote:
VideoGameCritic wrote:Was Golden Axe III a Japanese only release? I don't recall that one.

Yes it was, and I was always amused how EGM and other game mags of the day used to warn DO NOT BUY, NOT WORTH IT every time they mentioned it...


You do have a specific EGM magazine in mind? I have them all and don't recall reading anything like this.

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MSR1701
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Re: Golden Axe trilogy (Retrospective)

Postby MSR1701 » July 8th, 2020, 8:54 am

VideoGameCritic wrote:
MSR1701 wrote:
VideoGameCritic wrote:Was Golden Axe III a Japanese only release? I don't recall that one.

Yes it was, and I was always amused how EGM and other game mags of the day used to warn DO NOT BUY, NOT WORTH IT every time they mentioned it...


You do have a specific EGM magazine in mind? I have them all and don't recall reading anything like this.


Let me dig in my files, it was an Import article (Overseas Prospects Inthink it was calles?) From the mid-90s, with a Good Bad Ugly box, so post issue 51.

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MSR1701
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Re: Golden Axe trilogy (Retrospective)

Postby MSR1701 » July 8th, 2020, 9:06 am

EGM#53, page 110 n 111 - two page Spread.
EGM 53 - Gld Ax III.jpg
Electronic Gaming Monthly #053, Page 110
EGM 53 - Gld Ax III.jpg (115.6 KiB) Viewed 583 times

Zack Burner
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Re: Golden Axe trilogy (Retrospective)

Postby Zack Burner » July 8th, 2020, 10:37 am

I feel disgusted looking at that article. I guess the nostalgia of the other games clouded their judgement. I'm not amused.


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