Retro Rant: Golden Axe

Golden Axe gets its mention this week on the Retro Rant. Is it a trip down memory lane, or are the nostalgia glasses firmly attached?

It could be argued that in the 90’s Golden Axe was an awesome side scrolling beat em up that could be played for countless hours after school or on weekends. It’s two player local co-op meant that you and a friend could sit in, hacking up hordes of monsters and skeletons in your quest to stop the evil Death Adder. The game had different play styles depending on which character you picked, and on screen magic effects to blast your opponents. But no matter which character you played as, everyone wanted to be the Dwarf. Sure you had less magic, but you had a cool axe with wide range to chop up all your enemies before they even got near you. In a push, you had a mean head butt to knock them away. Not comparable in the slightest to the warrior with his sword or the amazon with all her magic.  The game seemed tough as nails, the music and art were epic, with a story full of fantasy plot twists! The entire village was on the back of a giant turtle!

Golden Axe

And… here’s what Golden Axe is now.  Playing the game again, its true that it is still fun to pass the time, it definitely has nostalgic value. The games graphics have not really dated well. If you are playing on the Megadrive, they aren’t too bad for pixelated sprites, if you are playing the MasterSystem version, god help your eyesight. There is strong arcade feel about the game, as you wade through the few onscreen enemies that appear, as you complete levels and fight new enemies. Or rather the same enemies. When you were younger, the excessive pallet swapping to make enemy models appear different probably didn’t matter that much to you, but now its painfully obvious. If you can kill three different enemies, you know most of the tactics you need to beat them.

As a modern gamer, you’ve probably become adept at counting frames, which is the key to this game and many like it. Once you know an enemies movements this game becomes pretty easy. If you avail of the fact that Golden Axe had mounts, you can have a bit more fun with it, although, stomping around burning enemies with a pixelated dragon can get boring quickly. To an eight year old in the 90’s though, pretty spectacular.

Golden Axe

The games soundtrack actually holds up well. Its still catchy, and still punctuates the action on screen. Some modern indie games play similar to Golden Axe and Streets of Rage, but they don’t usually seem to get that catchy music anywhere near as good as them. The soundtrack is a definite plus on this one.

The story is really just fluff. A few scrawled lines on a fantasy backdrop. It adds flavor to the game, but its not really like taking an old book off the shelf to read again. Zelda games and Phantasy Star did a better job of that at the time, but being fair, for a side scrolling brawler, you really only need a little bit of fluff.

Replayability. Yes, even though a lot of this game is nostalgiarific, it’s definitely got replay value. Its easy to pick up a control and start hacking your way through levels and still have fun. Golden Axe is widely celebrated and you should have no problem finding it on one of the many SEGA classic collections available on multiple platforms. If you’re a younger reader and have never played it before, you may enjoy it for a change one evening or as part of a retro gaming night.

‘Til next time.

Eric Gallagher
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