Thursday, 10 July 2014

Golden Axe (Megadrive)

1989, a good year, no idea why

It's an old game, but a good one over all and depending upon which system you play it upon, you may end up with more levels than you realise. Golden Axe IS still a good game and one that stands proud as part of the golden age of the arcade brawler with its multiple characters, spell system, combos and various attacks and multitudes of enemies, mounts and bosses (see: palette swaps).

Green, Blue, Red, in order of attack power and reverse order of magic power
The story is simple enough, some prick has a giant axe of gold and rules the land, you need to go drop an anvil on his head in the form of slaughtering his army one-by-one until you get to him, settle your differences and then maybe go on to fight his boss as well. It's a storyline taken from nearly every swords/magic/might/barbarian type of film going that it's effectively made it into its own little interactive film.

You start with your character, either the blue themed barbarian with his sword, muscles and very little else being worn. The red themed Amazonian type warrior woman, wearing slightly more than the barbarian and having a smaller sword but the most magic potential (i.e. summon a dragon to cough up all over your enemies) and then there's our green diminutive coloured dwarf, who thanks to an incident in Ireland many years back I will dub "Murphy".

Yes, the last boss IS using that dragon on you.
Murphy and Co. will run the gauntlet of levels, enemies, dragons, odd chicken monsters and more to get from left to right in order to punch faces, stab bodies and hack up fuck ups everywhere. Liberating a giant turtle, giant bird and some identical looking villagers (sprite limits etc). While punching out small baldy, big baldy, skeletons, dragon riders, warrior women, ghosts, knights in full body armour, some muscle bound nutcase with a giant axe and magic powers, some muscle bound nutcase with a giant axe and even more magic powers and his two immortal skeleton bodyguards. It's a BIG list of enemies for a small game and colour swapping is RIFE.

As you can see, it can quite action packed on the screen from time to time.
As you wander the land, you'll meet some really quick-footed and ANNOYING little bastards that will drop magic potions and meat. Magic potions fill your magic meter and the more you have, the more powerful your magic attack will be when you unleash it all at once (except in beginner mode) and watch as something happens, enemies get hurt, then usually get up to keep fighting until you kill them that little bit quicker. The more magic you have when you use it, the more damage you do.

Looks like a fair fight...
You'll quickly learn to treat skeletons as hell spawn that need to killed quickly before they do some heavy damage to your health bars, while most bosses are too slow to be a real threat, it's about their backup that's the issue (except Death Bringer.. his backup never dies). While certain moves are more powerful and that the enemies will not nicely wait while you beat up one of them and if there's more than one, one WILL try to flank you and get behind you. It happens every time but it's nice to see the AI was written to give a challenge, more so than quite a few brawlers I can think of.

Oh ok, an eagle, like I care just get me to the last level!
The music is fairly standard, nothing really to write home about but you'll find yourself humming the initial bars to the first level here and there and the sound effects... well let's just move on for now. Ok they're shat for the most part, some repeated and recycled poorly for the wrong enemies too.

Like the dwarf, I was very unimpressed by the opposition.
Gameplay is the usual arcade affair, you'll likely play it a few times and even less if you manage to beat it, but there is the co-operative play for a friend or the solo basement dweller can opt for the duel mode which is a gauntlet of levels with ever increasing enemies until you beat it or die trying. It does add a quick play mechanic to the system and works rather well as both a challenge and a warm up to playing the main game.

That's just embarassing.
It has its glitches and it has its exploits you can use, getting caught between two enemies at once is a pig when the engine will let them wipe you out in a combined twitch-up of a combo, but for the most part it's a good, solid game that can be enjoyed even today.