Liam’s Game Room #18 (Golden Axe, Genesis)

Introduction

Golden Axe is a side scrolling beat em up game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis in 1989. Golden Axe originated as a Japanese arcade game in 1988 before being ported.to the Sega Genesis a year later. The port of the game is like for like what the arcade version was, but there were some adjustments made to make the game playable on the Genesis. For example, the graphics had to be somewhat downgraded because the Genesis was not as powerful as the Sega arcade architecture of the time. Also, the soundtrack and sound design had to be ported and changed because the Genesis sound chip was completely different to the arcade sound chip.

Golden Axe was ported to the Genesis at a time in gaming history where there were many home ports of famous arcade games. One of the  most famous games to be converted from the arcade in this way was Mario Bros, which was ported to the Atari 2600 in 1983 before eventually being ported to the NES. Sega did this with quite a few of their arcade games and initially the ports were to their previous console, the Sega Master System. Games such as Space Harrier and Flicky were ported from the arcade and had home console versions. The mentality from console developers was that the player could have a version of their favourite arcade games at home rather than needing to go to the arcade to play. However, these home console versions would generally be sub standard versions and the only console that could make like for like arcade conversions without the quality of the game being affected was the Neo Geo console released by SNK. The.problem with the Neo Geo was the fact that the console was extremely expensive and cartridges for the game at the time could go for as much as $200 each.

Story

An evil entity known as Death Adder has taken the King and his daughter captive in his castle in the Medieval land for Yuria. Death Adder also finds an almighty weapon known as the Golden Axe, which is the magical symbol of Yuria and is threatening to kill them both unless he is declared ruler of Yuria. The 3 playable that the player can control all have had relatives and family killed by Death Adder and leave Turtle Village to try and defeat Death Adder and say the kidnapped Royals.

Golden Axe 1.png

The story is quite a simple story, but a story that is written in such a way that no matter which character the player picks, they are very closely related to the main villain of the game and is seeking revenge. What this does quite well is allow the player to become attached to the player and feel sympathetic towards the character because the player could feel a sense of responsibility for getting revenge with their character.

Gameplay

Golden Axe is a 2d side scrolling beat em up with the combat being centred around defeating all enemies on screen before the player can progress to the next section. The player will need to move up and down as enemies do not attack directly, but more from in the background and or the foreground, which gives the combat a 2.5D effect. This was a style of game was still quite new at the time and later games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage would also use this style.

This style that Golden Axe goes for I actually don’t like because I find it difficult to understand where the enemies are in reference to my character. This makes the game feel somewhat clunky and also means that the only way I progressed through the game was to use cheap and easy strategies. The worst part about the combat is the lack of being able to dodge enemy attacks, which becomes a major issue when the player is stuck between two enemies. When this happens, the player can end up losing a life very quickly and the problem is that this situation doesn’t feel like a problem with how the player had been playing prior, but more no way of being able to block enemy attacks.

The graphics in Golden Axe are fantastic and all the backgrounds look unique and very well detailed. Each individual stage has it’s own unique look to it and even the time of day progresses as the player progresses through each stage. The enemy design is quite good, although I have one issue with the way the enemies are designed, especially with the later levels. There is one enemy that is used in 3 stages, which is just reskinned in the later stages and made more. However, apart from this one small gripe with the enemies, all the enemies in general are very well designed and have great attention to detail. Everything from the weapons the enemies are carrying, through to the detailing of the armour and shields that the knights wear in the later stages, the game still looks really good.Golden Axe 1-2.png

Comparing the graphics from the Genesis version and from the original arcade version, the graphics on the Sega Genesis port represent the original arcade version very well. It isn’t a perfect conversion from the arcade, but this was one of the first arcade games Sega ported for the Sega Genesis. Also, the game was released in 1989, during the infancy of the 16 bit console era and the Genesis was a new console, so considering the time period that the game was released, I feel that the graphics have held up relatively well.

The final gameplay aspect of note is the game has multiple game modes called arcade, beginner and the duel. The interesting thing about all 3 of these modes is that the player can either play solo or coop mode with 2 players. The difficulty however does not scale for these two different versions of the game and it means that playing the game coop is much easier than playing solo.

The arcade mode is the game with all 8 stages from the original arcade games, beginner mode, which is an easier version of arcade mode, however beginning mode doesn’t go all the way to the final boss. The duel mode is a 1 vs 1 survival mode where the player’s health is not replenished between fights and feel more like an endurance mode. These three modes offer a lot of replayability, as well as a good entry level mode in beginner mode for player who are new to the genre.

Music

The soundtrack of Golden axe is one area where the Genesis version is better in quality compared to the arcade version. The arcade version sometimes feels quite sparse and doesn’t really have much of a impact, whilst the Genesis soundchip allows for some great drums and basslines. Each stage has it’s own distinctive theme and feel, which represents the location and also the feelings that the player and characters are feeling. For example, the stage 4 theme is very spooky and also quite tense because the player goes down a level that is considered dangerous called the “Fiend’s Path”. The tension in this theme makes adds an additional depth and makes the stage quite memorable.

The theme in the final stage is dark and intimidating and really represents how powerful Death Adder is. The intimidating part of it also creates the feeling of pressure on the player because the fate of the land is in the hands of the player. The first boss in the final stage before Death Adder is also a difficult boss and the musical themes represents how difficult this boss is.

Conclusion

To conclude, Golden Axe is still a good game, but the game is not my sort of game. The graphics are fantastic and the level design is very well detailed. The enemy design is great and the multiplayer aspects adds a lot of depth to the game. The different game modes also allow players of all skill levels to either get used to the style of the game or veterans to speedrun the game.

A good game, but just not the sort of game that I normally like, but the game is still enjoyable.

8/10

Copyright ©2016 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use

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