Friday, June 7, 2013

Game Review - Golden Axe

Golden Axe, a side scrolling beat 'em up which was made in 1989 by Sega, is well known both as an arcade game and as a home game. I have a lot of fond memories of playing this game with my friends, though it was the PC version of this game that we played. In fact, I think I only came across this game once or twice in an arcade. There is quite a difference between the arcade and the PC version of this game; after having played the PC version for such a long time, I remember I was amazed when I saw the arcade version which had much superior sound effects and graphics. There were other differences too, I think the PC version was a little longer because I remember the game did not end after beating Death=Adder in the PC version.

There are three characters in this game, each with different skills and abilities, and each with their own reason to go after Death=Adder, the main antagonist in the game. The first of these characters is Gilius Thunderhead, a dwarf from the mines of Wolud whose twin brother was killed by Death=Adder. His attacks are slow, but punishing. Especially, his jumping axe attack has a wide range and is a life saver against crowded or strong enemies. On the other hand, being a dwarf, he is not particularly strong with magic. He can only cast magic spells up to the third level and carry at most four potions, which means the player either has to use the magic spells frequently or waste most of the potions that appear in the game. Nevertheless, his strength in fighting far makes up for his weak magic usage. He is also my favorite character in the game.

Next, there is Ax Battler, a male barbarian whose mother was murdered by Death=Adder. This character has a nice balance between strength and magic; his attacks are not weak and his magic use is stronger compared to the dwarf. He can use his broad sword in a variety of ways against the enemy and his running shoulder attack can be especially useful during the game. He can cast spells up to fourth level and his strongest magic attack uses six potions. He is the ideal character for those who want a strong character that can also make good use of magic.

The last of the playable characters in the game is Tyris Flare, an amazon who seeks revenge for her mother and father who were killed at the hands of Death=Adder. Her strong side is magic usage, she can magic spells up to sixth level. To cast her strongest spell, she needs nine potions, at which point a dragon sweeps the screen from side to side with a powerful fire blast. If you want to play with this character, magic should definitely be a part of your strategy.

Here's a video of me winning the game on a single coin, with the dwarf character:

To say a few words about the gameplay, winning the game with a single coin is difficult but not impossible. One needs to know about strength and weakness of every single opponent, as well as what opponent to expect at which point. The weak opponents, such as those attacking with clubs and maces, are easy to handle unless they are very crowded. One just need to be careful not to be in their way when they do running attacks. Giants with mauls are harder, but they can also be countered without that much trouble. The skeletons and dark, colorless versions of weak guys (who I suspect are undead) are very tricky; not only because of their speed but also because they are hard to kill. It is possible to ride dragons and the little reptile looking animals which attack with their tail, it is usually a good idea to make use of them when they appear. Just to keep in mind, you can still do your running attack while riding these animals and some situations may call for these attacks over their regular attacks.

In closing, I think Golden Axe is a great game which stands the test of time. Anyone with any sort of interest in gaming, especially arcade gaming, should know about and preferably have played this game, in one platform or other. The game also has a grading system where the player is assigned a grade for the skill demonstrated during the game, which makes it desirable to play the game over and over even after winning it once, just to get a higher grade; though it is pretty easy to get the highest grade by winning the game with just one coin, as I got the highest grade with the worst possible play resulting in a single coin win. Just a final note about this game is that there are a number of sequels and spin-offs based on this game; interested player may check those games out.