Golden Axe (iPhone) Review

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Date Released: 18th June, 2009
Date Reviewed: 26th April, 2010
Players: 1 player only
Length: 30 minutes
Replayability: High

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Introduction

Golden Axe is a classic SEGA arcade game created in 1989 for the System 16-B arcade hardware. It is one of SEGA’s most recognizable arcade games with features and graphics that were years ahead of the competition at the time. It has spawned countless ports and conversions, a whole franchise of titles from RPGs to a fighting game, dozens of clones from all over the industry and even created a genre of it’s own – The Hack n’ Slash. It is a staple of the era it was apart, but as a sloppy 2009 port of the Genesis/Mega Drive release on the iPhone, all of the flaws are magnified as well as the impact of the original being tarnished.

Concept

Golden Axe is fairly conventional as an arcade game, it has short levels, simple controls and a steady increase in difficulty as the player proceeds. Similarly to Streets of Rage (another game made by SEGA), pressing the A button or a variation of that depending on console, a burst of magic is released, saving up magic viles increases your magic’s power improving the amount of enemies hit and how much damage they will take. Each character has their own element of magic and all of them act differently. Advancing in a side-scrolling fashion similar to that of arcade ‘Beat em’ up’ games, the levels have some variety with the occasional platform added. Between each level is a short intermission explaining where the characters are heading next which can be everything from a city to the back of a giant bird. After each stage your player awakes in a camp site, where gnomes try and steal the player’s magic, hitting them will make them drop what they have stolen and even some that was not yours originally. There are three playable characters in the game; a male dwarf named Gilius Thunderhead who wields an axe who is the strongest with attacks but weakest with magic, an amazonian female named Tyris Flare who wields a long sword and is strongest with magic but weakest with attacks, and a male barbarian named Ax-Battler who wields a two handed broadsword who is a equally skilled at both.

Story

Being an arcade title, much of the story is explained through the demonstration before the player starts and in scenes where characters have text bubbles appearing over the character’s heads. Golden Axe takes place in the fictional land of Yuria a medieval world where an evil entity known as “The Death=Adder” has captured the king and princess holding them hostage and stealing the “Golden Axe” which he threatens to destroy along with the King unless the people of Yuria accept him as their ruler.

All of the three warriors (Gilius Thunderhead, Ax-Battler and Tyris Flare) each have their own motives for wanting to defeat Death=Adder, the game proceeds as the warriors gain ground towards the captive king and princess being held in their castle.

Gameplay

Progress is made by fighting the Death=Adder’s henchman which include everything from skeleton warriors to men with armed clubs and maces and women on fire-breathing dragons. As mentioned before helping the warriors defeat the Death=Adder is an array of magic powers, depending on which warrior is used changes the element of the spell used for example, Gilius uses lightning spells, Ax-Battler uses Earth spells and Tyris uses fire spells. Each warrior also has a different maximum amount of viles they can hold, the more they can hold the more powerful the magic attack, although this in its self has it’s draw backs, Tyris can hold the most viles spread amongst the most amount of magic bars at six, but her attack only harms a few enemies near her, whereas Gilius (who has three bars) can harm everyone on screen with even just one vile. Other features of the game include the ability to steal the monsters that all have their own uses and range of attack from the various henchmen. Once an enemy rider is knocked off a player may take control of the creature, although as the warrior is knocked off a few times the creature eventually runs away.

While the iPhone version of the game is a port of the Genesis/Mega Drive release, there are no two-player options or is there the ability to change the difficulty or add lives. The only difference in the iPhone version is when the game is exited the player’s progress is saved and you can continue from the last point you were on at a later date. This is not an added feature, but a basic ‘Save-State’ which all videogame emulators are capable of. Outside of this, the iPhone release offers nothing outside any other port or conversion can offer and does not take advantage of the mobile device’s capabilities, such as an online leaderboard to display one’s scores with the world. Adding insult to injury, some of the menus exclusive to the iPhone release require you to tilt the device to change features. It is very gimmicky and unnecessary.

Sound

Unlike many ‘Beat em’ ups’ at the time (such as Double Dragon), Golden Axe has a large amount of sounds for attacking that help the player understand just how much a character is being harmed, similarly the characters will react differently depending on how they are attacked, which was also unusual for the time. Every song included fits the theme and setting perfectly being motivational earlier in the game, with a more depressing and darker, almost apocalyptic feeling near the end. The expertly crafted soundtrack and sound design come off as much weaker in the Genesis/Mega Drive release, which are only worsened by the poor emulation on the iPhone. Sometimes the sounds do not even work properly and can actually bug the player’s ears a lot.

Special Notes

The original arcade version of Golden Axe was shorter then the ported version, the ported version not only contained ‘The Duel’ as an extra but also included two extra levels and the ‘Beginner’ option, the beginner option makes the title dramatically easier, with less levels and an alternate final boss.

The death screams of the opponents in Golden Axe are digitized screams from the films First Blood and Conan the Barbarian, the latter being a huge inspiration for the game.

Conclusion

Golden Axe is one of the most recognizable games of all time, spawning sequels on all of SEGA’s consoles and countless clones by other developers. Golden Axe is truly cemented in video game history as being a simply enjoyable arcade experience. The amount of ports of this title show how well the game is loved around the world, as have many games SEGA made during this era. However, the iPhone version is not a recommended play not only do the touch screen controls sometimes obscure your view of the enemies on screen, they can also sometimes be unresponsive making the game unfairly difficult. The only plus point I give to this version is the automatic save feature meaning that no matter where you are playing if you have to stop for whatever reason you can return to your exact point of play, which can be very handy for players on the go. If you are just now getting into the series, it is highly recommended you search for the title on another platform or download service. originalreviews

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Format(s): Arcade, Mega Drive/Genesis, Master System, DOS, Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Arcade Legends Sega Genesis Volume 1, iPhone OS, Turbo Duo, Virtual Console, WonderSwan Color, Xbox Live Arcade, ZX Spectrum, and various mobile releases.

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