Retro Profile: Golden Axe (Virtual Console-Sega Genesis)

golden-axe001“The Hobbit” was written, many people have been enthralled with the idea of warriors, with various traits and personalities, doing battle with some powerful force of malice in a medieval setting. As the years rolled by, strategy board games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, gained much popularity with kids (and many more adults) that were willing to devote their time to understand the game.

For the most part though, playing such games almost automatically gave you the “geeky kid” label as well. However, that all changed in the 80’s, when home consoles and arcades became the driving force of why we got out of bed in the morning. Sega eventually caught on to the idea and released Golden Axe in the arcades back in 1989. With its bright graphics, simple controls, and 2-player co-op action, Golden Axe became a big hit with avid gamers looking for a good challenge. Sega saw fit to make it part of their initial wave of games to be available soon after the launch of the Sega Genesis. Years later, Golden Axe had been made available on the Virtual Console, ready to fulfill your medieval side-scrolling brawler needs.

The game mostly retains the action that the arcade version is known for. You choose one of three warriors’Ax Battler, Tyris Flare, and Gilius Thunderhead. They can do simple slash attacks, charge enemies, and jump short distances. You can also perform other moves, like jabs or possibly defend yourself from enemies attacking from behind you, if you’re quick enough. Each warrior has minor differences in their combat style as well as the ability to use magic of different levels by collecting blue magic potions. How high the magic level can go largely depends on who you choose.

Ax Battler is the strongest with his big sword. His earthquake magic is fairly powerful as well. He’s also the slower of the 2 characters. Tyris isn’t as powerful with the sword, but she has the strongest (and best looking) magic ability, which is of the fire element. She’s a little quicker than Ax, but still slower than the Dwarf. Gilius isn’t as powerful with his axe or magic, but he uses his speed to his advantage. He attacks with swift slashes and blows to the head; and he can also call down three types of lighting to sweep enemies off their feet.

The overall character designs are a mixed bag. Most of your opponents consist of the average generic male troll assisted by a human henchman, the axe-happy maiden (sometimes riding a dragon), or those pesky skeleton warriors. As you progress through the game you’ll always be fighting the same characters, just in different color clothes or skin. Even so, the game still features some really cool-looking enemies like those twin giants who look like a cross between Abobo, from Double Dragon, and Karnov.

The heroes (and some foes) can also hitch a ride on three mythical animals– a fire-breathing blue dragon, a fire-spitting red dragon, and tail-whipping creature that looks like a deformed chicken (which was borrowed from Altered Beast, for those of you keeping score at home). Each creature can be very helpful in getting rid of your enemies, but they are also a sluggish and can sometimes be more trouble than it’s worth.

Jamie Alston is somewhat of an unusual gamer. While most people crave the visual delights that can be found in many of the current generation consoles of today, he actually prefers the 8-bit & “super 8-bit” (SNES) glory days of yesteryear. This is probably due in part to the fact that his brother chose the Nintendo Entertainment System over the Sega Genesis back in 1989…or maybe it had more to do with that time when he fell and hit his head on the blacktop in elementary school. Whatever the reason might be, Jamie has an undying love for those unnecessarily big cartridges he spent so many summer afternoons playing. When he’s not raiding trucks that “have started to move” for rations and key cards, he stays busy supporting his gaming hobby by working as a Policies & Procedures Analyst for a financial company in Baltimore, Maryland. And when he’s not working for “the man”, he’s working on the next retro review for the week. And when he’s not fighting off writer’s block and much needed sleep, he’s raiding trucks that “have started to”—well, you get the idea. Currently living in Randallstown, MD, Jamie sums up his life long dream this way: “If I one day find myself driving on the highway in a 2004 Honda Accord with an NES directional pad for a steering wheel, you can bet that I’ll be holding the up direction for that turbo boost on the straight-aways. That’s when I’ll know that I’ve finally made it in life”.