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SummaryMore of the same but with less impressive graphics
The GoodJust like the first game in the series, Golden Axe II is a side-scrolling beat 'em-up in a fantasy setting. The game is very similar to its predecessor. The new magic system is basically the only new gameplay element. Of course there are some new enemies & backgrounds etc. but those can't meet the standards set by the first game. Like Majestic Lizard says in his review: Golden Axe II feels more like an expansion pack with an extra quest than as a real sequel. You still move from left to right through six levels, beating up lots of enemies. Each level ends with a traditional boss-fight. The gameplay is pretty simple & straightforward, but the game does offer a solid hour of mindless bashing and sometimes that's just what I need. The game is easy to get into and the controls are simple and work well. None of the moves is hard to execute.
The three playable characters from the first game make a return and now have the ability to pick up opponents and throw them on other enemies and have a new special move. You can't pick-up any new weapons in this game, but you can knock enemies of dragons and ride their beast which is basically the same but looks a lot cooler. The three characters differ with respect to the strength of their melee attack, their movement speed and the amount of magic books they can carry. The animations of your character look decent.
The new magic system mentioned above is definitely an improvement over the old one. While you fight your way through the levels you'll encounter small wizards who will drop a magic book when you defeat them. These wizards also appear after most of the levels. After collecting a magic book you can launch a special attack, the more magic books you've collected the stronger your potential attack is. The three characters can store different amounts of magic. In Golden Axe you could only use all your magic at once, in Golden Axe II you can decide how much of your magic you want to use so you can save a bit for another opponent. There's a different animation for every magic level and some of them look pretty good.
- The music is appropriately heroic and fits the fantasy setting. Some of the tunes are new but I think I've heard several of them before. Compared to the music the sound-effects are disappointing; a bunch of weak-sounding sword swishes and cookie-cutter death screams.
- The annoying jumps over pits and chasms have been left out this game.
- Just like the first game (and just about every other game in the genre) Golden Axe II has a cooperative mode which makes bashing through the enemy ranks a lot more fun. The player vs. player duel mode also returns but since the combat system is rather simple (compared to real one-on-one brawlers like Street Fighter) this mode isn't that interesting. If you play the duel mode against the CPU you'll have to fight a series of battles similar to those in the story mode.
- One of Golden Axe's strongest features were the great graphics that were nearly as good as those of the original coin-op version. Golden Axe II was developed solely for the Megadrive/Genesis and its graphics are not nearly as impressive. The overall appearance of the game isn't very vibrant, the colors that have been used look a bit washed out. With the exception of the lava cave level & Dark Guld's lair, backgrounds are static and pretty boring.
- The design of the enemies is also rather uninspired. Some of the enemies (the skeleton & the soldier with the club) come straight out of the original and you'll face the same enemies over and over again, except with a different color palette but that was a common practice when Golden Axe II was released. However the game does the same with the bosses and I think that's a bit lazy and the pink "blood skeleton" looks silly. The enemies don't move very fluid, they seem to lack a few frames of animation.
- The enemy A.I. is rather stupid, there are a few parts of the game where you can make them walk straight into an abyss just by positioning yourself correctly. None of the enemies is really hard to beat on it's own but since they mostly come in groups they will be able to land (more than) a couple of blows. The A.I. basically has only two tactics: surrounding you with enemies that attack from multiple directions and dashing towards you whenever one of these enemies is aligned properly with your character. As a result of these A.I. tactics, the key to doing well in Golden Axe II is to advance slowly as to not trigger the appearance of too many enemies at once and to keep moving to both avoid becoming surrounded and avoid incoming dashing opponents.
- Compared to some other titles in genre Golden Axe II's combat-system isn't very deep. The number of available moves is a bit limited; for instance you can't throw items, none of the characters has a long-range attack and there's only one way to grab & throw opponents.
- Golden Axe II's gameplay is perhaps a bit too one-dimensional. There's very little variation between the levels (there are for instance no environmental hazards) and all the different types of enemies have been introduced by the time you reach the end of stage 3.
- It's a relatively short game, only six levels and an end-boss level. Once you know what enemies appear when and learn to dose your magic, it will take you about 45 minutes to complete the game (on the normal difficulty level, not the shortened easy mode). With 3 continues at your disposal, anybody who has ever played such a game before should be able to advance past the 60 % mark on his/her first try.
- Not one of the enemies has a life bar, not even the bosses.