Milestone in arcade to home ports.
I can distinctly remember the impact this game had when it came out. Before it was released I had played the arcade game at the theatre and at the local Wal-Mart. I had never been able to play it past the second level due to lack of time. It was a wonderful side-scrolling fighting platform where you could choose a barbarian, a woman, or a dwarf. The Genesis version came out sometime later in 1989.
This game really stands out in my mind as its purchase coincided with earning a brown belt on the same night I bought it in 1989. All of my friends who played it over at my house wanted a SEGA Genesis because of it. This was back when SEGA only allowed higher quality games to be released for its system, a policy dropped in 1991 with the introduction of the SNES. This was a fantastic two player game back in the day.
Surprisingly, the silly looking dwarf was the the most effective character. Though his magic attacks were weaker, if you wanted to beat the game on a quarter or two all you had to do was pick Gilius and master his special moves. This remained the same with the Genesis.
The Genesis version had an additional two or three levels and saw Death Adder taking orders from his pallet-swapped clone: Death Bringer (a character never to be mentioned again in the Golden Axe mythos).
The Genesis game controlled better than the arcade version. Considering the constraints placed upon the designers it was a fantastic accomplishment that truly put an arcade machine in people's homes. Most people could not tell the difference between the Arcade and the Genesis version. However, the Genesis version was inferior graphically due to memory and color pallet limitations (thousands of colors at several megabytes verses 96* colors at 6 megabits**).*1 megabyte = 8 megabits
**The Genesis was only supposed to have roughly 64 colors but Sega's inhouse programmers frequently a used technique to get 96 or more.
The only true short coming of this game was that it was incredibly easy. This was especially true if you chose the dwarf and learned how to pull off his rolling attack. The additional levels were not particularly imaginative and merely used the same enemy characters and new, conspicuously bland backgrounds.
Gilius Thunderhead's "Golden Axe" was accidentally colored silver. Although this is not a major flaw, it is a quite an annoying oversight.
The Bottom Line
Golden Axe is a great beat'em up not to be missed. You can either get the cartridge off eBay for a few dollars or you can get it as part of the SEGA Genesis Collection
for the PS2. It has a mediocre sequel called Golden Axe II
, and a terrible game after that called Golden Axe III
. A few other games similar to this are The King of Dragons
for the SNES and the Dungeons & Dragons Collection
for the Saturn (Japan only).