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SummarySometimes, more is not better but just more
The GoodGolden Axe has been a staple in my childhood ever since the first game came out it has been a part of my gaming experience that I till this day still enjoy. (I estimate that at least once a year, I boot up the game and play through it in it's entirety)
Golden Axe III, in my opinion, comes from a very good pedigree and in this case they've tried to build ontop of game play established from before. All of this shows as you can see the action sequences are well paced, the difficulty ramp up is well controlled, the disbursement of things like magic potions and such are all well placed, and in general you can see that the dev team has learned from their previous experience in how to parse out content to the player.
they've also made an attempt to make it more cooperative too, which is nice. (This comes in the form of having dual casting)
In addition to that, they've tried to expand the movesets for all the characters in order to make them more diverse, probably in response to games like Streets of Rage starting to add more moves to their cast. More on this later.
Also, they've given stage branches so that you can now choose which path you want to take, and the path themselves can effect the gaming experience, which increases the replay value.
The BadThe problem here, is that while the core gameplay is rock solid, the additional things they've added do not all work. Don't get me wrong, it's still immensely enjoyable WITHOUT these added features, but there in lies the problem... if the added feature means so little to the game play experience, then it leads to the question what is the point of the addition in the first place.
this is painfully apparent with the dual casting system, which is fun and novel, but ultimately kind of empty because it's actually not all THAT useful.
The same can be said of the special moves. Some of them are near useless (i.e. The caveman's tornado move) while others are game breaking (the panther's pounce) simply because enemies don't block it.
So while the actual parsing of material is well paced, the fighting mechanics in between is just not as tight as the older games.
I have done entire runs on the game using nothing but the jumping down+B move, because the computer will NEVER block it if you can time the jump the right.
From things like this, it becomes abundantly clear that the some of the moves were added later without making the appropriate AI adjustments for it.
Ultimately, I feel the whole product is weaker for it. In Golden Axe II, each characterwill respond to the different moves in a slightly divergent manner. The difference in hitboxes and attack speed further differentiates this difference in AI even further.
To be fair, this is probably the teams first attempt at handling characters who are wildly different from one another. In GA2, all the characters have minor differences like speed and strength but for the most part play identical to one another. So much so that the winning strategy for one works for the entire cast. But when you compare this side by side to games like Streets of Rage 2, where all the characters are controlled the same way but are played wildly different from one another, they just pale by comparison.