Golden Axe Reader Review
Amid the demos and trailers that Microsoft bestowed upon us to celebrate E3 were a couple of SEGA classics available to download via Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade service. One of those was our old friend Sonic the Hedgehog, the other SEGA's 1989 side scrolling hack'n'slash Golden Axe. My rose-tinted specs nearly fell off my face when I saw the announcement. I hadn't played this in years and I really wanted to play it again and at 400 points ' use the converter of the left side of the page ' I couldn't really restrain myself, could I? I really should have.
The story, or the attempt at a story, puts you up against the might of the evil tyrant Death Adder's minions. He murdered your best mate, see. On top of that, mean old Death Adder's got the King and his daughter, The Princess. The peaceful land Yuria is now seriously under threat and who better to sort it all out then you. But who will you choose to be? I remember always wanting to be Gilius Thunderhead, the battle axe-wielding dwarf. I always found the reach of his axe much more satisfying than the other two, which still seems to be the case. But as most things related to this game, it's probably just my mind playing tricks on me.
The other two protagonists you can choose between are the barbarian, Ax Battler, wielding a two handed broadsword looking for revenge for the murder of his mother. The last is a long-sword wielding Tyris Flare, a female Amazonian, whose parents were killed by Death Adder. Oh I forgot to mention that Gilius' twin brother was also killed by, you guessed it, Death Adder. So everyone has an axe to grind. Ho ho.
After playing for about 5 minutes it soon became apparent that they've done nothing to it. It still looks identical to how it did 18 years ago, containing none of the high definition make over that we were treated to with Geo Wars, Double and Dragon and the more recent Prince of Persia. This isn't a good thing. As with most things retro, the rose-tinted glasses lose their pigment rather quickly and you soon get the feeling you're just playing a cut and paste of the original with no real love or attention paid to it. The music too, unchanged from the original is as twee as could be and does to nothing to immerse or entertain.
The game sees you traverse a map to Death Adder's castle, passing fleeing villagers and engaging the evil, flanking minions. Here the side-scrolling has a rest whilst you dispatch of a variety of sprites ranging from animal-clothed muscle men, Amazonian warrior-esses to sword-wielding skeletons rising out of the ground all trying to prevent you from reaching Death Adder's domain. You can do this on foot or ride on purple dragons with swishing tales or blue and pink ones that shoot fire. After you have hacked and suitable slashed a cluster of enemies, you can walk in the direction the on-screen arrow points to until you meet another cluster. Rinse. Repeat.
End of level bosses are much like the minions but larger and harder and take a while longer to kill, but nothing a few douses of magic won't dispense with in a hurry if you've saved those little blue bottles throughout the level.
What struck me most, apart from the slap-dash nature of the port, is how short and utterly unrewarding it is. It took me literally twenty minutes to complete it. Alright, I wasn't going to get Perfect Win Achievement after lazily using about fifteen continues to get to the end, but the game didn't exactly offer me any incentive to want to sit down and master it. I then completed it with Ax Battler and then Tyris Flare. 1 hour later, I'd completed in every way possible and got 80% of the Achievements on offer. I might ask some lonely sole to come over on complete in 'local co-op' mode or bribe someone on my friends list to go through it with me over live to for the twenty five Gamerpoints that would award me. Yes, I do care.
In true Golden Axe style, I'll keep the conclusion short. Don't fall into the trap of thinking this is still great. It isn't.
5 / 10