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Xbox Live Arcade Review: Golden Axe

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With a classic video game medieval theme, Golden Axe was a massive hit for Sega, and an early boost to the Sega Genesis when it was ported from the arcade back in 1989. Xbox Live has now found room for this Makoto Uchida designed title. While not in-depth as far as features go, Golden Axe is a worthy translation for a no-brainer price of $5.

Though not recognized as true icons, everyone knows (or should know) the combination of Tyris Flare, Gilius Thunderhead, and Ax Battler. Out to save the king and queen, they plod along not only on the ground, but also in the air on the back of a giant bird and across water on a turtle. It’s not a straight shot of course. Enemies are numerous and have their own little repertoire of moves to take players down.

It’s hard to describe just what it is that makes Golden Axe such a pleasure. Combat will feel sluggish and slower paced compared to what modern gamers are accustomed to. With time, it becomes the title’s strongest asset; sinking every blow into the enemy with forceful impact something only a few top tier beat-’em-ups can attest to.

Everything is aided by a great graphics engine, one completely absent of slowdown, flicker, or any other nastiness. There’s some great shading on each sprite and the magic effects are unforgettable. The option to enhance the overall visuals is a disappointment, giving the game a blurry, out of focus look that attempts to fix what is hardly broken.

Though combos are pretty much cut and dry, some of the nice little animation touches make up for it. The first time you start butting someone in the head your sword, you just have to smile. Its attention to detail that’s rarely found in late ’80s arcade games. It also helps with variety to break away some of the more monotonous button mashing.

Great all the way through, the soundtrack to Golden Axe really picks up late. The final battle is accompanied by an incredible track, followed by what should be considered one of the greatest ending themes of all time. It sticks with you for some time. In the sound effects department, there’s a rather disgusting sound of blade ripping through flesh. Shame they countered that with some annoying death screams that can really become grating as the game moves on.

The standard Xbox Live online feature allows for two-player co-op, an option also available via local play. With three characters to choose from, Golden Axe has always missed the opportunity to offer a full trifecta of available players, and this becomes another lost opportunity to correct this amongst a countless numbers of ports.

This is certainly a game worthy of a legacy. A sadly ignored, detailed sequel would be lost in the arcades while the Genesis version would change a few backgrounds that barely qualified as a full sequel. The third Genesis edition never received a US release. A fun if basic one on one fighter was the last original Golden Axe title, while a messy 3-D update on the PlayStation 2 could have been enough to kill this series forever. It’s proof that the original is always the best, and this Xbox Live Arcade edition solidifies that.

Golden Axe is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood and Fantasy Violence.


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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.