Golden Axe (2005) by Sega
System:PS2
Game Type: Side-scroller
Players: 1-2

Review by PrimeOp

If you're reading this, you're probably a Golden Axe fan. As a fan, you've probably heard that the Sega Ages remake was... ehh... disappointing. You may have thought, "Reviewers are pretty harsh. Maybe it's still enjoyable on some level." Well, I'm an easy-going reviewer and I was still disappointed by the gameplay.

The rumors are true: the gameplay is bad. Very, very bad. The control's sluggishness comes from how slowly the player attacks are animated and the noticable lag times between each move in the combo. In the classic version, a basic attack only took a few animation frames to perform and the recovery time/transition frames were kept low to keep you from getting surrounded easily. Example: when Ax Battler swings his sword, he stays in the final frame for a brief second in a sad attmept to look cool. In that brief moment, a low-level bad guy can (and usualy will) leap across the screen and put a foot in the buttcrack of Mr. Posetime. That's because the enemies aren't as slowly animated and use the speed to take advantage of your 'Turtle Village-slow' movement. Many times, your character will kill the enemy, yet still perform the throw animation without a victim. This gives the enemy more time to prepare for a backstab as soon as you're able to be hit again. If you're really (un)lucky, you'll witness my favorite glitch: being hit by a enemy attack seconds after the attack is over and done with. With so many glitches, you'd think that there'd be at least one that would favor the player, right? WRONG. All programming mistakes work against you and kill the fun factor. Instead of playing the game in the same way you'd play Golden Axe, you have to adjust your playing style to factor in all the glitches and cheap hits... and that crap gets old really fast.
The famous 'Chicken Leg' monsters return as Chicken@#$%s who run away after only one hit. ONE HIT. As slowly as your character moves, expect to get hit sooner than you think. That's pretty much how the entire game goes.
As you can tell from all the pictures you've seen of this game, the graphics... eh. What many people keep forgetting is that the Sega Ages series that this came from was supposed to be a series of low-budget remakes. The low-poly models didn't suprise me one bit, but were still a bit dispappointing in a few instances (especially Death Adder). I'll give the artist's one compliment: they didn't screw around with the designs. Ax Battler, Tyris Flare and Gilius all look like themselves with only minor retouching. Gilius looks a bit more cartoonish while Tyris lost a bit of her hair fullness as well as her classic 'good-birthin' hips' (Boo!). Even the enemies remain recognizable. I was scared that they were going to return with chainmail patches, pointless armor, badly-designed tribal tattoos, and every other cliche of current medieval games. They escaped the horrible redesign factor that Ricky and Maria got in the Alien Syndrome remake. To give the game a more cinematic feel, there are some cut-scenes that use in-game graphics (full of "wtf?" dialogue) and re-creations of the classic summons that have a 'Final Fantasy-summon' feeling to them. The soundtrack, filled with excellent recreations of the classic score, is easily the best part of the game and deserves much respect. The sound effects are okay and none of them are taken from 1980's action films.
In the transition to 3-D, Tyris Flare has lost most of her flowing hair as well as her world-reknowned good birthin' hips. Dang, girl. You done changed.
As a nice surprise, a few enemies from the later Golden Axe games appear in this remake. Problem is, one of those characters is insanely annoying and cheap. Well, more annoying than the rest of the drones. I really like the fact that they used some of the later enemies instead of just making up new ones to fill out the enemy roster. Now here's what sucks: the classic scenes that happened between levels were removed for no apparent reason. The fun bonus rounds where you had to beat the thieves trying to steal your stuff are gone but gets 'homage' in a cut-scene. It's like the programmers said, "We had all the stuff ready to do that part, but we decided to screw you out of them." Being able to stock up on magic before a level would've cut down on the cheap factor, but we couldn't have that, could we? The map progress screen? That's gone too. At the very least, I thought we'd get to see a recreation of the gory arcade-only scene where Death Adder is reborn from a mass of dead bodies and slithering snakes that explode in a fury of corpse chunks. Nope, you just run into Death Adder and start fighting. No cool intro or anything. To make this game seem like it's full, they added a 2-player VS Mode, Time Attack (how fast can you kill 100 enemies?) and Survival Mode (how many villains can you kill before you're killed by cheap gameplay and glitches?). With the sloppy controls and poorly-timed attacks, all of the game modes are still irritating to play.
Hey! The... the title screen's good, too! Really, that just sets you up for the sadness which is to follow.

Golden Axe is further proof that the gameplay of the 16-bit version may have been simple, but just deceptively so. I could've overlooked the PS1-level graphics if the gameplay was good... but it wasn't. I can only hope that we'll see a true recreation of Golden Axe done by the real Sega one day. Until then, this'll be the saddest footnote in the Golden Axe saga. If you get the Sega Classics Collection, at least you'll have beautiful remixes of Golden Axe music. Gameplay 3
Graphics 5
Sound 8
Control 3
Overall 4

Golden Axe, Ax Battler, Tyris Flare, Gilius Thunderhead, Death Adder and all related characters © Sega

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