Throwback Thursday - Golden Axe II
Today, I’m going to talk about a game; some might say it’s a simple game.
Like so many that came before it and have come after it, the game is a “hack and slash” arcade-style high adventure. It’s not a revolutionary gaming experience in any sense of the word; and in fact, many would probably consider it rote and dull by today’s standards.
But I don’t. In fact, I would refer this title as something of a classic.
And I just played it for the first time this month.
The game is Golden Axe II for the Sega Genesis, and it’s quickly become a personal favorite of mine in the console subgenre. For those unaware, the game is a side-scrolling adventure, and you (the player) can choose one of three warriors to control on a quest to defeat Dark Guld and retrieve the fabled Golden Axe, a weapon that ensures peace in the realm. Whether you are a Dwarf, Barbarian, or Amazon, your adventure begins in a ravaged village and continues through level such as ruins, a volcanic cave, and an evil fortress. Throughout your journey, you battle wizards, headless knights, lizard-men, and other evil creatures. Plus, from time-to-time, you ride non-flying dragons.
And the entire experience is simply a joy. At least it was for me.
It took less than two levels for me to become invested in my trio of heroes, and the smallest detail sold me. The game offers an interlude between each level; it’s a brief bonus level, wherein your character sleeps as wizards sneak upon your campsite as small creatures. When they transform into wizards, you strike them to get spellbooks and renewed “food” for your health meter. These brief episodes gave the game a strange epic quality, as if the level you defeat took an entire day to reach before you played through it in a matter of minutes and then evaluated your next steps and rested before taking them. It reminded me of the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Sure, that story has bursts of action, but the bulk of it is journeying, not fighting. I suppose these interludes allowed me to project that same type of time and weight onto this very basic game. The archetypical characters allow for that, too.
I first played the game on easy, with the dwarf character, Gilius Thunderhead (great name), and I beat the five levels the game enabled at that difficulty setting.
I graduated to normal mode, first with the barbarian, making it into the final stage; then I chose the Amazon, and I reached he end boss of stage six, just before Dark Guld himself. Each character followed the same game path, but each experience was different, as each character possesses a different spell and special move. Plus, with each attempt, I learned tricks to better defeat each level. For example, on any level with a ledge, keep that area onscreen as much as possible; enemies will walk over the cliff or can be tossed into it for quick victories and minimum impact to your health.
The aspect I love most about this game is sheer speed of gameplay. You can beat this game in an hour, and I LOVE THAT, because it allowed me to nearly beat it three times by conducting sessions while our baby napped. Beating an entire game during nap time: now, that’s a win for gaming dads.
As of this writing, I have yet to beat Golden Axe II on the hardest setting, but I have every enthusiastic intention of playing it again, and soon. Who knows, by the time of this posting, I may have retrieved the Golden Axe.
PS – There’s also a duel mode, wherein the character you select must battle enemies in a one-on-one, non-story scenario. I give it a brief try, and it is pretty excellent too. It allows you the experience of testing your character and “training” to some degree. Plus, it’s like another simple game tagged onto a great one, total icing-on-the-cake. I will give it a fuller go once Dark Guld is defeated and the people can rest in peace again.