I really didn’t like Golden Axe, and while Golden Axe II was slightly better, it still wasn’t a good game. So rather than prolonging my suffering I decided to play the final installment in the Golden Axe saga (that isn’t an arcade exclusive, or a Sega Game Gear game). Golden Axe 3 was a Japan exclusive, but did feature on the Sega Channel for a while in the US, but on the whole, isn’t the most well known of the three.
So where does Golden Axe 3 shape up then, and have they finally polished a turd?
Damud Hellstrike, the Prince of Darkness has cursed all the warriors of the land and has stolen the Golden Axe. – They should just destroy this axe, it seems much more trouble than it is worth.
It is your task to lift the curse of your fellow warriors, and save the kingdom once more.
Golden Axe 3 is a side scrolling beat ’em up, so you walk left to right and smack things. However, Golden Axe 3 actually mixes things up! There are branching paths, which offer a decent level of replayability. As well as new enemies, and new heroes to play as, as well as the ability to walk right to left and uphill!
You still have the magic meter from the first two games, but the system in 3 is the same as the one in the first game. You charge your meter, and unleash the spell power at the level you have filled up. This means you can’t selectively use a certain level of magic like in Golden Axe II. Linked to this, are the returning gnomes. Beat up a small gnome, and he’ll give you spell power/food. However, health and magic drops are much more frequent, so you can spam magic a lot more in this installment.
You also get a proper health bar in this installment, so it is so much easier to tell how much life you have than it was with the 2-5 bars of the previous games makeing planning or a cautious approach much more viable. As well as making more sense visually.
This time round, you get 4 new playable characters:
- Chronos “Evil” Lait, a humanoid jaguar, who uses wind magic, and is awesome.
- Kain Grinder, is the replacement for Ax Battler, though in US localisation he has been renamed to Ax. He is the same as the first two games. Well balanced, and decent reach. He uses Ice magic.
- Sahra Burn, is the new Tyris Flare, but again, US localisation renamed her Tyris. She is faster, weaker, and is awesome at magic. Her name has burn in it, go figure.
- Proud Cragger, is a hulking big retard. What he lacks in speed, he makes up with power. He unsurprisingly uses earth magic.
- Gilius Thunderhead appears in the game in cutscenes, and is not a playable character.
It means that all characters do actually play differently this time around, and will suit a particular playstyle a little more.
Other differences between this and the first two, is that the game is fair. It can be difficult, but you never feel cheated. There are plenty of health pickups, to recharge health, and there is also life bar extending items.
Additionally, the instadeath pits are no longer, as they now remove a small amount of health like in Beyond Oasis. It means when those fat little shits run at you and belly bounce you into a pit, you don’t feel like smashing the pad.
The combat is much more enjoyable. It took them three attempts, but here you have a relatively solid beat ’em up. Fighting is fast and hectic, and rather than having 2 enemies that take 20 hits, there are now 4-5 enemies that take 5-6 hits. It feels like a good beat ’em up should, you always feel like you’re progressing like you do in Turtles in Time or Batman Returns and you never get bogged down in a slobber-knocker with a douche that won’t quit.
The bosses still don’t have the best variety, but a surprisingly fun twist is that you can fight 3 of them at once. The final boss has two boss buddies, and the second-to-last level is a boss gauntlet **grrr**, that is actually fun. Fighting all the bosses again with 3 of them manages to add something. None of the bosses are overly hard, so these fights remain tough, but fair. It means the bosses are recycled, but with more of them, and more variety, they never become boring like in Golden Axe II.
Golden Axe 3 still isn’t a great game, but it improves on everything that it sucked at in previous attempts. Streets of Rage is still better, but if you found a cheap copy of this an an import or on the various Virtual Consoles, then this is the Golden Axe for you. On top of all this is a “secret”, alternative ending. Get to a certain stage in the game, with a B ranking, and no continues used, and you get the good ending. It is hard to achieve, and requires a good playthrough on Hard, but to be honest, it is worth the effort.
The turd has been realitevely polished, and is actually fun to play!
Pros: Actually fun, branching paths, new character, alternative endings
Cons: The map screen returns, but is shit.
Back in the day
Angry US magazine scoffed:
“Sega of Japan is not going to release this title here in the States – and for good reasons! The graphics are by far some of the most plain looking on the Mega Drive. Plus, the new magic effects aren’t as impressive as before. So, if you are considering purchasing this title from an overseas seller, don’t waste your bucks!”