Have you ever played a game and thought it must be this game that people are thinking of when they say Golden Axe is a good game? I know opinion is subjective and all that, but look deep in your soul and tell me Golden Axe is good, go on I dare you.
The King of Dragons is a beat ’em up/hack and slash with RPG-ish elements where rather than simply getting extra lives for getting a certain amount of points your character will level up. Further, you will find weapon upgrades which manages to prevent the typical beat ’em up fatigue. You know that feeling when you play Golden Axe and you’re fighting the same kobold just in a different colour who has the same attack pattern but just has ever increasing health that won’t die? Well here you get the new colours but your levelling keeps up with them, so that pink frog of death on level one might be hard then, but in 5 levels time you cut it’s nipples off and eat him for breakfast.
It means the difficulty comes from your learning the game, not monotonous hack and slash. Sure you get bombarded with more enemies that are harder as the game progresses, but it never descends into 4 grey dudes of death with the dials turned to 11 keeping the pacing of the game up.
Dunno really, an evil wizard is up to no good and started making trouble in the neighbourhood… Summons dragons, kidnaps a princess. Go punch fantasy creatures in the face with your sword/axe/arrow/staff,
Impressively there are 16 levels meaning TKOD feels like a huge game for the era, and this translates to roughly 12 bosses. Some levels don’t have a boss, and some have a pallatte swap boss as mid-stage bosses, but that leaves there are around 10 different bosses to fight. Even games that rightly get a lot of praise such as Streets of Rage only managed 5 unique bosses and a tedious boss run. Here there is no tedious boss run to contend with either which pleases me immensely!
There are 5 characters on show and they follow the typical DnD archetypes.
- Dwarf: Very short range, but surprisingly agile, casts magic about as well as I do, Has a dodge ability and can block attacks. Can be difficult to learn the dodging.
- Fighter: All rounder, pretty slow, mediocre spells, ok range. Newbs dream and can block.
- Elf: Made of paper can’t block attacks, shoots a bow and arrow. Okayish magic.
- Cleric: Decent magic, and a high defence and can block attacks.
- Wizard: Mega awesome magic. Look at him funny and he dies.
The levelling system is a nice touch as it isn’t simply giving you more health and damage, you will get these things but what makes the most difference are the less noticeable elements such as up you’ll gain extra attack range, or invulnerable frames. The invulnerable frames are key for me wafflestomping late game by taking advantage of self-harm. Like all beat ’em ups, pressing the special attack button unleashes magic that damages you, but doing so activates invulnerable frames meaning you can absolutely molest the boss for a few bars of health before safely retreating to repeat the process. This adds to the variety, as you can obviously git gud and learn patterns and beat the game without taking a hit. Or you can faceroll the control pad and still make suitable progress. All you need to do is pay slight attention to the screen and avoid the obvious THIS SHIT IS GOING TO KILL YOU moves.
It all adds up and means TKOD always feels you’re progressing. You never slow down, you never hit an enthusiasm tarpit of 4 grey nippled men of doom taking 10 minutes to kill, all of the levels are shortish, and each level is different. TKOD doesn’t quite have the depth of Knights of the Round but the variety on offer here easily surpasses KOTR..
Oh, it is included in the new Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle, so now is going to be your best chance to play it.
Pros: Fast paced, 16 levels, simple combat with depth, great sound track
Cons: Being the Elf.
Back in the Day:
Actually scored pretty poorly at release getting 60s on the Super Nintendo, while the arcade version scored 9s.
The Super Nintendo version isn’t quite as good as the arcade and suffers from a few difficulty spikes that don’t seem present on the arcade. It also scored significantly lower in with scores in the 60s.