The two Golden Axe sequels have the same story attached to them as the two Final Fight sequels did: me and my friends had no idea they existed until the early 2000s when we saw them on a list of ROMs, though this time a Mega Drive list rather than SNES. Still, 2001-ish is nearly two decades ago now (?!) so I can still take two separate looks at them, even if the first one isn’t contemporary. Golden Axe II is as a sequel plays it extremely safe, but does it improve enough to overcome the lack of nostalgia?
“Hey look, Ax! I’m taller than you! … and I actually have an axe.” “Not this again…”
Beyond me and my friends not knowing they exist, these games share something else with Final Fight 2 and 3 and that’s that they’re not based on Arcade games and were created for console only. Golden Axe II was released exclusively on the Mega Drive in Japan on December 27th 1991, in the US on January 26th 1992, and Europe got it later that same year.
It was later packaged with a bunch of old Mega Drive games for various collections over the years, as well as an iOS port.
The Skeletons look more at home in this hellish landscape, I guess?
The Gameplay remains much the same: move to the right, you have a short combo and a throw (though this time you can pick a direction to throw people), you can do a running and jumping attack, and you can unleash a screen-clearing magic attack the size of which is based on your magic meter, though this time you can chose to just use a portion of your magic meter or all of it by holding the button down. You can also do a special attack that hits behind and in front of you by holding attack and jump at the same time, which I can’t remember if I knew or not, but I just read while double checking something (we played GA II and III on the same day, so they kind of blend together…), so there you go!
Add in the ridable mounts and it’s pretty much the same game, though I will say the combat has been sped up a bit, thankfully. There isn’t the in-between levels camping section with the thieves though, which is sad to see… Once again there isn’t much in the cliché stakes either, plus there’s the return of the Duel Mode if you really fancy that…
Once again it’s very short, which given this time it isn’t based on an Arcade game I’m not sure what the excuse is. The levels are longer but there are only six and a final boss, which is less levels than (the Mega Drive version of) the original.
Graphics and Sound:
Hmmm… Time hasn’t been kind to the repeated textures in this background…
The graphics have seen a small upgrade. The sprites are more detailed, especially the playable trio, and everything is a bit more colourful.
Soundwise is the reverse of the original: the background music is more dull and unmemorable (or is that because I didn’t play it as a child…?) but the soundeffects are less comical or outright confusing.
*GASP!* His axe, it’s…. Golden! Wait a minute… I get it now!
Ax Battler, Tyris Flare and Gilius Thunderhead meet back up after they hear a new threat to the land led by Dark Guld is… threatening the land, and to make matters worse Guld has the Golden Axe!
They travel across the kingdom, defeat Guld’s minions and then the main man himself before calling it day. … At least nobody has been kidnapped, that makes a change!
Gilius unleashes his magic… against a skeleton again. There are other map enemies, I swear!
It was weird playing this back in the early 2000s, just because it did feel like more Golden Axe, not some updated “modern” version, but a tried and true sequel, which of course it was, but when you’d spent a decade thinking the game was a one-off meant it was a weird feeling playing this. Fun, and better playing than the original, but obviously it didn’t get more than one or two play throughs.
See? There’s a different type of enemy! … No, not at the top left, the purple guy!
Now? Much the same, but without the weirdness of not knowing it existed. It plays better than the original, the locations are more varied and the graphics a bit of a step up, but it had no nostalgia, so after the one play through we’re unlikely to play it again…