Golden Axe III (MD) Review

Golden Axe III

Unlike the previous game, it’s not surprising I didn’t know Golden Axe III existed, as it was never released here in the UK. Hell, it wasn’t really released in the US either! Rumour has it the localisation team thought the game wasn’t worth porting because it was ugly looking and didn’t play very well… Can’t say they were wrong either, at least not graphically…

Background:

Golden Axe III 6

A jaguar-man rides a dragon and burns a half-naked guy into the air in the middle of the desert. What’s wrong with that? Happens all the time…

Golden Axe III was released for the Mega Drive in Japan on June 25th 1993. It got a limited time digital release on the US “SEGA Channel”, but apart from that it wasn’t until PS2-era collections of Mega Drive games that it got a proper release, or a release at all in Europe…

Gameplay:

Golden Axe III 1

The battle on the moving cart, A.K.A. the only bit worth talking about.

The gameplay has been improved in some areas. There are more moves to do, like sweeping attacks, blocking, character-specific moves like jumping and slamming people to the floor or a double jump, plus the combos are longer and the grapple is more than just tossing people. Every character also has a special attack that fires projectiles or has them charge across the screen, alongside the regular magic attack (though oddly the magic system is back to the original Golden Axe system of “when you press the button you use all your magic meter” rather than the being able to charge and choose). There are also multi-player specific attacks, like the ability for one play to throw the other, or more importantly, a combined magic attack. Overall it retains Golden Axe II’s speedier gameplay with more variety.

The mounts are back, though this time its two dragons and two large snail creatures. The thieves make their return, which was great to see, always nice to get a potion or two by giving them a kick. There are also branching paths, which is yet another thing that connects this game to the Final Fight series, which similarly introduced that idea to their third instalment. There isn’t much on the clichés side, though they do have a level on a moving vehicle, which is more like it!

Graphics and Sound:

Golden Axe III 3

That’s not screen-tearing, that’s just how they’ve set up the textures…

The reason I think this game got such a bad rep is solely in the graphics. Somehow while the character sprites are similar to Golden Axe II, the backgrounds are far worse, to the point where they may be worse than the original game. Given the year this came out in and the kind of stuff that was being done on the Mega Drive at that time, I’m not shocked they took a look at this game and passed in the US.

Sound-wise it’s not much better. The background music isn’t up to much and the sounds are rather plain. In general, it’s just forgettable. Every bit of music I thought was quite good when me and my friend played the two sequels back-to-back turned out to be from II rather than III (and even then they weren’t that great…)

Story:

Golden Axe III 5

Me dead? Oh no! What me do now?

The Prince of Darkness Damud Hellstrike has unleashed a curse across the land, effecting all the warriors but one. As the warrior awakens more to their cause, they gather a group: Kain Grinder, a sword swinging barbarian (renamed to Axe Battler in the US version due to his resemblance to the original), Sarah Burn, a sword swinging Amazon (similarly renamed Tyris Flare in the US due to looking so similar), Proud Cragger, a giant with firsts of (non-literal) stone, and Chronos Rait, a humanoid black panther. They are led by Gilius Thunderhead, the axe wielding dwarf from the original games (though he’s not playable).

They travel the lands and defeat Damud Hellstrike and his hordes, lifting the curse in the process… To celebrate they proudly Crag, whatever that means.

Thoughts Then:

Golden Axe III 2

Wow, that’s one hell of a messy magic screenshot. Sorry, I guess?

I remember liking the “new panther person character” and expanded moveset, but I also remember pointing out some of the sky backgrounds and other things that looked a bit crap. I don’t remember thinking it was any worse than GA II though, if anything it was better due to the expanded moveset, but when you’re playing them together after their releases is different to whether I would have thought that had this landed in my lap in the mid-90s.

3 Star Game Old

Thoughts Now:

Golden Axe III 4

Catching a ride on the back of a giant eagle once again!

Once again I enjoyed the expanded movesets and some of the stages are fun, but it is undeniably ugly looking and with no nostalgia it doesn’t hold up that well. I still say it’s the best of the three though, if you remove nostalgia, anyway…

3 Star Game New

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