Review: Golden Axe II (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we take on the Dark Guld in the Sega Genesis game Golden Axe II. We find out if this hack n’ slash game is worth a play.

This game was released in 1992. We have had some exposure to this series already. We previously played Golden Axe and that game got a decent score. So, we thought we’d continue this series by playing the first sequel.

The game takes place several years after the events of Golden Axe. One day, the Dark Guld makes a return and raises armies to defeat various kingdoms in the land. Three hero’s emerge to defeat him and his forces.

There are two main modes in this game, normal and duel mode. The normal campaign mode allows players to select from one of 3 hero’s. Each hero has their strengths and weaknesses. From there, players will take on the series of levels. If players chose the easy setting, they will only make it to the main gates. Any other difficulty will allow players to finish the game provided they have the skill to accomplish this.

A lot of the features from the previous game make an appearance in this game. For one, the inability to complete the game on the easy setting is there. For another, the mini-game between levels where you fight off bandits for items such as food and spell power. Additionally, there are creatures that players can ride that grant players extra weaponry.

The ability to cast magic is certainly there, but the spell casting uses a charge button instead. The longer you hold down the spell casting button, the more powerful the spell is. Like the last game, though, the more powerful the spell, the more spell points it uses.

Another thing that is somewhat modified is the use of ledges. In the last game, you could easily use ledges to take out enemies without allowing them to so much as scratch you. In this game, this exploit more or less is still there, but some enemies will strafe out of harms way in the process. So, there is a nice added layer of complexity that gives players a subtle added challenge.

Players will be able to execute moves such as the standard attack, jumping, and even body checking and special charging jump attacks. In this game, the only move I wasn’t really ever able to execute that well was the jump and stab down attack. Otherwise, after some practice, I was able to master to a reasonable degree.

Another feature making a return is the duel where players take on gradually more difficult opponents. Like the last game, you have a limited pool of health to work with.

Regardless of which mode or difficulty you choose, players will get a score based on what I presume is skill. The points added up will go to a meter and the meter indicates the grade point you get. What I will admit is that either I am out of practice or it is more difficult to get a half decent score this time around. Either way, I didn’t get as high of scores, but I did get to about the same points in the game.

Each player gets three lives. If the player loses all three lives, players will be able to use one of three continues. Use all three continue and it is game over.

What I do like about this game is the fact that players have an array of moves. While it may seem that the different moves simply add some variety, one move or another is particularly effective against certain enemies. Some enemies can be taken down with the charging body checking move. Others simply need to be mowed down with jumping and slashing. While I couldn’t figure out particularly effective ways of taking down the headless knights or the final boss (mainly because I had so little health by the time I got to him), I do know that there is a certain degree of problem solving in this game. This means that there are certainly logical ways of defeating opponents that increase your survival abilities. So, I certainly do like that.

I also like the difficulty curve. A lot of beat ’em up or hack n slash games I’ve played simply beat your down with difficulty. The games simply punch you in the gut with difficulty and never let up after. This makes games like this less than approachable for new players. This game at least gives players a chance towards the beginning. At the same time, with the length and difficulty settings, it will still challenge players more used to these styles of games. A lot of games like this out there don’t strike a very good balance, but this one is much more successful in that regard.

What I will say is that the games length is still a bit too short for me. I could easily finish it over the course of an afternoon – or at least get my fill of it. So, it’s not something you can really find yourself immersed in because the experience only lasts for such a limited period of time.

Another thing about this game is the fact that the AI still has its flaws. In this game, it revolves around pits. Most enemies will simply walk straight toward you. As a result, all you have to do is position yourself so that a pit is between you and an enemy. This simply move means instant death for the enemy. I’m not complaining too loudly because it does make the game easier. Still, it is a notable exploit in the game.

Additionally, there are no save or password features. Each time you play, you play until you either finish the game, die, or quit part way through. Because of the length, it isn’t as big of a deal. It does, however, mean you have to allocate a certain amount of time to play this, so it can make for an awkward play when you are either forced to play for longer then you wanted to or forced to quit part way through.

Still, it is an alright game. It has some interesting features. Not a lot that is particularly new to the series, unfortunately. Still, what worked for the previous game is here again. So, not all is lost. Some minor improvements to the riding animals and a few good tweaks to the AI even though it is still imperfect. The difficulty curve was great, but the length of it left a fair bit to be desired. So, some strengths and weaknesses for sure.

Graphically, this game is alright. By this point in time in video game history, strides are already being made to push for 3D. What is 2D, however, is also getting pretty good. This game certainly holds its own with the environments and character animations. What I will say is that the effects that are in the game are less than impressive. The blocky transition screens reminds me of early Atari 2600 games. So, that is really my only source of criticism on that front.

The audio is alright. The music does offer a sense of atmosphere. I can’t say it is particularly memorable, but it does do a decent job. The sound effects are decent enough. So, an overall passable experience.

Overall, this is a game with strengths and weaknesses. The strengths involve carrying over what worked in the previous game into this game. I like the various moves you can perform and the overall problem solving nature of defeating different enemies. In addition to this, the difficulty curve is well executed. Drawbacks include the length of the game and flaws in the enemy AI. I would have liked to have seen more new features in the sequel, but what is there does work. The graphics do hold there own here, but the game does have its competition. The transition effects leave a bit to be desired. The music and sound effects are decent enough. So, an overall pretty decent game in my view.

Furthest point in game:
Easy: Class E (40.4) (won)
Medium: Class E (43.4) (died fighting the last boss).
Hard: Class E (41.5) Died fighting the red skeletons on the last level.

Duel: 68.0 Class C (died on round 13/15)

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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