Golden Axe (SMS)

Golden Axe (SMS) Box Art

Golden Axe

System: SMS

Release Date: March 1990

Developer: Sega

Publisher: Sega

Genre: Beat ‘em Up

Do you not have access to a Genesis, but still want to play Golden Axe? Sega’s got you covered on the Master System, much like they did with Altered Beast. In this stripped down port, Tyrus and Gillius are nowhere to be found and Ax Battler is named Tarik. Death Adder has stolen the titular Golden Axe and it’s up to you to traverse five levels of beat ‘em up action to get it back.

We start the game off by choosing which school of magic to bring with us. Your choices are between Earth, Fire, and Lightning . The spells look to be all the same as their Genesis counterparts. Being a 20 minute game, I played through with each spellbook to check out any differences.

If you can get past the terribly choppy animations and awful framerate, you can see the same mechanics at play. You swing your sword with Button I and jump with Button II. Magic is activated by pressing both buttons simultaneously. This rids you of the back attack ability, which is my bread and butter. Dashing with a double tap is here, but difficult to pull off, making the damaging downward sword thrust even harder to connect with. Jump slashes are weak, but relatively safe, as long as you connect (7:15).

Enemies surround you, which can be exploited to your advantage, but your timing has to be perfect. They also beeline for available mounts, which is useful in lining up attacks. The skeletons are viscous and deadly, having a lot of hit points and hitting hard themselves. The gap jump in level 3 is made to be incredibly touchy. It took me several tries when I got there the first time to clear it.

If you can get past the skeletons, the larger enemies are pretty easy to beat, as they walk up to you, leaving themselves open to attack if your timing is good. In fact, everything boils down to timing. If you can get good with a mount, you can sail through each level except for the Fiend’s Path. Winning or dying gets you your grade. Good luck on making it to A+++.

Graphics: 1.0

I can see they wanted to have graphics similar to the Genesis, but the colors are missing and the framerate is god awful.

Sound: 1.5

Again, they tried to duplicate the Genesis music and sounds to unfortunate results.

Gameplay: 1.0

Attacks don’t always register when you press the button. Enemies get the jump on you because of it.

Difficulty: 2.0

The difficulty is created because of the sluggishness inherent elsewhere. You get up to nine lives to go through five levels.

Fun Factor: 1.0

I don’t think I would have enjoyed playing this very much even if I never played the Genesis version.

Overall Grade: 1.3

Golden Axe earns a D+. This is a stripped down port and it suffers just like the Master System Altered Beast did.

Golden Axe (SMS) Video Review on YouTube