Four years after 1985’s Gauntlet stormed arcades, Sega introduced their own “Dungeons and Dragons” themed game. Golden Axe, a simple side-scrolling fighting game, became an instant classic with kids everywhere. 14 years after the original was released, incarnations of Golden Axe are still finding their way to home systems — this time it’s to the PS2, in the form of one of the new Sega Ages 2500 releases. For those not in the know, Sega Ages 2500 are a series of classic games being remade by Sega. Currently the Sega Ages 2500 series of games (including Phantasy Star and Space Harrier) are available only in Japan, meaning you’ll have to own either a Japanese or modified Playstation 2 to enjoy this series. While Sega’s reworking of Golden Axe features all new graphics and sound, the gameplay is undeniably the same.
As with the original, players can choose one of three characters, dubbed by me as “guy with sword wearing blue”, “chick with sword wearing red”, and “dwarf with axe wearing green”. Like Gauntlet, each character has slightly different strengths and weaknesses, but all basically act the same.
Controls are a throwback to the original as well, with one convenient new addition. The original game offered three buttons to players: attack, jump, and magic. Additionally, players could perform a “jump and attack” by hitting jump then attack, as well as a “shoulder smash” by double tapping the joystick in a direction. Like Double Dragon, there was also a “rear attack”, accomplished by hitting both buttons at the exact same time. In the arcade, this was pretty effective, but it’s never translated well to home game pads. While playing the original Golden Axe on the Dreamcast (in Sega Smash Pack), it never failed — while waiting for a baddie to come up behind me, I would prepare to press both buttons, and then WHAMMO! My character would jump facing the wrong direction and begin attacking air, as some evil-doer wasted no time in questioning my somewhat odd behavior while simultaneously attacking me in the back. Sega Ages 2500’s Golden Axe fixes this age old problem by assigning another button to the “rear attack”. Mo’ buttons, less problems.
As previously stated, gameplay is identical to the original. Those of you who have played Golden Axe before (um, everybody?) will be able to jump right in and begin button mashing. Even when trying to be verbose, it’s tough to come up with more than a sentence or two to describe gameplay. “Keep moving to the right, and, uh, kill everybody.” My seven-year-old nephew gaming buddy understood them just fine, as we hacked and slashed our way through several levels.
The biggest difference between this version and the original are the graphics. In a world where 2D games just don’t seem to sell any longer, the sprites in Sega Ages 2500 version of Golden Axe have received a facelift. Not a big one, mind you — each of the old characters are still recognizable, but everybody looks “thicker”. It’s not as blatant as when Homer Simpson turned 3D; while the characters may now look three dimensional, you’re still playing in a 2D world.
Sega Ages 2500: Golden Axe has brought a game from the 80’s into the 21st century by updating the graphics engine but leaving the gameplay alone. I don’t know how well younger gamers will take to this game, but then again, I don’t think it was made for them either. Kids who have grown up on Quake and the like will probably find this new version of Golden Axe boring and repetitive. Those of us who grew up pumping quarters into the original arcade machine as well as spending hours playing Golden Axe on Sega consoles will appreciate the bone Sega is throwing to us old timers. Sega Ages 2500 Volume V: Golden Axe is a great way to kill a rainy Saturday without having to sweat (or think) too hard.