Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Golden Axe

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chris-littlechild - April 11, 2012

Golden Axe, scrolling hack-and-slash and possessor of the most ridiculous creature since the duck-billed platypus, was released in 1989. Death Adder has invaded the castle and taken the royal family hostage. Most fortuitously, a motley crew of warriors are at hand, ready to bring justice for this heinous crime. Via sharp pointy objects, and much kicking little dwarf-dudes right in the face. That's how heroes roll, it transpires.

This shitty Conan the Barbarian-esque narrative is presented solely by an awkward dialog box that appears for about an eighth of a second. It informs us, further, "my good friend Alex was also killed in the battle. To defeat them and to bring peace to the land is my duty!" Just in case you were thinking: it's just the royal family, balls to them. But Alex as well! Not Alex! Now I'm pissed! Ma, fetch my sword of ultimate stab-tastic vengeance! Quite plainly, everyone wants to take the role of mighty dwarf/awesome beardy shortass Gilius Thunderhead. Alas, back in the day I was constantly relegated to player two status. This left the Sophie's choice of either utterly lame barbarian guy in something that resembles Medieval speedos, or Amazon warrior-woman with the hugest, blockiest ass anyone's ever squeezed into a thong. Both, in case it wasn't clear, suck giant gorilla balls.

The stage is then set for six-or-so levels of archaic, godawfully ugly goon-pummelling. It's a simple attack button and jump button affair, albeit with a liberal dose of pure wtf mixed in. Between levels a map screen will appear, charting your progress towards Death Adder. At the end of a bout with his demented henchmen in the village, you'll read 'the village was on the back of a giant turtle.'

Of course it was. Nothing screwy there.

My favourite example of Golden Axe oddity occurs when you're casually informed that the Fiend's Path, a mountain trail of some sort, was a giant eagle. The path actually forms some kind of primitive road, which runs right across the bird's head. As you hop from it onto the next stage, your character doesn't even pause to muse, that route actually seemed to be paved. Across itsactual head.Am I pissed or something? But then, in this title you also fight on the back of a pink and yellow dog-thing, with a beak and mermaid's tail. They call it a Cockatrice. I call it something Lewis Carroll dreamed up for Alice in Wonderland. While stoned. But with this freak in mind, I suppose bird-roads are merely par for the course.

Golden Axe is another essential experience for retro heads. There's a good challenge here, it's a game I've never actually managed to complete. In my last attempt, I defeated the boss with a single life remaining. I thought I had won when the king appeared, dangling upside down from a chain like there'd been some kind of S & M creepiness going on. Alas, the old bastard merely sent me on to the actual final level. Whereupon, I failed to successfully leap a pit about three seconds in and immediately died. Hilarity threatened to prevail.

Streets of Rage fans will feel right at home, and relish the chance to experience the grandad of the genre. Be warned though, he's an obnoxious old bugger at times, and I'm not convinced his marbles are all in order any more.

Article by Chris Littlechild

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