Sega Vintage Collection: Golden Axe Review (XBLA)

Posted by Jim Cook, Jun 08, 2012 22:43

While not loaded to the brim with the genre’s best, the Xbox Live Arcade library is home to several great side-scrolling brawlers like The Simpsons and Final Fight, plus Sega’s own Streets of Rage collection. This makes the release of Sega Vintage Collection: Golden Axe rather baffling. The three games included are Golden Axe 1 (Arcade), 2 (Genesis), and 3 (Genesis), all three of which are at least acceptable games of their kind. Despite some interesting gimmicks, they have aged somewhat poorly and as a result this review is going to be very lukewarm praise throughout.

Sega Vintage Collection: Golden Axe (Xbox 360) Like the other Vintage Collection releases, this one presents the games to you through an emulator and front-end system that lets you customize the experience to some extent. You pick which game you play, which region’s version of it, adjust the visual settings, and go to it. The basic idea in each Golden Axe is the same; you pick a character, each of which has a different medieval weapon and element to their magic attacks, then plow your way through hordes of enemies on your way to the stage’s boss. Upon killing them, you go on to the next level and repeat the process until you reach the end. The controls are pretty simple and while there are a few tricks you can read up on, for the most part a player can be up and running in just a minute or two of practice.

Well aware that they are similar to so many competitors and had the same issue back in the day, the Golden Axe games tried to add a few neat ideas. Screen-engulfing magic attacks are the most obvious, and they can be powered up by finding potions to make them an even more impressive, safe way to clear out a pack of enemies. Every bit as iconic to the series is its use of wild animals you can ride, once you knock their previous owner out of the saddle. These beasts usually have longer attack reach or some little trick to what areas they attack, making them pretty fun to play around with.

Despite this good start, it’s the little things that bog the collection down. The controls are one of the more noteworthy issues, with characters jumping at very strange angles that get a lot of height but not as much horizontal range as you might think. This is a problem since some stages have gaps that are very dangerous if you fall in to them, so getting past them requires either very precise jumping or more clever solutions (some characters’ special attacks might help with this, for example). Music and graphics are somewhat random in their quality too, which hurts when a lot of the appeal in brawlers is having a good presentation that keeps you pumped for more action. Sometimes these games succeed at it, other times they sound and look really dull. When you’re dealing with game mechanics that become very repetitive, this really drags the experience down.

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Our Rating for Sega Vintage Collection: Golden Axe Review (XBLA)
5.5 Replay
Branching paths might bring you back for one more go at some point, but these are linear games by design and best suited to being low-cost, disposable entertainment with a friend.
5.0 Graphics
As one might expect, visuals from two decades ago look primtive today. These are nonetheless decently detailed sprites for their time and some contemporary options will help smooth things out if you like.
6.0 Sound
Some music stands out as classic, but other tracks are very plain. Weapon and magic sounds are equally hit-or-miss, though Golden Axe’s use of cheesy stock film sounds such as the Wilhelm Scream offer some campy fun.
6.5 Gameplay
As easy to learn as most other games in the genre, each Golden Axe title has decent stage design and some neat gimmicks like riding around on fantastic creatures. The stiff controls are a problem in some sections, though.
7.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
Pretty much the sole reason to play these kinds of games is to team up with a friend, and you can do so with one other person via local or online play. However, the author cannot personally vouch for how the online aspect works due to being unable to find anyone to play it with.
6.5 Overall
Not bad, but inferior to so many competitors available on XBLA at similar prices. Fans of arcade-style brawlers should still pick it up, but only after you have gone through better games first.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0

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