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Golden Axe II

Genre: Hack-‘N-Slash Developer: Sega of Japan Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1-2 Released: 1991

Every great game spawns at least one sequel. Many have more but you will find that the majority of games are never a one shot deal. Golden Axe, a popular port of the hit coin-op, was a Genesis launch title and received a sequel in 1991. Golden Axe II for the Genesis was one of two versions of a sequel, the other game was released in arcades (Revenge of Death Adder) and was a completely different game with a different story line, but I won’t go into it.

The story for Golden Axe II was nothing to do with the return of Death Adder but featured a brand new enemy that went by the name of Dark Guld, who basically attempted to do what Adder had tried: conquer the world. However, the three warriors, Ax Battler, Tyrus Flair and Gilius Thunderhead, set off to defeat Dark Guld and bring peace to the land again.

Golden Axe II plays almost exactly the same way as its predecessor but has a few changes. The basic way of play: killing monsters, collecting and using magic, and fighting big bosses remains the same; but I have to say it is a lot harder than in the original. You have a choice of the same three characters but they have new abilities and different magic, which is good, though a new character would have been a treat. All the main gameplay elements from the first Golden Axe remain and while this is good, there is very little change or innovation. Basically, it feels like the first game but it fails to have the same classic feel.

The three characters posses some new skills but they play very much like the first, control wise. They all have the same types of attacks and even the same weapons. All three still have their magic abilities, but there have been a few changes. If you collect a certain amount of magic you can use as many of the bottles as you like, instead of using all of it at once which can be incredibly handy. Moreover, Ax Battler now uses wind magic instead of earth (Gilius now has it), and Tyrus retains her fire abilities. The strength of each magic is still the same, with Gilius being the worst and Tyrus being the best.

Magic is collected in a similar way to the first game except bug-eyed wizards have replaced the jolly little imps. This is a mistake because kicking one of these guys is no fun at all compared to booting those little imp guys in the face. I would have preferred the imps but in the end the wizards are okay. They actually attack you who are unusual for magic carrying bad guys but it gives the game more of a challenge.

Like the first game, there is a large amount of enemies to kill. Some of the enemies are from the first game but look different and in some cases they’ve improved. The most common enemies are Heningers and Longmoans and they appear in almost every level. Skeletons have returned and look the same but they have scythes instead of swords. Apart from these most of the enemies are brand new, like Minotaurs and Lizard men, which need little description. The Knights have also been changed in that they have been decapitated for some bizarre reason. They are a lot bigger than other enemies, though.

Rideable animals have changed as well in Golden Axe II. The chicken-legs use their tail whip attacks to trip enemies up and send them flying across the screen. The two other dragons are lot smaller than what I imagined and very different. One packs a powerful kick that does terrific damage while the last dragon can breathe fire, taking out several enemies at once.

The graphics have been upgraded and although they are very similar, they are given a lot more detail. The sprites are more detailed and the three characters are given some new features. Gilius has a whiter beard, which shows signs of age while Ax and Tyrus both have headbands, which make them look more like barbarians. Enemies are impressive because of the sheer size of some of them. The Minotaur, for example, has this evil grin on his face.

The backgrounds are brilliant, looking much cooler this time around. The castle levels have skeletons lying on the ground, which is great. It looks like the remains of a battle or something. The backgrounds are a massive improvement because they have loads of detail, unlike in the first game.

The music is another improvement and is lot more dramatic. It still has a medieval/fantasy theme that obviously fits in with the game. Golden Axe II‘s score isn’t as creative as its predecessor but can more than hold its own. The overall sound quality is superior, however, mainly because the music is very powerful and sounds so much clearer. Even when you first start the game up you hear this pounding drum beat followed by a dramatic tune that really gets you in the mood of the game.

The small amount of voice available is made up of mostly the groans and cries of your foes, and they’ve taken a severe hit. The original Golden Axe had full Altered Beast-style screams that were deliciously painful-sounding. What were once the horrific cries of a painful death have now been reduced to a small blah!, which is very disappointing.

Overall, Golden Axe II is a competent sequel that falls short compared to its source. A little innovation would have improved its final score but the great quest and ramped up difficulty ensure that Golden Axe charm does indeed remain.

SCORE: 8 out of 10

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