Genesis Reviews

Golden Axe III

Genre: Hack-‘N-Slash Developer: Sega of Japan Publisher: Sega of Japan Players: 1-2 Released: 1993

Back in 1993, I got all excited about this sequel to my favorite hack-n-slash when I saw some pics in a game magazine. I eagerly awaited its arrival, but it never came out. Well, some games it seems, are better left unreleased. GA3 is a dreadful game that craps all over the good name of the series (what’s left of it anyway). Return of Death Adder, where are you??

This installment has you on a quest to retrieve the Golden Axe from the Prince of Darkness (original, isn’t it?) after having been rescued from a dreadful curse by… the dwarf? You must now save your companions from the effects of the curse by beating the snot out of them, so that they can all eventually just run off and leave you to complete your quest, all alone.

You get four characters to choose from: Amazon, barbarian, panther man, and a big gladiator-type brute. All play more or less the same, with the difference being the amount of damage dished out. The gladiator is slow but deals the most powerful blows, panther man is quickest but is also the weakest of the bunch, etc. Your energy is now displayed by a long health bar, as opposed to the individual bars from the previous games (Yeah! Leave the game play to rot over two sequels but change the health bar!).

You can bring (drag) a friend along in the two-player mode, through either normal or hard difficulty levels. The overall gameplay scheme used in the previous games hasn’t changed, which is both bad and good. While it’s nice that you can jump right into things and kick some ass without having to learn a control scheme, I’d have preferred a few combos, or some buddy moves at least. The gameplay hasn’t progressed in this series at all, and it becomes tiresome rather quickly.

As you progress through the game, you get the option to choose your path. Although they all eventually lead to the same place, it’s nice that you don’t have to go through the same stages every time you play. When you finish or die, you’re shown a route screen that displays your progress and score (much like Outrun). The names of the stages you played are only shown here, so you can get an idea of what route you want to choose next time. Of course, this is assuming that you’ll actually go back and play it again.

There is a little interaction in the stages in that you can smash some barrels to retrieve magic bottles. The little gnomes return to steal from you as you sleep (you’d think they’d have learned by now) and to give up food and magic. The graphics are bland and uninspired, with a bare use of parallax. The backgrounds, though sometimes colorful, have very little detail. Your characters move very stiffly, which was a disappointment. Being the third in the series, I had hoped that the animation would be better than in the original. Moreover, there are only five enemies in the whole game. You fight tall skinny guy, short fat guy, a gladiatrix, and big knights with swords (they block your rush attack!); repeatedly. Only their colors change. Even worse, the animals you can mount are downright awful. Be it the snail with legs (!) that whips out its tongue or the lizard that throws flame across the floor, you’re better off on foot. At least the skeletons make a return, even though they’re harder than some of the bosses.

The music is dull and of very poor quality. No tune is worth listening to, and you’ll quickly forget the music is on while you play. It’s that bad. There are some decent stereo effects when you use magic, and they at least removed the annoying “blahs” from part two. Sounds like clangs and crashes have been recycled from previous installments, but they’re also of lower sound quality.

None of this is as bad, however, as the horrendous magic effects. This is a downright travesty, honestly. Nothing is worse than saving up all your magic for the boss, only to see a few rocks or a wavy cloud (a cloud!) pass across the screen. Pathetic. I remember choosing Tyris Flare (the Amazon) in part one, just to see that badass dragon reign flaming death over my enemies. Well, the magic effects here aspire to be as good as those from part one that used only one bottle. Did I mention you can’t choose how much magic you use? Have one bottle or all of them, once you press that button, your wad is shot.

All in all, I can only recommend this game if you just have to have the complete trilogy or if a friend’s little brother trades it to you for a pack of Yugioh! cards. Aside from that, stay far, far away.

SCORE: 4 out of 10



  1. I thought this game was fairly decent, even if I could see why others wouldn’t have quite cared for it at the same time though. At the very least it wasn’t so horrible to be denied a stateside release I.M.O., not counting being to play it on Sega’s “virtual console” that was the Sega Channel back in the day. It’s sort of like a poor man’s version of the great arcade exclusive sequel that was The Revenge Of Death Adder, and has a slight amount of that game’s spirit as well. That being even if it’s probably a bit more closer to a homeless man’s version of it though! (L.O.L.!)

  2. What?? A 4/10?? To me this is the best of the 3. There is so much awesomness in this game that I can’t understand why it’s never been released in the west. And I don’t get why so many people dislike it.

    As Keytarman said -his review is above- there is a lot of improvements over the 2 first (that were both way too similar by the way), like a LOT of new combos, the possibility to choose your path, original levels like the dragon cart level, or towards the end the fight on the top of a giant eagle (!!) my god that was awesome! The musics are also much better than part 2, and the overall rythm of the gameplay is just so frantic that you don’t have one second to relax. Truly one of the best beat’em all on the system together with Streets of Rage 2, yes it’s that good (imo). Actually, it is closer to the arcade version of Golden Axe 2 than to the MD installements, in terms of graphic and gameplay. If you haven’t played the arcade version of Golden Axe 2 I would urge you to do so as it is probably the best Golden Axe ever.

    Anyway. I would guess that the reason that so many dislike GA3 is that everybody grew up with the 2 first installement and were too attached to them for so many years. I replayed all 3 of them with my seven years old son not so long ago, and his judgement was crystal clear. “I like the one that has better picture, better music, has bigger sword, has the level where you fight on the back of a giant eagle flying in the sky toward a mountain and also you can choose your route”. You know which one he meant!

    9/10 from me.

  3. I humbly disagree with this review, I enjoyed the game myself.

    I know people on the forum like to bash on it, (exp: for it’s simplified backgrounds) but I honestly couldn’t care why it’s technically inferior to the previous entries. It was a solid title imo. Shame it never got a release in the West, though.

  4. I can understand how some people really like this game. For me, it made a poor first impression as the opening level is one of the least exciting in the game. Further in there were aspects I really like. Some of the levels look very good. There are some good game-play ideas in the game. I really like some of the music. Still, I can’t help feeling that Golden Axe 3 is simply an unfinished game. Many sprites are flat and bland, seeming like placeholders for the finalized graphics. Animation is very choppy which is a step down from the previous Golden Axe games which I like a lot. I encountered issues with the hit detection as well. I wanted to like this one a lot, and I do like some of the elements, but it just felt like an incomplete game to me.

  5. What? 4 out of 10? I couldn’t disagree more, Golden Axe 3 is amazing and it’s the more playable of the bunch nowadays. The moves were greatly enhanced, resembling more games like Streets of Rage, and the new characters are just epic. I mean, a cheetah-man who can bite people’s heads? That’s the picture of awesome.

    To me, Golden Axe 3 is 8 out of 10.

  6. I am sorry but am I the only one to disagree with this review?

    My personal story with Golden Axe III is quite big. Back in the early 90s I used to play on my cousin’s console on holidays (as my parents would not allow me to play during school time). And every time that I will get the console it would always come with a completely random set of cartriges as my cousin was constantly trading and exchanging cartridges he had.On spring holidays 1994 I got that megadrive with two games, one being the golden axe 3 and the other – MJ’s moonwalker. Somehow I did not stick to moonwalker at all. I guessit was just not my type of a game. But GA has blown my mind. I remembered playing the GA 1 on pc a few years before that brieflyand the part 3 seemed much more advanced than the first part.I used to slash through it for hours, learning the new paths and the turns to end up on a certain level (which at that time seemed really impressive, as most of the games you would see on megadrive back in the day were linear and straightforward as a crowbar).

    I still remember that morning 18 years ago when I had to go back to school. And give the console back. That morning I sat down to have one last go and for the first tinme I mmanaged to make it to the Death Adder’s castle. I was killed by the pack of yellow colored knights and that was it.

    Never since that day did that cartridge came back. And through the years I got fixed on that game. Music? I rememberred all of them tunes by heart for 10 years before I discovered the emulators.

    At the age of 17, ten years after that memorable morning I returned. When I heard the entrance theme it nearly made me cry. When I completed that game it felt like growing up. I still love GA 3, and I can surely say, that it is among my favorite megadrive games of all time.

    Golden axe 3 has a style. I think even if you will look at thescreenshots attached to this review you would see how much did the graphics evolve since the first installment ofthe series (and here I am talking mainly about the genesis version of GA 1, which is graphically much more reduced than the arcade version).

    Golden axe 3 has more enemies than the first two episodes. Plus their color variations.

    The dragon cart ride in the second part of the first level is a lot of fun. Throwing your enemies off the cart is quite easy and I wish that this part of the game was a bit longer. But it is quite refreshing for the gameplay.

    As I have already mentioned the game has different sets of levels you cann choose by taking different paths at the end of the levels. Which makes the world inthe game feel much bigger and of course is encreasing the replayability. The bosses you have to fight vary, depending on the path you choose and the character you are playing with.

    Characters _are_ very different. It is nice that they kept the prototypes of batler and flare (even though they are called differently – who cares? They are called 1p and 2p anyways unless you read the manual.). The new ones are also cool and have completely different fighting styles. The battle system has evolved drammmatically. There are LOADS of special moves and combinations. It is not just pressing B all the time. It is loads of different combos, sword swinging, double jumps, scratching, biting , fireballs and all the other things you can do. Magic also makes a lot of sense, even though the amount of bars is the same for all the characters and you can not choose the amount of bars you choose (which only appeared in the 2nd part after all). It is really cool that different players have different magic elements they are using which really adds to their portrait for me.

    I do not generally debate on internet. As they say it is the same as the special olympics. But I simply could not pass by one of my favorite games of all time being slaughtered on this website. Sure, different people have different taste. But it is definitely not a ” stay far, far away.” game.

    • You are not the only one to disagree with the review.
      GA3 is not a bad game (even though my personal favorite is the first GA)
      but for me your review is the one that counts here. I have played the game and it is quite enjoyabl, but reviews like yours are the reason i joined this site.
      Thanks for that.
      oh…and a 7/10 to the game, because it might be the best of the early series in terms of design and technical details.

Leave a Comment