Golden Axe (ゴールデンアックス) is a side-scrolling, beat 'em up, hack and slash arcade video game released in 1989 by Sega for the System 16-B arcade hardware. Makoto Uchida was the primary developer of the game and also was responsible for the creation of Altered Beast. Several ports of the game were created, most notably for the Mega Drive/Genesis and Master System.
The story varies depending on the version, this story being from the Japanese Mega Drive manual.
In ancient times, a race of ruthless giants appeared from the darkness of the world and challenged the great gods to a battle. Both forces fought to a stalemate, and the fight seemed to last forever. But the fight suddenly came to an end when the power of the giants had been contained, and they were driven away back to the darkness.
The battle was over, but it led to the demise of many of those who had fought. Those left alive in the land of the gods honed a weapon, the "Golden Axe". After a long time, humans began to emerge in the former land of the gods. The Golden Axe already left the hand of the gods, and the land was reigned by humans. One of the evil giants that had survived, Death Adder, tricked the humans and took the axe. Evil forces return to the land, starting an era of darkness.
The outcome of Ax Battler's hunt was better than expected, and he was calmly returning home in a good mood. When he thought how happy he will make his mother back at home, he increases his speed. After his father died when he was still young, bringing a smile to his mother was very important to him. At the entrance of the village, Ax Battler noticed there was no sign of people, and what he saw kept him standing on the spot. A heap of corpses were lying in the village. "T, This... no way!" His mother came to his mind and he rushed back home.
In his house, scattered furniture and his mother lying in a pool of blood reflected in Ax's eyes. "M, mo...ther......", Ax mutters and he gets speechless while standing still in place...
Lately, the country of the Firewood Kingdom has been nervous since the forces of Death Adder began appearing near its border. However, just today it was different, it's the 17th birthday of Princess Tyris Flare. A grand celebration was being carried out in the country. While the country is festive, one of the messenger soldiers came into the royal palace. It was intended to communicate an attack of Death Adder's army.
"What, Death Adder is..."
The queen stood up and ordered the whole army to prepare. However, the Firewood army was banged off guard while brittle, superposed and retreating. When the enemy troops surrounded the royal palace, the queen took her only daughter, Tyris, to a small room underground and hid her.
Eventually, by the time the chaos outside had yield, Tyris finally broke out of the room. However, the royal palace was like hell. Throughout the castle were fallen soldiers of friends and enemies. Therewith was also her parents. Tyris cried. Angry with the gods, and cursing Death Adder, she hated herself for being powerless...
Everywhere in the Firewood Kingdom, a fight was going on between the residents and the troops of Death Adder. It was almost ending with an overwhelming victory of Death Adder's forces, with all of those who opposed being killed. Gilius Thunderhead, and his younger brother and only relative Garī, had participated in the battle as soldiers from the Firewood Kingdom.
However, the situation moves toward the unfavorable for Gilius, and eventually Death Adder's army appeared in front of the Firewood Castle. The kingdom's army fought well, but fell one after another in front of the overwhelming amount of enemies. Gilius too was one of the people facing the enemy soldiers. During the battle he let his guard down for a moment while tired and was hit in the back, releasing a cry while falling unconscious on the spot.
After a while, Gilius's cheeks felt warm and he regained consciousness. Someone else seemed to be lying above him, he could not move. Shaking with force, the twisted body above him appeared to be trying to protect Gilius. Then, when taking a better look, what reflected in the eyes of Gilius was the figure of his brother laying on Gilius as if to protect him. "Garīīīīīīīī!", Gilius' cry echoed on the empty battlefield as if lasting forever...
Six years have passed since Death Adder destroyed the Firewood Kingdom. In the meantime, Death Adder's forces had been extending to the Southwood Kingdom, to the south of Firewood. The Southwood Castle was occupied, and the king and the princess had been imprisoned.
Three warriors learn of this by their dying friend Alex and set out on a quest to free the land of Yuria and avenge their losses at the hands of Death Adder. They are Gilius Thunderhead, a battle axe-wielding dwarf, Ax Battler, a male barbarian wielding a two handed broadsword, and Tyris Flare, an amazon wielding a long sword.
The warriors rescue the inhabitants of the ransacked Turtle Village, which turns out to be situated on the shell of a giant turtle. The turtle takes the characters across the sea, and they then pass by the "Fiend's Path" and fly to the castle itself on the back of a giant eagle. Once at the Royal Castle they face Death Adder. Despite wielding the powerful Golden Axe, Death Adder is defeated by the warriors and peace return to the land.
In the Mega Drive and PC versions, the characters also battle Death Adder's mentor, Death Bringer, as the true final boss in the castle's Dungeon. In the PlayStation 2 version, Death Bringer is replaced by a rematch against Death Adder, who unleashes all of his power.
Progress is made through the game by fighting through Death Adder's henchmen, including men armed with clubs and maces, skeleton warriors, and knights. Players are able to attack using their weapon, jump and cast spells that hurt all enemies on the screen. The force of this magic depends on the number of "bars" of magic power currently available. The bars are filled by collecting blue 'magic potions' attained by kicking little sprites who then drop the potions. These sprites appear during regular levels and during bonus stages in between levels. The male warrior Ax is able to cast earth spells. The dwarf Gilius, casts lightning spells and the female warrior Tyris casts fire magic. Each character has a different number of maximum magic bars and varying ranges of attack.
Various rideable monsters are found in the game. These can be ridden when the enemy rider is knocked off, or if one is found dormant. The least powerful steed is known as the Chicken Leg (which first appeared in Altered Beast), which can be used to knock down enemies with a swipe of its tail. The more powerful Blue Dragon and Red Dragon, which can either breathe fire or shoot fireballs, is found later in the game.
In addition to the main quest, some home versions of the game included "duel mode", a survival mode type game that pitted players against increasingly powerful foes in consecutive rounds of play. This mode also featured a two-player one-on-one option.
Lead producer Makoto Uchida was fond of action movies, particularly Conan the Barbarian films and wanted to create a game influenced by these films. He states that the development team for the game was small and development of the game took about a year.
Ports and remakes
Several ports of Golden Axe exist for many platforms.
- The arcade version was released as part of the Sega Vintage Collection: Golden Axe compilation for Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade) and included new features like online co-op and achievements.
- The Genesis/Mega Drive version remained largely faithful to the arcade game, adding an additional level and the aforementioned duel mode, along with a new ending.
- The Genesis port was released on the Sega/Mega CD as part of Sega Classics Arcade Collection. This version is one-player only. The background music is similar to the arcade version, and has new voice-overs.
- The Genesis port was also released on Virtual Console and as part of the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service.
- This version was later released as part of Sega Smash Pack (PC, Dreamcast and Game Boy Advance), Sega Genesis Collection (PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable), Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), and Sega Genesis Classics (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch).
- Sega Smash Pack's Game Boy Advance version is single-player only, and had some content cut.
- Both the arcade and Genesis versions were released on the Wii's Virtual Console.
- The arcade version was released as part of the Astro City Mini line, and the Genesis version was included in the Sega Genesis Mini.
- A port of the game was released on PlayStation Network on July 12, 2011 and has been available free for PlayStation Plus users.
- Golden Axe was ported for Java ME, for iPhone in 2009, and for iOS and Android in 2017 as part of the Sega Forever online service.
- The 1989 Sega Master System port is single player, and only has Tarik (a modified Ax Battler) available, but the player can choose the magic set from the three original characters.
- The 1990 PC Engine CD-ROM² port is single player only. It included improved music and voiced cutscenes, each character having an opening and ending, but the quality of the stage graphics and sound effects decreased.
- Probe Software and Virgin Games ported Golden Axe for the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, IBM PC, and ZX Spectrum home computers in 1990.
- The 2002 WonderSwan Color port is single player only and has increased difficulty due to the enemies being more aggressive. It was the first portable version of the game.
- The game received a 3D remake for PlayStation 2 in 2003, being the fifth game from the Sega Ages 2500 series. It was re-released in 2005. Several changes were done to the game, such as the inclusion of Golden Axe II enemies and the removal of bonus stages.
- Many of the screams from the arcade and Genesis games are from films, specially from the Rambo and Conan franchises.
- Virtual Console Arcade official page
- Virtual Console official page
- PlayStation 2 official page
- Golden Axe (Genesis) Steam page
- Golden Axe at Sega Retro
- Golden Axe series at Hardcore Gaming 101