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Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe (1991)      

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(Anonymous) (Unknown)   27th Mar 2012 05:39

"An obscure Golden Axe spin-off that's been turned into a mediocre action RPG."

Ax Battler: A Legend Of Golden Axe really should have worked well as an adventure themed Zelda clone but what happened here? What did Sega allow to happen to one of their most popular franchises at the time? Axe Battler seems to be most influenced by Zelda II but everything that makes that game or any other game like it work well is simply missing or just broken. I have a very strained relationship with the Game Gear and I was really looking for good adventure and role playing games and I decided to spend some time with this game and was hugely let down.

I think that being a spin off of the legendary Golden Axe series really measured this game against some very high standards in most gamers' eyes. I myself had some high hopes the first few short times I played it and wanted to call it a good Game Gear release but when I finally dove into it and did a full play through is when my appreciation for it became really strained; if I even had appreciation for it at all when I was done. Never has an adventure game of this type left me more angry or had me screaming at a game more than Axe Battler did and that's a shame as this game had a couple of really good ideas that were just executed quite terribly.

I'm going to compare this to Zelda II since that's the game it feels most similar to and it seems to have almost too much in common with that game. The story seems to take place in the far future of the original three Golden Axe games where a king hid the Golden Axe away to be forgotten about in order to keep peace but eventually it gets stolen by some evil army and then he summons the muscle bound spandex clad Ax Battler (wonderfully generic name huh) who ironically wields a sword to go on the lonely journey to get the Golden Axe back.

The game starts out feeling like your typical Zelda inspired adventure game. You get to run around a pretty overly linear world map where you have to make your way through caves and mountains in order to obtain quest items. Generally each part of the world map is very small with usually one cave to explore in order to find an item to help a town that will then advance the plot. Along the way you will get into random battles similar to Zelda II that take place in a small side scrolling stage. As you progress through the game you will find training rooms in the towns where you have to defeat a certain enemy and if you do then you will learn a new attack all of which are quite helpful throughout the game. You will also learn magic spells that are very similar to the ones in the original Golden Axe games. They are executed by using magic vases which are obtained by defeating enemies on the world map.

This game may seem all fine and dandy but it's rife with lazy programming as it seems like the programmers just wanted to get the game done and make a buck. To start, this game is just too linear; the world map is broken up into tiny sections that consist of like one town and a cave where you have to find an item and then go through another cave to get to the next town. The enemies in the game are very cheap and difficult. They have very specific patterns that you have to follow to a T and if you deviate you will just get killed. When you run into a random battle on the world map you can only take one hit before you are kicked out of the battle effectively wasting your time. When you are in the caves and cliff stages you can take more hits but small enemies pop out of no where and hand out cheap hits which make the travel very frustrating. Your vases which you collect are used for magic attacks very similar to how the magic system works in the main GA games but once you use an attack your vases are used up. If you have a game over you then lose your vases as well and there's no way to heal aside from an inn in a town. The whole game can be completed in about an hour but is just a painstaking trial and error session where you will die endlessly until you master the harder enemies' patterns. The other thing that just kills this game off is that there are no bosses in the game. That's right, no bosses. The final battle of the game is simply handled through a text based story on a black screen stating how you defeated the evil forces and reclaimed the Golden Axe.

It's a shame that the game play is so shallow and lazy because the game does feature some decent visuals for the Game Gear. Ax Battler is nicely animated as well as the enemies are too; all of the characters are fairly large too and the caves and other places you explore are fairly detailed as well. It also sports a fairly decent soundtrack that actually feels like it belongs in a Golden Axe game. I didn't recognize any tunes from the Genesis games but everything that was here flows pretty nicely and is easy to listen too despite being high pitched 8 bit music.

I wanted to like this game so much more because there's just not enough role playing or similarly themed games for the Game Gear but this game is just a test of patience and not one that feels rewarding after it's completed either. I'm not going to recommend this to anyone, even fans of role playing games as the game is just too thin on game play and doesn't have enough to offer. This, fellow Golden Axe fans, is simply a spin-off that's just better off avoided and forgotten and just another reason as to why the Game Gear has such a weak presence during its life span.

Reviewer's Score: 4/10, Originally Posted: 09/26/11

Game Release: Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe (US, 1991)

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This title was first added on 4th November 2007
This title was most recently updated on 27th March 2012

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