Review by Unleashed Vortex

Reviewed: 08/22/06 | Updated: 08/23/06

A quick call to Laxe will sort out all of those emotional worries.

Don't mistake Golden Axe III for a cheap cash-in on a popular series or a generic brawler.

It's something more than just that.

It takes the standard formula of the original, adds two new characters, a load of awesome combos and the ability to choose different paths. Its obscurity and reinvention caused a severe spread of hatred across the internet. Heck, even Genesis fans who thought that Tempo was good and praised Dark Castle for a having a “revolutionary throwing system” disliked it, craving for an Arcade-Genesis port of Revenge of Death Adder instead. (Guys, it would've sucked on the Genesis.)

Set in a classic medieval situation, four warriors set out to defeat THE EVIL PRINCE OF DARKNESS (*coughcliche*cough) who has committed such a heinous crime! No, he doesn't want to take over the world or to destroy its inhabitants! No, he's stolen the Golden Axe! He's also unleashed a curse that not only turned the king of the land into a vicious eagle hybrid but transformed all of your comrades into mindless drones. However, with the aid of Gilius Thunderhead (the dwarf hero from the previous games), you are revived from the curse and set out on a road shrouded in darkness to release your comrades and retrieve the Golden Axe.

Older fans will be immediately disgruntled by the absence of Gilius as a playable character. However, before you start bawling, you'll be happy to see that two new faces are available. One is a sleek panther creature, whose claws prove to be a formidable match for the swords of Ax Battler and Tyrus Flare. While the other is a rather chunky ogre with rippling biceps, who proves to be rather disappointing replacement for Mr Thunderhead. His slow speed, lack of weaponry and range make him a rather bland choice for a new character. However, his strength is unmatched and when tamed, he can do some rather nasty damage on opponents.

Now, if you played any of the other Golden Axe games, you may remember that the formula for battling and killing opponents was a little tedious. It usually consisted of hammering B until you kicked your fallen foe across the screen. In GA3, all of the characters can now perform a vast array of combinations to wipe the enemy across the floor, dust them off and wipe them across the floor again. With the simple tap of a directional button with your attack, you can perform some awesome attacks. The panther can perform somersault kicks, press throws and double-clawed slash. Tyrus can throw her dagger towards a pack of enemies and have it return to her while Ax Battler can pull off some brilliant sword acrobatics, spinning his giant blade in a circle and sweeping foes off their feet by sweeping his sword up. The mass of combos that each character can perform is impressive, and despite the fact that you really need little skill to perform them, it injects a breath of fresh air into a genre whose appeal was already starting to wane.

The comedic experience of booting small elves in the head to steal their magic was horribly robbed from us in Golden Axe 2. Thankfully, Sega came to their senses and corrected this small error by bringing these back. However, they took the improved (Holy cow! The words “improved” and “Golden Axe 2” in the same paragraph!?) magic system from Golden Axe 2, which allowed you select how many magic bottles you wanted to use, has been thrown off the train. Golden Axe 3 doesn't allow you to do this but it does generously hand out one bottle of magic, even if you have used your strongest attack. Handy, if your full-on attack didn't beat the boss the first time.

As always, each character has his/her own element that they can manipulate. Tyrus can cast fire and even summon a dragon to scorch the ground free of enemies; Ax Battler throws his ability to control earth and uses his magic to create blizzards. (Not such a good idea, especially since all he's wearing is a pair of hot pants!) The panther can, unusually, cast a layer of fog across the plain that seems to hurt the enemies in some way while the ogre picks up Ax Battler's old abilities and uses his magic to crush foes with rocks. Unlike the previous titles, which mixed and matched a character's ability to fight and use magic, all of the character's magic abilities are well balanced. This, combined with the ability to perform all of those great combos, makes all of the characters in Golden Axe 3 absolute power-houses!

Despite appearing and sounding like a rather generic or even stagnant follow up to Golden Axe, you'll find that the third instalment of the series is a beat-em-up that does not only surpass the other two and Revenge of Death Adder, it even gives Streets of Rage 2 and Final Fight a run for their money. Keen importers should be alert for this quality title, despite the fact that it may put you in the red for a long time. If you enjoy manly brawlers, you'll love this one. Don't listen to those who bash this game unreasonably, they were obviously born without a brain stem, especially if it's someone who also claims that Dark Castle had a revolutionary throwing style.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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