Review by TKDBoy1889
The trilogy doesn't end on a high note
Following the success of the first 2 Golden Axe games on the Genesis, a third one came to fruition. Sadly it was not released officially in North America so most many people missed out until they could buy it online, or until it was released for the Wii virtual console recently. The game takes a big turn in the series. Set many years later, Tyris and Ax Battler have passed away and Gillius is more of a mentor. A new wave of brave warriors are destined the reclaim the Golden Axe and save the land. Once you are rid from a dark curse, you set about on your journey to win the day and free others of their curse.
So how is this game? Pretty different, and honestly fun. But... not as good as the other games were as a whole.
A step up for the series is very apparent in the graphics apartment. There is more variety in the level background, and much better detail in the visuals. Enemies look different from the previous games, but still menacing. There is even animation in the backgrounds now, like moving clouds in the sky or flowing waterfalls, or rocks that shimmer in the caves. Overall, the levels and enemies have received good improvement.
Sadly the same can't be said for the magic animations. Seriously, they looked best in the first game and since then just... not quite as good. It's largely because rather than made to look like they are actually happened on the map like in the first game, they mainly just play on the screen here, feeling separate from the action. Otherwise, the graphics in this game rock.
Golden Axe may be sporting the best music from the original trilogy. Pushing aside the nostalgia bias I have for the first game, the compositions written for Golden Axe 3 are stellar for the most part. Many of these tracks may very well be among my favorite Genesis tunes. The track for the opening level is really good at getting you into that feeling of starting an epic adventure, and after that the songs do a great job keeping you engrossed in most of the levels. A couple of them are not as good but none of them are bad, and overall it's just great.
Sounds effects.... are a different story. They are not as good as they could have been. They aren't terrible exactly but they sound strange sometimes, and are not exactly stellar. The screams are pretty cool. And the sword slashing and club bashing sounds pretty decent. However, some striking sounds or the sounds of spells? They are not good at all, honestly. They sound garbled and messy.
Ah, the gameplay. This game has presented me with many things I like, but also many things I hate. I'm gonna have to separate this into two different sections; the good and the bad.
Golden Axe 3 decided to change up the gameplay rather than repeat the same things over like Golden Axe 2 did. And it doing so, it adds a lot of good things that are fun and broaden the experience. For one, there are more combat options. There are all kinds of new little things you can do. There is a standing special attack when you're surrounded, a forward special for more damage against enemies, a low hit that can get past enemies blocking (Yes, the enemies in this game can block, a new feature in itself.), and even some short ranged attacks done with combos on the controller. The game still has the standard combo but mixed it up character to character, and has a grappling mechanic that is more like a typical beat 'em up where you walk up and grab the enemy. You can still run and attack, and do a jump attack or running jump attack, so there are many options.
Golden Axe also made the game a bit non-linear and presents the player with some choices by having branching paths in levels, usually after defeating the boss or right before facing them. This presents freedom and allows every play to be a bit different. Some of the bosses are also playable characters, which switches things up depending on who you play as and where you go.
And Golden Axe 3 gave the series double team attacks. Physical as well as magical. These are epic, especially the magic-based ones. Just get two full bars of magic and BAM! Epic awesomeness will be seen and brought down upon the enemies. These are the things Golden Axe 3 brought along that I really liked, and thought served the game well.
Now, onto the bad. The main one first. The controls and the flow of the game can be pretty stiff, and it's annoying. Granted Golden Axe 1 and 2 weren't perfect here but they were a hell of a lot better than this. The stiff controls and pacing can definitely become a hindrance. It's harder to control you characters and it problems when trying to be quick or use slick and clever tactics. Probably the biggest overall problem since controls effect most other things.
And now, for the other big problem. This game did not do a good job with magic or beast riding. The previously mentioned double-team attacks are the best part of the magic system, but otherwise, it feels underwhelming. Mainly because everyone has the exact same magic system. I really prefer the old days where the characters had different max magic stats and increased power and different rates. It brought more unique traits to them and present a good balance of preference. Now it's all the same and frankly, unless it's maxed out the magic doesn't seem very helpful at all.
And then beast riding...... it makes me want to cry. Almost all the beasts in this game are just terrible. I actually found myself avoiding the beasts and making sure not to get on them because they are just not good. This really hurts since this is one of the things that made Golden Axe unique, the ability for you or your enemies to mount creatures and use them to attack. In the previous games beasts weren't that common, which made them more valuable overall. Here they are a bit more common, but as terrible as most of them are it makes them almost pointless. The main problem is the lack of range for a lot of them. The range is definitely lacking on them. And the fact that beast-riding and magic are made less special really hurts me since they are some of the features that made Golden Axe what it is.
Mixed. Very mixed. A lot of good things, a lot of bad things. I give credit where credit is due but at the same time I can't overlook the issues this game has.
To discuss some other changes made to the game, health is now longer displayed by bars. You have a more traditional health bar, and food restores a portion of it. Also, this game took away the ability to alter your starting health, replacing it with a difficulty option. Normal, or hard. Either one you you pick, I say Golden Axe 3 is definitely the toughest of the trilogy.
Golden Axe 3 features a total of 4 characters as opposed to 3, so there are more options and more 2-player combos that can be selected. This as well as the fact that there are branching paths throughout the game, and some bosses are the other playable character definitely ups the replay value if you enjoy the first time playing. It also brings back the versus mode where you can face each other in a duel. This mode is actually made a bit better with all the new combat options... if you look past the sluggish controls.
Sadly there is no gauntlet mode where you face waves of enemies this time. It's replaced with a versus mode against the computer. I preferred the gauntlet-style mode myself, the versus is best with a friend.
Golden Axe 3 overall isn't quite as good as it's predecessors to me. The others, while more simple, just had a better feel and they flowed better. Golden Axe shined in some areas like the graphics, the music, and the replay value. However, the most important part of a game is the gameplay. That's what counts the most, and is the dominant factor in how good a game is. While there were many good things added, the bad things added overshadowed them somewhat for me. But I still say that this game is pretty fun on a whole. It's just not as good as the previous titles. It might be worth checking out if you really like the other Golden Axe games, but it is definitely not a high note to end the original games on.
Replay value: 8/10
Final score: 6/10
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Golden Axe III (US, 10/22/07)
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