Review by ArmamentArmedArm
Reviewed: 07/18/03 | Updated: 07/18/03
A highly under-rated brawler.
Ok this game isn't obscure or anything, but since it gets such a bad rap, I feel it's my duty to tell the real story. First up, if you're one of those people who have never played this game, yet bash it because everyone else does, you can go to hell. This game is much better than the two that came before, in fact it's almost as much fun as the arcade version of Golden Axe II (one of the best games ever). I have no idea why people rag on this game, but I assume it's one of those things where some moron somewhere started it, and since it was never released in the USA all the little parrots just repeated what they'd heard cause they'd never played it themselves.
For a later Genesis game, the graphics aren't the greatest, but they get the job done nicely. Everything is definitely better looking than in the previous two games, and while not up to the standards set for a beat-em-up by Streets of Rage 3, you'll see some pretty cool stuff. The stages have enough diversity in the backgrounds that you don't get bored with your surroundings, there's a decent amount of parallax to give the illusion of depth, and I'd say the game uses about every color the Genesis can throw out. One of the cooler examples of what they did right is the wagon scene in level 1, you launch off the back of a lizard thing onto a wagon made out of bones and proceed to kick some ass. If you knock guys off the front of the wagon, you get to watch as they slide underneath and get ran over, it's pretty sweet.
Where Golden Axe III really shines is in the gameplay department. You literally have TONS of moves to pull off! You have your normal combos, which you can change up by pressing different directions while mashing the button. For example, you can do a normal 3 hit combo, or by holding up you can throw in an overhead attack, or holding down will end with a trip move. There are all the standard moves like a dashing attack, dashing jump attack, throws, grabs, a leg sweep (to immediately knock enemies down), and of course your jump attack. In addition to all these, each character has special moves they can do (and they don't use any energy, thank god, you can use them as much as you want!). These are done by hitting attack & jump at the same time, and either holding a direction, or performing a fireball motion (like in street fighter). Did I mention you can also block any attack by holding back and jump? And this isn't even counting your magic attacks, which you can unleash as long as you have some magic vials in storage. There are 3 levels of magic, each one has a different graphical effect, and it varies per character. There are even tandem magic attacks that you can pull off in two player mode, how sweet can it get?
Like all good brawlers, Golden Axe III lets you play 2 players simultaneously, and it also has the duel feature from the second game. The dueling is a little more interesting this time because of all the new moves the characters have, but it's still pretty lame and gets old fast. It was cool of the designers to throw it in there, but trust me you'll get bored of it quick. There are 4 characters to pick from; Ax Battler and the barbarian girl return, along with a giant, and a panther man. The panther guy is seriously one of the coolest characters ever in the genre, he kicks so much ass it's ridiculous. One of his special moves is a lunge across the screen followed by a crouching slash, it looks cool as hell and basically clears anything out of your way that might have been pissing you off. It's tough to pull off, you have to do a full circle on the d-pad and hit attack+jump, but it's worth it, once you master the move you can mow down bosses like they're nothing. The other characters are pretty standard, but they each have a couple really cool special moves for you to discover.
At certain points in the game you can pick your path, this leads to multiple endings and lots of replay value. You'll go through 7 stages, but in 4 of the 7 it's possible to choose alternate routes that will take you to new levels. Everything ends in Death Adder's castle, but how you get there is up to you. You get a rating in between stages (at the map screen) that grades you and shows your score, and at the end of the game you're given a final score and shown your route. If you want to get the best ending you have to work on your skills, you need a good score and you can't lose too many lives.
The only real complaint I have about this game is that they removed all the cool animals that you could ride in the other two Golden Axes. There are some animals in this one, but they all suck pretty bad, a good player will just avoid them altogether. The main one you run across is a hybrid snail/lizard looking thing who's only attack is to stick it's goddamn tongue out, no joke. You can't hit anyone but the slowest and stupidest of enemies with it, so until you decide to just leave it alone you'll be getting your ass knocked off it's back every two seconds, until it finally runs off the screen.
THIS GAME IS SWEET. Don't listen to what jaded ROM players elsewhere says, they don't know what they're talking about. Go to ebay, buy a REAL cartridge from that guy in Hong Kong for $12 plus shipping (a STEAL, this game used to go for 5 times that), and then send me an email thanking me for hooking you up. Trust me, you'll dig it.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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