In the beginning there was a Barbarian, a Dwarf, and a Huntress. This mighty triumvirate formed a franchise known as Golden Axe, and it was good. The age of bringing popular franchises to the small screen was also in full effect at this time, so a portable version of the perils of this cabal was inevitable. Somehow, the dwarf and the huntress were lost in the shuffle, and only our burly barbarian made the team. He went on to star in a derivative, slow, plodding, all-together worthless experience. This is the tale of the Rise and Fall of Ax Battler ... and the spiders from Mars.
Let us address the silliest issue of this game first. The game's title is Ax Battler. The name of our hero is ... Ax Battler. Perhaps this was an attempt from his father to mold his son in his own craven image, having only played high school Ax Battling, never making it pro. I haven't researched the issue much, but, suffice it to say the name is more than likely as half-assed as the rest of this game.
The story is in full force from the beginning. Someone has stolen the Golden Axe! "Who should we partition to retrieve this precious possession?" "Well, believe it or not, one of the guys from the first game is named Ax Battler. How 'bout him?" That really is the extent of the back story. After receiving this assignment, Ax Battler makes his clunky, poorly animated exit, and the action begins.
The actual gameplay isn't that bad. It isn't going to top any reviewers list by any account (check the rating), but it isn't going to scare anyone immediately away; ditto for the music. I did like how they attempted to expand the scope by incorporating an RPG feel to it; the way your character meets with the king in the beginning reminded me of Final Fantasy 1 or 2. An ample amount of exploration is also employed, and the game shifts between an action-RPG feel to the standard Golden Axe hack and slash formula. This is hardly a saving grace, mind you.
This game just doesn't live up to the lofty peaks topped by the infinitely more enjoyable arcade experience. It doesn't reach the smaller but still dizzying foothills scaled by the Genesis, nor does it rent the donkey to traverse the path to the mountains like the Master System did. It really is a standard, ho-hum kind of experience. If you really need to get your Golden Axe fix on the go, well, in all honesty, just get an emulator for your PSP. This one should stay on the shelf, or preferably, in the waste basket of our collective conscious.