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Golden Axe: Did Critics Love This 16-Bit Brawler in 1990?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on August 22, 2014   |   Episode 85 (Show Archive)  


Golden Axe (Sega Genesis)
Ever wonder what Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro and other popular magazines thought of your favorite 8-, 16- and 32-bit games? Now you can find out, thanks to Review Crew! This is the only show on the internet that is willing to go back in time to find out what old school critics thought of retro games at the time. Did they pan your favorite game? Did they love something terrible? Find out every week as Defunct Games presents Review Crew!

Set in a fantasy world full of monsters and scantily clad heroes, Golden Axe was one of Sega's first killer apps for their 16-bit Genesis console. Sega was quick to point to the pixel-perfect graphics and thumping soundtrack. But was this enough to win over critics back in 1990? We dig through old issues of CVG, Electronic Gaming Monthly, The Game Machine, MegaTech, Raze and Mean Machines Sega for the answers.

(NOTE: Although we occasionally cut for length, no other edits are made to the review. Defunct Games does not change any of the wording, grammar or punctuation use. Also keep in mind that our score is the average of all critics at the time, not just the sample that is reprinted on this page. If you still have more questions, I recommend you check out the Review Crew FAQ, where we address the review guidelines, converting scores, magazine covers and more.)

Golden Axe
[ Company: Sega | Console: Genesis ]

95% out of 100%

"Incredible! What we have here is the equivalent of a Golden Axe arcade machine in a cartridge!! The differences between this conversion and the brilliant hack 'n' slash coin-op are virtually non-existent. The sound, graphics and gameplay are all exactly the same - in fact the only real noticeable difference is that the Megadrive cartridge offers MORE than the coin-op." -Julian Rignall

94% out of 100%

"Golden Axe is a pixel-perfect replica of the arcade machine, containing identical graphics, sound and gameplay. But it doesn't stop there. There are additional features in the form of a one-on-one battle options, a mini-mission for beginners as well as extra levels which didn't appear in the arcade version. Put it all together and you've got one of the best arcade conversions ever seen, and a game which no Megadrive owner should be without."

92% out of 100%

"This has to be the most addictive game this month -- you're lucky there was plenty of time to write the review! The character sprites are all big and bold, with more than a rainbowful of colours. Fast action, superb attention to detail in the fight sequences and some breathtaking magical spells make Golden Axe a must for all arcade action fans."

91% out of 100%

"Choose from three battle-hardened warriors in Sega's most triumphant walkalong and kick 'em out of the way game. Straight from the arcade machine come superb graphics, thumping sound and very addictive gameplay. The only trouble is it's a bit too easy. Still, that never stops the fun... does it?"

91% out of 100%

"Superbly detailed backdrops, sprites and animation. Wonderful selection of grunts, groans, thwacks and blaps. Excellent rhythmic tune bops in the background. Enthralling gameplay from the start. Oozes with addictive action. One of the best -- especially in simultaneous two-plater [sic] mode."

86% out of 100%

"Lots of fast action and scantily clad men with muscles are combined to produce an excellent game. Most reviewers wet their pants when Golden Axe appeared then cried with disgust at the disappointment of Golden Axe 2. This is definitely a classic beat'em-up."

8 out of 10

"A near-perfect translation of the infamous Sega arcade hit of the same name. All of the brilliant graphics are here, along with detailed animation of axes slashing and bodies flying. Look for new levels not found in the arcade plus much more! A top-notch cart!" -Martin

MEAN MACHINES (The Essential Sega Guide)
80% out of 100%

"Golden Axe is strikingly close to the coin-op to it was based on, with the duel mode (in which players spar with each other) increasing the fun. Unfortunately, the slick presentation hides a slightly too-easy game, that most players will whisk through in no time." -Jaz

7 out of 10

"Golden Axe for the Genesis has a few flaws. The screen graphics are perfect, with exceptional detail in both the characters and backgrounds. The game is almost exactly like the arcade, with endless fighting filling each round. Axe moves slow, but has all the hack and slash action you could ask for." -Steve
REVIEW CREW AVERAGE: 84% - The term "arcade-perfect" doesn't get bandied about much these days, but it was a big deal in 1990. Although the Sega Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System could often come close to reproducing the big arcade hits of the 1980s, but they were never quite perfect. This changed with the Sega Genesis, and Golden Axe was one of the earliest games to tout being pixel-perfect with the arcade.

In case you didn't notice, the critics ate it up. Almost everybody was blown away by the graphics, to the point where reading these reviews becomes a bit repetitive. A few criticisms did break through, such as the game's wimpy difficulty. However, most critics were too busy gushing over the pixel-perfect visuals to level any real complaints.

Electronic Gaming Monthly wasn't nearly as sold on Golden Axe as the rest of the world. Three of their critics gave the game a 7, with only Martin giving it an 8. Steve Harris loved the graphics and gameplay, and yet only gave the game a 7 out of 10. He even said Golden Axe has "all the back and slash action you could ask for." He turned around and gave the Sega Master System game a higher score, as did EGM as a whole. Weird.

With a number of glowing reviews, it's easy to see why Golden Axe averaged an impressive 84%. Of course, that's down considerably from Sega's other 16-bit beat-em-up, Streets of Rage. Both Streets of Rage and Streets of Rage 2 scored much higher numbers, with only Streets of Rage 3 performing worse than Golden Axe.

ON MONDAY'S EPISODE: After traveling beyond Shadowgate and battling with both Golden and Legendary Axes, next week we will be brightening up the mood with a trip to Springfield. Starting Monday, the Review Crew will start a week full of games starring Bart Simpson. We kick things off with The Simpsons' first 8-bit outing, Bart vs. the Space Mutants. Make sure and check out the Review Crew archive for more old school reviews, and don't forget to tweet me @DefunctGames to let me know what games you want to see next!




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