The TurboMento-12: The Legendary Axe

Hey all, it's the end of March which means it's time for another one of these TG-16 features. What better way to celebrate Easter Sunday than with a caveman who hits people with axes? Probably a lot of ways.

The Legendary Axe was Aicom's first game for the TurbGrafx-16 and is considered one of the better games for the system, at least out of the ones that made it the US. It's a fairly primitive (no pun intended) Castlevania-style side-scrolling action game, but it's got responsive controls, an occasionally brutal but rewarding difficulty curve and looks amazing for a game made in 1988 for a home console. The TG-16 had a short amount of time to leverage its 16-bit graphics to sell units before the Mega Drive and SNES would completely overtake it, and The Legendary Axe could've been its best foot forward had it been bundled with the TG-16 instead of Keith frickin' Courage (which I'll probably be playing for this feature regardless).

More fun facts: The game had a sequel, the innovatively named The Legendary Axe II, and was the primary influence for Aicom's later Arcade/NES hit Astyanax. We were chopping mad for axes back then, yo.

How Is It Legendary? Don't Axe Me

Welcome to the Legendary Axe! Let us push onward with this run with "Push Run". (I neglected to mention this was published by Victor Musical Industries. Given their track record at this time (and that of Aicom, for that matter), it's anyone's guess why this game turned out as well as it did.)
This is what most of the game looks like - you move left to right, killing monsters with your axe. Each monster's got their own pattern though, so it's often a bit more strategic than most mindless hack-n-slashers.
Take for instance the first mid-boss, who you meet approximately 20 seconds into the game by falling into a pit. It's a spider that will actually lose legs the more damage you do to it. Defeating it provides us with the first Axe Upgrade.
This is the game's ace in the hole: Each Axe Upgrade gives you an additional quarter of your power-up bar, which automatically fills after each attack given or received, replenishing quickly after a successful strike and slowly after you get hurt. The trick is to give it a few moments to fully charge before attacking: Doing so will cause more damage to enemies. Many of the fights to come will be predicated on avoiding enemies until the gauge is filled and then counter-attacking at max strength. If you've played Secrets of Mana and/or Evermore, you might be familiar with the system.
Anyhoo, the first real boss is this goofy pair of upright bears. They don't hit hard, but it's the first case where enemies come at you from both sides and you're having to tactically find a way to avoid them surrounding you.
We get this "do your best!" message about Flare after each zone. She's actually your kidnapped girlfriend, rather than some sinister boss waiting at the end. I do believe The Legendary Axe is one of the rare cases of an action game where the goal is to rescue a helpless female companion.
Zone 2 is a subterranean level and is really where the game starts to double-down on its insta-kill pitfall traps. As with Castlevania, you have a formidable amount of health and a fair number of opportunities to recover it, but a single knock-back can send you careening off ledges to your death. It's fun like that.
What's even more fun are these giant sentient rocks that follow you around. They're very damaging and take more than a few blows to take out, but at the same time... they're rocks. Just avoid them, dummy!
The third zone has two parts to it: A and B. A's mostly this outdoorsy mountainous area full of asshole eagles. B's not much better.
"Boogidy-boogidy! I'll scare your dad!"
If you've ever played the original Castlevania(s), you'll probably get the same involuntary shudders from waterfall levels as I do. Niagara Falls, more like Neander Falls! But seriously, I died an awful lot here.
This is a neat little moment that the game never repeats: The third Axe Upgrade is behind this waterfall you uncover by finding a nearby key.
The third world's boss is a whole bunch of these gnarly furry demon things. They move fast and are pretty deadly in packs, so the best bet is to duck, let the gauge fill and try and take one of them out while they aren't all swarming above your head.
Zone 4 starts a bit weird: You have a mini-boss encounter with two difficult regular enemies, and then immediately enter another subterranean level through this elaborate wooden gate.
That grey block up there is a stone golem in disguise. It'll wake up and knock you off the small ledge as soon as you jump over there. This is a dick move by the game developers and it killed me quite a few times. Thanks Aicom!
It's not as brutal as these two though. They have a lot of health, come at you from both sides and each of those pokes takes off two and a half health whatsits (those little red things in the upper left). Worst of all is that the reach with their spears is slightly longer than your's is with with your axe, so it's occasionally impossible to avoid being hit as you close in to attacking distance.
The biggest screwjob however is the entire fifth zone: You fight a few enemies and enter this large mansion type area - each room is a short sub-zone with a few tough enemies, but will occasionally end with either a well to jump down or another door to pass through. One of those two will bump you back a few rooms while the other lets you move forward, but there's no way to tell which is which. It's like that Bowser's Castle level in the original Mario Bros that forces you to find the right path through trial and error. I'd say it was the one part of this game that really lets it down.
You think I'm kidding? This is Zone 5's boss in room 5R. Which means I had to pass through almost 20 of those labyrinthine rooms to get here. Anyway, this is the shaman dude from the title screen. He's a pain because he keeps shooting fireballs that circle around the screen, and once you have three or four of those things floating around it's hard to avoid them.
Zone 6 just has the final boss in it, which is this handsome fellow. Unlike many of the game's battles, this is a simple war of attrition: It's hard to avoid a damaging kick move he does every time he jumps, but he moves very slowly. It simply comes down to hitting him as many times as possible and hoping you outlast him.
But sure enough, good triumphs over beardies and Gogan and his ladyfriend Flare get to read the poorly localized credits side-by-side. Awww. I kind of made it look like she was kneeing him in the torso, though, which isn't quite what happens. This isn't Karateka.

Overall, this is a pretty solid game given its age. It's very difficult, but also kind of short, so it shouldn't keep anyone frustrated for too long. Oddly enough, it never received the Virtual Console treatment, despite being one of the more fondly remembered games for the system. Which might cause one to wonder where all these screenshots came from. That's a good question! The way tha-

So if you're a fan (or can at least tolerate how cheap they can be) of the older Castlevania games, before they went all Metroid-y and long before they went all Zobek-y, The Legendary Axe is a solid game of that ilk. The way it asks for a little caution from its axe-wielding barbarian, while also making the charged-up attacks super satisfying to pull off, raises it above most of the dreck as far as I'm concerned. I'll almost certainly be checking its sequel out at some point further down the line.

If you have an axe to grind with this game, or just want to bury the hatchet, feel free to post in the comments below. I'm just going to recharge my meter for a bit before I start on next month's Premium Feature comics.

The TurboMento-12
January - Ninja SpiritMay -September -
February - Dungeon ExplorerJune -October -
March - The Legendary AxeJuly -November -
April - NeutopiaAugust -December -
2 Comments
2 Comments
Posted by Video_Game_King

Upon seeing your image gallery, I guessed "Is Mento playing Legendary Axe"? Turns out I was right. All I remember about it is the sequel being nothing like the original. Something about exploring Egyptian spaceships? In conclusion, you should also cover Neutopia at some point in this feature.

Posted by Claude

The hardest of core. The view from the more.