Golden Axe is side-scrolling beat-em-up/hack and slash game developed by Sega and released in 1989 as an arcade game. It was later ported to the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, as well as a few other platforms including Xbox Live Arcade on July 11, 2007.
An evil being known as Death Adder has taken over the once peaceful land called Yuria. Having murdered many innocent people, he also captured the king and his daughter. Death Adder's coup de grâce was finding the magical emblem of the land, the Golden Axe. And unless the people of Yuria accept him as the land's new king, he promises to destroy it.
Starting the game requires players to select one of three characters, each of which is filled with revenge. While all three share the same goal of saving the king and his daughter, and stopping Death Adder from destroying the Golden Axe, each one has individual ambitions as well.
Gilius Thunderhead - a battleaxe-wielding dwarf whose twin brother was killed by Death Adder's henchmen. His heart is filled with hate for the evil being.
Ax Battler - a barbarian who wields a two-handed broadsword, his desire to stop Death Adder fueled by the hatred he feels for him, because the evil being killed his mother.
Tyris Flare - a longsword-wielding amazon, that wants revenge on Death Adder for the murder of both of her parents.
To advance through the game, players must fight through swarms of Death Adder's henchmen, including mace-wielders, giants, and barbarians riding dragons and other mythical creatures. Killing a henchman mounted on one of these creatures affords players the opportunity to ride it as well.
Players possess the ability to cast magic spells, which require magic potions obtained by kicking small, strange-looking thieves. More magic potions equal more devastating magical attacks. Picking up meat by kicking thieves helps recover lost health on the health bar.
It is also possible to play through the game cooperatively with a second player.
Duel mode was implemented in many of the ports, but it was never included in the original arcade version. In Duel mode, players must fight through a number of small stages. Each stage has a handful of enemies to defeat. Defeat all the enemies to advance to the next stage.
Duel mode can be played with two players, but it changes the goal entirely. The two players will have to fight each other to see who is crowned best warrior.
The Genesis is considered the most faithful port, visually and gameplay-wise. The DOS port for PCs is based directly on the Genesis port, and is almost as faithful in terms of aesthetics when playing in VGA mode.
When the game was ported to the Genesis, Sega added one extra level that takes place right after the players defeat Death Adder. Where the arcade version ends right then and there, in the Genesis version, the large dungeon doors in the background of the level open and the characters walk inside. The final level takes place in this dungeon, after which the players face a new final boss called Death Bringer.
As mentioned prior, Duel Mode was a new addition to the Genesis port of the game.
In the Genesis port, when enemies are defeated, they flash and disappear as opposed to turning to stone.
Some of the more graphics-intensive varieties of spell effects did not make it over to the home ports of the game. For instance, when Ax Battler is carrying his maximum capacity of potions, the spell he unleashes in the arcade version features a mushroom cloud emanating from the floor with huge rocks erupting towards the screen. In the DOS version, this high-level spell merely looks like a series of small eruptions scattered around the screen. The Genesis version aims to replicate the spell more effectively, but the rocks are smaller and they spit out to the side rather than scaling towards the screen.