Published on May 24th, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell0
A Review of Golden Axe III: The Forgotten One
Year: 1993 // System: Sega Genesis // Publisher & Developer: Sega // Genre: Hack & Slash
>>> In spite of my affection for the famed hack and slash series, I missed out on the existence of a third Golden Axe for years. When I first played it, I thought, “Oh, this has nothing on the real thing,” and I forgot about it. By the real thing, I meant the first two Golden Axe games.
And then I played those two games for the first time since I was a kid, and upon trying the third title afterwards, I not only developed a whole new appreciation for Golden Axe III, but I hail it as the best that the series has to offer.
Granted, there’s nothing explosive about the final G.A. game for the Sega Genesis, but it did something that the second He-Man throwback couldn’t do for the first: it served as an actual sequel. Whereas G.A. II essentially remade the original, Golden Axe III built upon the first by adding new game play features. The core of the engine is still the same good old side-scrolling beat ‘em up action that made the series famous, but this one added new moves, new characters, and branching pathways that led to multiple routes. Players could choose between strolling through a scarcely populated forest and an ancient fortress crawling with malicious skeletons. They could either brave the jungle or tackle the crystal cave. This basically affected the difficulty level and the kind of bosses you faced. Unfortunately, the multiple levels were only interesting in aesthetic choices; otherwise, there were no unique situations or interesting obstacles to give you a challenge. The bosses were mostly remixes of three of four giant enemy models throughout the different routes, but the fights with the cursed heroes were a nice touch in both giving you a twist in game play and in factoring in an actual story.
The characters featured a good mix of old and new, even if the “new” somewhat broke the game in the player’s favor. Kane and Sahra were strong throwbacks to Ax Battler and Tyris Flare, respectively, while Proud Cragger stunned the crowd with his game-changing airslam, and Chronos the black panther appeared the most powerful character due to his unblockable lunge and his quick strikes mixed with a highly defensive double jump. Despite their broken nature, the heroes featured a greater variety than the original three rebels did, and their smooth controls allowed for effective maneuverability in attacking.
I do wish that Golden Axe III expanded upon the special scenarios like the charging wagon upon which you fended off a horde of goons yearning to make you taste their wrath. In this scenario, you focused mainly in knocking the enemies off the wagon as opposed to beating them outright. They could die very easily, but so could you with one small step. Overall, the Golden Axe gang put together a surprisingly well-paced sequel that dared to be different, but not too different without offending fanboys like me who used this game as an excuse to vent some tiger-style rage.
Challenge: 7/Solid: The enemies were not the most exciting in the world, but they get serious points for learning from their predecessors’ mistakes: they attack before you can take them on with the diagonal approach, they try to crowd you so that you don’t use the space of the stage against them, and they don’t let you horse-walk them off the cliff (see Streets of Rage and the first two Golden Axe reviews). They have wider move sets and inspire more effort from you, the player, whereas you could lazily spam the diagonal walk in the first two games (because the enemies would only charge you horizontally).
Handling: 8/Great: There are some moments of stiffness, particularly in getting off the charge and in firing up the special moves. But overall, the versatility of each fighter is appreciated and the variety among the four selectable characters is wonderfully high, even if friends will argue over who gets Chronos, a.k.a. the “automatic win.”
Innovation: 7/Solid: I liked the branching paths, the incorporation of the story into the game play by having you face your cursed allies and compel you to want to beat the taunting eagle…for better or for worse…But ultimately, the multiple levels don’t offer much other than more eye candy. If anything, it’ll make you for search out the easiest path for you to breeze through, or the hardest route for you to proudly display your mettle.
Core Experience: 7/Solid: The story ties very nicely into game play, the music is underrated, design choices for the new villains are to be enjoyed, and the decision to have the player choose his or path during a level gave each stage a greater amount of depth. However, there were no cool stage conditions for each level. For example, in the ancient ruins stage, angry skeletons on fire could’ve burst out the ground in the middle of a fight, and they couldn’t be beat, so the player would have to keep avoiding them until they burned out and disappeared. Crystals could have started falling during the cave stage, forcing the player to watch for hazards from above while dealing with baddies on the ground. Also, sound was a bit awkward. Every time Chronos kicked in midair, he made a sound as if he were kicking an enemy, even if there was no one there. This threw me at times because it made me think I was hitting a bad guy, especially if he was half a person to either side of my character. One big thing that G.A. III should’ve utilized to a greater extent was the special scenarios like the one with the wagon, which added more of a survival aspect to that particular situation whereas the rest of the game just focused on you moving and attacking to the left.
OVERALL: 7.3/Solid: No, it’s not a classic, but it’s surprisingly good considering how little known this title is today. It definitely has merit, and poses in my eye as the best job that Sega ever did for the Golden Axe series.