Golden Axe II

The Sega Genesis had some huge arcade hits in its game library. Golden Axe was a fan favorite, but Golden Axe II took the franchise to a new level with its in-depth details, smooth mechanics, and addicting beat ’em up action. Developed and published by Sega in 1992, Golden Axe II became another hit for the Genesis. Join our three heroes again as they take on the evil lord Dark Guld. What makes Golden Axe II better than its predecessor?

Story:
After our three heroes defeated Death Adder and saved their kingdom, a new evil force has made its way to their kingdom in the form of a knight known as Dark Guld. From the manual:

“The evil lord Dark Guld should have been put away for good the last time he was defeated in battle. But now he has recouped and is back in full force. And he’s accompanied by his clan of evil followers who are creepier, slimier, and more disgusting than ever.

Dark Guld has come for revenge and he is driven by the desire to see this world revert to chaos. He has taken the powerful Golden Axe, which is a symbol of peace and prosperity, to use for his own evil purposes. His creatures terrorize every town they descend upon. Someone must put a stop to this horror!

Once again, three warriors stand up to face the oppressors. One is Ax-Battler, the fierce barbarian; the second is Tyris-Flare, the ferocious Amazon; and the third is Gilius Thunderhead, the fearless dwarf. They are willing to risk their lives to put a stop to the terror. They won’t rest easy until Golden Axe is returned to its rightful place.

It’s time to start the long journey through enemy-infested territory. Don’t the strange reptilian enemy creatures frighten you, because you’ll need every ounce of courage you can muster. Fight onward until you reach the final showdown, a battle with Dark Guld himself!

Gameplay:
I really dug the opening to Golden Axe II. You see Dark Guld sitting nonchalantly on his throne looking bored as his minions wander about. The soundtrack plays and text scrolls down from the screen detailing what you are about to face. It got me pumped up while showcasing what the Genesis could do. If I was a kid playing this it would have me going nuts.

As a beat ’em up, you’ll be mashing plenty of buttons and Golden Axe II improves on the fluid motion of swinging your weapon. I don’t remember if this was included in the first Golden Axe but now there are small white lines behind your blade as you swing making it cut through the air. These small details don’t go unnoticed and add to the overall game.

Environments are more detailed as you wander about them. The first Golden Axe felt like a brown crumbling world with very little life. Golden Axe II has better color and has more innocent people running throughout the levels as they run for their lives. The typical combos didn’t change much from the first game as you’ll bash enemies on the head with the butt of your weapon or throw them into others. It works but I wish they would have included a few new moves.

Magic still plays a big role in the game but instead of mana potions, you need magic spells which are in books that are dropped by evil wizards. Gone are the midgets from the first game that you kicked to get bonus prizes between levels, they are now replaced by those wizards who will drop spell books and food to restore your life. Life the previous entry in the series, there will be a quick recap of the level you just beat and a small detailed journal about the next step in your journey in-between levels.

Enemies sprites are better this time around with more details. There are lizard men that attack not only with their swords but with their tails and the wild creatures return that you can ride only they look much meaner. It’s a bit easier to stay on them this time around as enemies don’t go flying into you every two seconds once you hop on them. I still enjoyed roasting the enemies with my fire-breathing friends and I’m glad they kept this aspect of the game. Boss fights have been improved too, with the overall characters. You’ll face minotaurs and headless knights who come in different colors and different difficulties. The final boss is Dark Guld who takes you to his private chamber. It was a strange fight as he hid mostly in the top corner where he cast a spell. I was able to defeat him rather quickly but he didn’t feel cheap like Death Adder did in the first game. The final boss for Golden Axe kept using magic over and over and it was very cheap but Dark Guld used both his sword and magic which kept it honest.

In just about every aspect of gameplay, Golden Axe II improved. Presentation, sprites, action, bosses, and speed all felt upgraded. This is a great improvement from the original and showcased what the Genesis could do.

Memories:
I never played the Golden Axe series growing up but all I heard was how great it was. The first game was underwhelming but Golden Axe II really impressed me with the color palette and gameplay and I’m happy to say I’m a fan of it after playing it.

Overall:
The first game in the Golden Axe series was average, but Golden Axe II blows it away with superb beat ’em up action that includes better mechanics, colorful environments, detailed sprites, and a better final boss that completes the experience. If you want to experience a great beat ’em up by yourself or with a friend, Golden Axe II is a must-play on the Genesis.

Golden Axe II scores an 8.9 out of 10.

Do you remember when Golden Axe II first came out? Were you impressed with all the improvements that came with the sequel or did you prefer the first game? Which character did you choose and were you able to defeat Dark Guld? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments.

If you’d like to own a copy of Golden Axe II, you can purchase a used copy of it for the Sega Genesis from eBay for $25.

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