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Golden Axe III Review

The first and possibly most important thing to know about Golden Axe III is that the majority of its charm relies on your personal nostalgia for the game. If you have never played any of the original Golden Axe games, then it is very likely that you will see nothing redeeming about Golden Axe III. Simply put, the game has not aged well. If you have played the original and have fond memories of beating up mythical skeletons and soldiers, then what you have here is a well-delivered, playable port of the original game.

Golden Axe III is a classic beat ‘em up game that is born form a genre that was designed, in theory, to swallow quarters. It’s a difficult game, and one that simply cannot be beaten without a heavy dose of lives and continues. Golden Axe III doesn’t do a whole lot to set itself apart from Golden Axe I and II. There are new characters, a few new attacks, and magic can be combined in multiplayer, but for the most part, it’s the same hacking and slashing that can be found in the first two games.

The game now showcases a lot of questionable design choices, but it also shows off what can be so redeeming about these old school games. The music has survived wonderfully and sounds great. The visual style inspires childhood gaming memories, even for those who never played the originals. The gameplay, though, feels incredibly clunky and slow. When it comes time to move forward, the screen moves significantly slower than the character, so if you want to avoid surprises like unforeseen enemies or pits that must be jumped over, then you have to slowly inch the screen over to progress. And then there is the bland structure of the whole game. Move forward, fight enemies, move forward again, fight same enemies with different colored clothing in front of a slightly different background, and so on and so forth until you reach the end of the game or run out of lives. It’s repetitive and rarely fun to play.

There are technically two choices of controls for the game, but they are pretty much the exact same. One allows the play field to take up the entire screen with the virtual buttons occupying a great deal of gaming landscape. The other shrinks the play field slightly and places the virtual buttons outside of the screen. The game defaults to the former, but the latter really is the preferable method of play. Besides helpfully moving the controls off the game screen, the shrunken gaming screen means that the visuals look a lot sharper and better on the iPhone screen.

The game runs well, featuring all of the graphical hiccups and flashing character sprites required for a good port. The only issue with it all is that it feels like a emulator template that can and will be used for all Sega ports for touch screen devices. It’s a good emulator, but the way the menus outside the game are set up and they way they look just makes it feel like Golden Axe III didn’t get any kind of special treatment. It’s as if the game was dropped in the iOS emulator and sold on iTunes for $2.99.

The emulator controls work well. It still has the requisite problems of a game designed to be played with a controller moved over to a touch screen, but the way Golden Axe is played means that a touch screen is generally okay. Golden Axe is a game in which you spend most of your time tapping buttons as opposed to holding down buttons or sliding your finger around the D-pad. You tap on the large attack buttons to jump, dispel magic and punch bad guys, and you move around by mostly tapping the D-pad buttons. You won’t often be making split-second movements between buttons or sliding your thumb around the D-pad, and it makes the transition to touch screen a more pleasant one. Of course, a controller is still the preference, but the alternative works well enough.

For those specifically looking for Golden Axe III on their iOS device, this game won’t be a disappointment. It’s a good port, that looks and plays like the original and even has a multiplayer option that can be played with other local iOS devices. For gamers looking to catch up on a franchise they missed out on, Golden Axe III will do little to impress. It’s a game that suffers, unfortunately, without the aid of nostalgia.

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Kyle Hilliard I'm pretending, with as much sincerity as my imagination will allow, to be a video game journalist. This is my blog: http://interminablepalaver.wordpress.com/
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