Golden Axe Warrior – Review

It is always a pleasant surprise when you find out that a game that evokes so many fond memories from your childhood has prequels and sequels. Sadly, some of these are often vastly inferior to the original and are clearly a quick cash in for game companies. However, some are rather interesting, especially when a different genre is attempted. I’d never heard of Golden Axe Warrior until I began playing Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Golden Axe Warrior is single-player action-adventure role-playing game. It was developed and published by Sega and released for the Master System in 1991. It would later be released as part of the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. For this review, I played the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the Playstation 3.

A spin-off of the Golden Axe franchise, I was unable to find out where it fits into the series (if, in fact, it does). It is possible that it may simply be a reboot in a different genre.

Plot

In ancient times, a race of evil giants rose up and fought the Elders. At one point, it looked as though the giants would emerge victorious…but from imminent defeat emerged a hero carrying the Golden Axe bestowed upon him by Thor, God of Thunder. This unnamed hero put down the giant’s rebellion and peace ensued in the kingdoms of Firewood, Nendoria and Altorulia for many years.

As time passed, the war was nearly forgotten until the evil giant Death Adder eyed the kingdoms greedily. He first conquered Nendoria and Altorulia but could not invade Firewood as the kingdom was protected by nine magic crystals. One day, a greedy minister betrayed the King of Firewood, stole the crystals, and gave them to Death Adder, allowing him to finally invade and defeat the kingdom.

An unnamed young hero (you) soon sets out to recover the nine crystals, find the Golden Axe and defeat Death Adder. To do this, you must locate, and search nine labyrinths created by Death Adder and guarded by his armies of minions.

Gameplay

Starting out with a short sword and a shield, you must begin to explore the world one screen at a time. Each screen will spawn a differing array of monsters both in appearance and difficulty. Defeating these enemies will allow you to pick up horns, which you can use to buy items, health, and magic potions. Occasionally you’ll come across towns where the inhabitants offer tips on where to go next. Some even lead you to secret objects. Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to acquire better weaponry and armour. You can also learn the Thunder, Earth, Fire and Water magics.

There are many shops dotted throughout the map where you can buy items. These include:

Magic Oil – Use when your armour gets rusty (flashes).

Golden Apple – Fills up your life gauge.

Magic feather – Whisks you away from danger and back to where you last saved your progress.

Small Key – Can be bought or found and used open locked doors in the labyrinths.

Other items to look out for include:

Yellow Horn – Worth 1 horn.

Blue horn – Worth 5 horns.

Bread – Increases your life guage a little.

Meat – Increases your life guage a lottle (like a little but a lot).

Heart – Adds an extra heart to your life gauge.

Magic potion – Will fill an empty magic pot (if your magic gauge is full, it will add another pot to it increasing your magic gauge).

Ice Bell – Allows you to see rocks that can be smashed open.

Torch – Allows you to light up dark rooms.

Magic Rope – Allows you to ascend and descend certain parts of the mountains.

Thief’s Key – Opens locked doors in labyrinths and can be used Infinitely.

Speed Shoes – Make you run faster.

Hourglass – Freezes all monsters on screen for a short time.

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for sages where you can save your progress and inns where you can pay to stay the night and restore your health.

You will need to make your own map to record all the secrets you find (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

Although the manual contains a map of the world, annoyingly, the map in your inventory is a blue-lined grid which tells you basically nothing about where you have been and where you yet need to explore. It stays black the entire time. However, this does allow a bit of old school mapmaking and note taking to do yourself…which I find fun!

Your sprite is easy to control but there is an element of finesse to the fighting. For example, when your enemies are throwing their weapons at you, you can manoeuvre yourself to block the attacks with your shield. You must also ensure you are not swinging your weapon at this time else you will take damage.

Graphics

First of all, I love the title screen. Definitely the sort of imagery that would have a younger version of myself chomping at the bit to go on a fantastical adventure.

The hud is unintrusive and allows you to keep track of the magic crystals you find, the number of horns you loot, your life and magic gauges, and the weapon/item you are wielding.

I think the in-game graphics are good for an 8-bit system, and better than any top-down RPG I’ve seen on the NES (prove me wrong gamers). However, I don’t think they compare to the quality of Phantasy Star’s (1987) introduction, or open world graphics where the towns and sprites are more detailed and colourful.

The labyrinths are where you’ll find the magic crystals (screenshot taken by the author)

Music & SFX

I quite like the intro music. It gets the blood pumping. The in-game music is good too. There is a relaxed, mellow air when you walk around the villages but when you’re out in the open it takes it up a gear with a melody that will get stuck in your head whilst you reach for your sword and prepare to charge at your enemies!

I don’t really think there is much to comment to discuss where the SFX are concerned. There is a semi-pleasing explosive noise when you kill an enemy, and a rewarding noise of some description when you pick up a goody, but these sounds are very forgettable.

Replay Value

As much as I enjoyed this game, I can’t say I would return to it as I don’t think there could be enough variation in the game to warrant a second run through.

Spoiler Alert

Keep an eye out for the cameos of Gilius Thunderhead, Ax Battler and Tyris Flare (in this game she is a princess).

Along the way, you’ll find faster modes of transport (screenshot taken by the author)

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines: “It’s no sequel to Golden Axe – instead Golden Axe Warrior is an unsurprising and uninteresting role playing game. Overall 40%.[1]

Sega Power: “An arcade adventure based on the Golden Axe characters. Akin to Golvellius, this is a flick-screen quest for amgic and monsters. Pretty, but too tame for true RPGers. Overall 2/5.[2]

My Verdict:

“I have a soft spot for this game and had a fun time playing it and creating my own map. I think it has been harshly judged by critics who unfairly compared it to Zelda: A Link to the Past, in which it can never match in graphics or music, and called it a poor clone. I still think this game is worth playing.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Golden Axe Warrior? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘The Hard Line – Golden Axe Warrior’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:57.

[2] ‘Master System Review: Golden Axe Warrior’. Mean Machines. (April 1991). Issue 7:72-3.

Tiny Toon Adventures – Review

“We’re tiny, we’re toony. We’re all a little looney. And in this cartoony we’re invading your TV. We’re comic dispensers. We crack up all the censors. On Tiny Toon Adventures get a dose of comedy.”

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Tiny Toons Adventure is a single-player platform game developed and published by Konami. It was released on the NES in 1991 and it was this version I chose to review.

Plot

Not all is well in Acme Acres. The spoilt rich kid Montana Max is angry because he was unable to bribe the judges of the Animation Festival at Acme Looniversity. Now in a sulk, and wanting to get back at the winner, Buster Bunny, he kidnaps Babs Bunny. Buster, along with pals Dizzy Devil, Furrball, Plucky Duck and Hampton, sets out to rescue Babs.

A cute little platform game (screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

You initially start as Buster Bunny, but can also select Dizzy Devil, Furrball and Plucky Duck, each with their own unique abilities, to assist Buster. You will become your selected character when you collect the star icon. Using these characters, you must complete six worlds each with three levels (except the last two worlds which need to be completed in one go). These include:

1. Field of Screamz

2. Motion Ocean

3. Sure Weird Forest

4. Boomtown

5. Wacklyland

6. Monty’s Mansion

Each world ends with a boss battle. Throughout the levels you have the chance to collect carrots which can be exchanged with Hampton for extra lives.

You can only choose one character to assist Buster at the beginning of each world. It is disappointing that in order to change characters, you need to find the star icon as it would have been a nice opportunity to put in some more complex puzzles where each character is needed to use their unique skill. My preferred sidekick was Plucky Duck as he is the best swimmer and can glide whilst jumping.

How Does It Handle?

This is a cute little game, and it’s quite fun to play as the different characters. The controls are easy to learn and are very responsive. Each level has a time limit, which gives you a warning if the timer goes below 30 seconds. You also have unlimited continues. However, if you do use a continue, it takes you back to the beginning of the world.

Each character has unique abilities. Plucky Duck is the best swimmer (screenshot taken by the author)

It is also frustrating that if you die in the boss battle, you are sent back to the beginning of the level, but I guess they need to give the game some longevity.

Graphics

The Graphics for the levels and backgrounds are good…not great, just good. Then again, they don’t need to be ground-breaking. This is based on a children’s cartoon after all. The sprites are nicely drawn, although, it is a bit peculiar how Buster Bunny and Plucky Duck don’t have a nice clear black outline like the other sprites.M

Music

Oddly, there is no music over the title screen, but the in-game music is an 8-bit version of the Tiny Toon theme from the animated series. There is some musical variety through the different levels, but it is the main theme that is most often heard throughout the game.

I’m confused as to why Plucky Duck and Buster Bunny don’t have a nice clear black outline like all the other sprites (screenshot taken by the author)

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, although I think I used approximately 20 continues for the last two worlds alone.

What The Critics Said:

GamePro: “Strip away that popularity, however, and you’ve still got a solid game with decent challenge. Konami’s given the Toons’ graphics their 8-bit best. Overall 3.4/5.[1]

Entertainment Weekly: “This multilevel action game is easy enough for even small children to master, although older kids may be challenged by the higher levels. Overall A-“.[2]

N-Force: “The funky fluffy sounds, perfectly compliment the graphics, and gameplay’s as brilliant as ever, with six massive levels and a multitude of sub-levels, the lastability factor’s excellent. Overall 89%”.[3]

My Verdict:

“Nice graphics and a fun little game which is diverting in its own way. The last two worlds in particular are quite challenging. Sadly, with one difficulty setting, there is a real lack of replay value. Definitely one for the younger gamers out there.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Tiny Toons Adventure? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] The Missing Link. ‘Nintendo Pro Review – Tiny Toon Adventure’. GamePro. (December 1991). Issue 29:38.

[2] Strauss, B., ‘The Latest Video Games Reviewed’. Entertainment Weekly. (August 7th, 1992). https://ew.com/article/1992/08/07/latest-videogames-reviewed/ Accessed on 10th May 2020).

[3] ‘Reviewed! – Tiny Toons Adventure’. N-Force. (August 1992). Issue 2:56-7.

Phantasy Star – Review

Role-playing games have the ability to take us out of ourselves and whisk us off to fantasy lands where we can choose to be warriors, mages, dwarves, and any other imaginary creature that suits us. We can select our own weapons, and if we are successful, gain strength and are harder to defeat. Phantasy Star promised to whisk us off to such a fantasy universe.

Screenshot taken by the author

Phantasy Star is a single-player role-playing game developed and published by Sega. It was released on the Sega Master System in 1987, and latterly re-released on the Sega Saturn, PS2, and Nintendo Switch. To review, I played this game as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Plot

The game is set in the fictional Algol star system which contains three planets: Palma – a lush and green planet, Motavia – a desert planet, and Dezoris – an ice planet. Algol is ruled by King Lassic, who early in his reign was considered kind and benevolent. He later becomes a cruel and sociopathic ruler. Soon, a rebellion begins to overthrow the now evil king. One hero, who falls during a battle, is Nero. His sister, Alis, the main protagonist (incidently, one of the first female protagonists for video games), swears to avenge her brother. She assembles a party consisting of a warrior named Odin, a wizard named Noah, and a cat-like creature named Myau. Together the party swear to kill King Lassic and restore peace to the kingdom.

The overworld is how you traverse the landscape (screenshot taken by author)

Gameplay

There are two gameplay modes. The first is from a near top down perspective whilst walking around the villages and planet surfaces. When walking around the surface of the planet, outside the cities, and in caves etc. You come across random battle encounters where you must choose to fight your opponent or attempt to run away. When exploring dungeons and caves, and in a battle, the view switches to first-person mode.

If you are successful in battle, you will gain experience points and money. Experience points allow the level of the character to increase and subsequently, your characters stats making them stronger in attack and defence.

The battle scenes are highly detailed and look great (screenshot taken by author)

How Does It Handle?

The game is easy to learn and enjoyable. The fight mode is simple, but it can become frustrating that when fighting multiple enemies, you seem unable to select which enemy to attack, which can hinder fighting tactics. The game contains a back-up save option, which if you play RPGs will know that this is very useful.

The dungeon-crawling sections are very atmospheric (screenshot taken by author)

Graphics

For an 8-bit game, I think it is a really beautiful game! The colours are vibrant, the sprites are well designed, and there is a great variety of them to fight. The backgrounds during the fight scenes are also varied and are very detailed. I’ll wager this game pushed the Master System to its limits.

Music

The music becomes tiresome after a while but since it is not essential to the game, you can simply turn the sound off and listen to your own music or podcasts.

Did I Complete The Game?

I did complete the game, but with the assistance of a walkthrough. Sadly, as I have gotten older, I simply don’t have the time or inclination to spend countless hours on these sorts of RPGs.

What The Critics Said:

Computer & Video Games Magazine: “Real RPG fans should definitely check Phantasy Star out, but anyone with a passing interest in this type of game might not feel they’re getting their money’s worth. Overall 75%[1]

S: The Sega Magazine: “An excellent entertainment – once you’ve teamed up with Odin, Noah and Myau and built up some strength, it’s like controlling an interactive movie. Brilliant? Yes it is. Overall 94%[2]

Mean Machines: “A sprawling RPG which offersa great depth of gameplay, decent graphics and a good challenge. There are slightly better games of this sort (and cheaper too – this cart costs £40), but if you’re an RPG fan who has them all, this is well worth getting. Overall 75%[3]

Sega Power: “If you’re into RPG adventures this is the one to go for. Explore stunning 3D labyrinths and solve a quest big enough to last for months. Huge. Astounding Get it. Overall 5/5.[4]

Sega Power: “If you’re into RPG adventures this is the one to go for. Explore stunning 3D labyrinths and solve a quest big enough to last for months. Astounding and huge. Get it. Overall 5/5.”[5]

Awards:

Best Graphics – 1989 Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Player’s Choice Awards[6]

My Verdict: “A beautiful 8-bit game, just a pity the story is a bit thin. However, all RPG fans should enjoy this game.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Phantasy Star? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Rignall, J., ‘Mean Machines Review: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Computer & Video Games Magazine. Issue 89:92-3.

[2] ‘Special: Phantasy Star’. S: The Sega Magazine. (June 1990). Issue 7:11.

[3] ‘Games Index: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:135.

[4] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Phantasy Star’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:58.

[5] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:100.

[6] ‘The “Player’s Choice Awards” – Best Graphics: Phantasy Star’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1989 Annual. (March 31 1989). :19.