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.

Ecco the Dolphin – Review

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes in video games. Muscle-bound barbarians, ace spaceship pilots, martial arts experts, and yes, even Italian plumbers, to name a few. In 1992, Sega took a chance on a new hero. This one couldn’t wield swords or axes, or pilot machinery, or cast magic spells. It didn’t know kung-fu and certainly didn’t grow larger having eaten mushrooms. No, this hero lived in the ocean but needed air to breathe. He was agile, could swim at great speeds and leap from the water to soar above he waves like an albatross. This hero was a dolphin!

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Ecco the Dolphin is an action-adventure developed by Novotrade International and published by Sega. It was released on the Mega Drive in 1992, with versions also being released on the Master System, Game Gear, and Sega CD. Versions were later released for the Wii Virtual Console (2006), Xbox Live Arcade (2007), as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS (2013), and Sega Genesis Mini (2019). For this review, I played the Mega Drive version.

Plot

Ecco is a dolphin. There is nothing particularly special about him other than the unique star pattern on his forehead. One day, whilst swimming with his pod, he leaps high into the air and at that exact moment, a vortex opens and sucks up his pod (as well as other ocean dwelling sealife). Ecco needs to find out what happened to his pod from creatures much older and wiser than himself. He embarks on a long journey into cold and unfamiliar waters, where strange and deadly creatures live.

Ecco can use his sonar to stun or to talk to other creatures (Screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

The basics of the game are simple. When pressing a direction, Ecco will swim in that direction. When you stop swimming, Ecco will drift, adding some realism to the game, since the sea is always moving with the tides. To increase speed, press the ‘C’ button, and Ecco will speed up, handy for when you’re almost out of oxygen or when you need to leap out of the water and over obstacles. The ‘B’ button makes Ecco dash. This is mainly used to attack the many dangerous and deadly creatures he encounters, as well as, breaking down shelled walls.

In each level, you must explore each area Ecco travels through looking for clues as to where your pod has gone. This includes rescuing other dolphins, speaking to killer whales, and swimming though mazes to find glyphs that give Ecco a sonar song that you can sing to other glyphs that are blocking your way.

Rather than have time limits for the levels, Sega offer us two energy bars. One is health and the other is oxygen. To replenish your health, simply dash and catch smaller fish. To replenish your oxygen bar, you need to find an area where you can breach the surface of the water or find where oxygen bubbles are rising from cracks in the seabed.

The ‘A’ button is Ecco’s sonar ability and can be used in several ways:

  • Press and hold ‘A’ until the sonar bounces back. This opens a map segment, again very handy for when you are lost in caves.
  • Communicate with other friendly sea creatures such as other dolphins and killer whales. These friends can offer advice and hints to you.
  • Move starfish circles that will eat rock and open previously blocked pathways for you.
  • Large glyphs are found dotted around the levels that offer tips or give Ecco a password so that when he comes across one that blocks his path, he can use his sonar to clear the way.
  • After the first few levels, Ecco gains the ability to use his sonar to stun enemy creatures.
Eating the smaller fish helps Ecco restore lost health (Screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

This becomes challenging when you are deep under sea in a labyrinth of caves. To recover health, Ecco must dash into the shoals of smaller fish to gobble them up. If you die, you simply go back to the beginning of the level. You have infinte lives in this game and believe me, you’ll need the am all!

The enemies include sharks, jellyfish, pufferfish, and crabs….those crabs can fucking do one! They come out of nowhere and make a ‘B’ line for you. I admit, I dropped the ‘C’ bomb several times during my playthrough due to those little wankers. Frustratingly, the enemies also respawn which pisses me off even more and makes the game even harder.

This game may look cutsie, but it is fucking hard! Rage quitting is standard for this game, especially when you are near the end of a level and those fucking crabs come out of nowhere and kill you. Thankfully, you receive a password after every level.

Another aspect of this game that is irksome about this game, is when you have to navigate through narrow caves and sometimes you need to manoeuvre through even narrower gaps past sharp coral. There are points where you cannot do this without injuring yourself, not matter how hard your try to avoid them.

Graphics

There are few that would disagree that the graphics of this game show the Mega Drive at its pomp. Bright and colourful, with incredibly detailed backgrounds and sprites. From the multi-coloured shoals of fish, to the array of seas sponges and plants on the sea bed, there is so much that draws the eye. An accurate and nice touch is where the deeper you go, the darker the background becomes, emphasising that light doesn’t penetrate that deep into the ocean.

Music

The music is very understated in this game, but it works so well. Some of the music is very relaxing and calming, which is surprising because for most part, you are not very relaxed at all. In fact, the game will give even the most seasoned gamers anxiety.

Personal Memories

I remember when a childhood friend of mine bought this game. We were stunned! Not only did the concept of controlling a dolphin seem unique (to us at least), but the attention to detail was at such a level that I think we firmly believed that gaming had reached its apex…how young and naïve we were.

Replay Value

The game only has one difficulty setting and so offer little in the way of replay value other than simply showing the awesomeness of the graphics to a friend.

Did I Complete The Game?

Nope, and I have never met anyone who has either.

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines Sega: “A Megadrive classic without doubt, and a strong contender for best game ever! A unique underwater experience for those tired of unoriginal pop. Overall 97%.[1]

MegaTech: “Original concept combined with wonderful graphics and amazingly engrossing gameplay make this a classic. Overall 94%.[2]

My Verdict:

“This is by far, one of the most original and best-looking games the Mega Drive has to offer. Incredible graphics and atmospheric music offer a unique gaming experience. The difficulty of the game is the only this that lets it down.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Ecco the Dolphin? 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] ‘Ecco the Dolphin – Review’. Mean Machines Sega. (December 1992). Issue 3:24-8.

[2] ‘Game Index – Ecco the Dolphin’. MegaTech. (October 1993). Issue 22:99.

The Story of Thor: A Successor of the Light/Beyond Oasis – Review

Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (LTTP) really changed the way gamers think about action-adventure games. The story line, the music, the graphics, the shear size of the game set the standard for action-adventures going forward into the 1990s. As far as I can tell, the only offering Sega had in this category was A Faery Tale (1991). There may be others, but none spring to mind. As far as I can tell, it took Sega until 1994 to create a reply to LTTP. The question is, would it be any good?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

The Story of Thor: A Successor of the Light is an action-adventure game developed by Ancient Corp. and published by Sega. It was released in Japan in 1994, and Europe and North America in 1995 for the Sega Mega Drive. It would later be released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007 and on the PlayStation 3 as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009). Interestingly, it was released in North America under the title Beyond Oasis. For this review, I played the version found on the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection.

The intro is beautifully illustrated (Screenshot taken by the author)

Plot

Prince Ali is a treasure hunter, living on the land of Oasis. One day, whilst exploring a cave on a nearby island, he discovers a golden armlet. When he tries on the armlet, a ghostly face appears and re-tells the story of a magical war between two sorcerers. One of the sorcerors, Reharl, wore the golden armlet and used it to control four spirits: Dytto the Water Spirit; Efreet, the Fire Spirit; Shade, the Shadow Spirit; and Bow, the Plant Spirit. The other, Agitio, wore the silver armlet and used it for evil, causing death and destruction everywhere within his reach. Ali must search Oasis and gain the power of the four spirits and prevent the silver armlet from being used to destroy the world.

Gameplay

Like LTTP, as you explore the map, you will encounter numerous baddies that you can engage in battle and kill. You can attack these enemies using your dagger, swords, bow and arrow, and bombs. The dagger is the only weapon that you can use infinitely. Occasionally, these fallen foes will leave behind items that will help restore your health or magic bar. As the game progresses, you gain the ability to control the four spirits to get to previously in accessible areas and to defeat your enemies or help you regain health.

Battle your way through caves full of monsters to find the four spirits to aid you in your quest (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The controls are easy to learn, and the game interface is intuitive and easy to use. The only difficulty is jumping, which takes some practice as it’s not always easy to gauge where you will land, even with a shadow to assist.

What makes the battles with foes more interesting than LTTP is that you have to crouch to hit foes such as snakes, and have to jump in order to hit bats. This adds an extra challenge to the game. The bosses are challenging but not too difficult, even for a younger gamer.

One annoying aspect of the gave is that Efreet is difficult to control. When trying to get him to ignite lanterns, for example, he must be facing them but he is often moving around and facing the wrong direction.

Graphics

The game begins with a beautifully illustrated cutscene giving the back story of the game. The in-game graphics are bright, colourful and much more detailed and interesting than in LTTP. The sprites are clearly defined and there is a good array of different foes to fight.

Music

Sadly, the music sucks and really can’t hold a candle to LTTP. In LTTP, the music is inspiring with hints of danger and intrigue. It encourages you to be brave and venture forth into the unknown. Beyond Oasis just falls flat and doesn’t inspire the same feelings.

Replay Value

As for replay value, although the game only has one difficulty setting, it is worth revisiting again, but there is nowhere near the amount of secret objects (if there are any at all) to find and the game is so much shorter than LTTP. In fact, you could easily beat it in the half the time it’d take to finish LTTP.

Efreet, the fire spirit, is one of four you need to find and gain control of (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes

What The Critics Said:

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “This one is pretty enjoyable…with the standard fare of menacing enemies and creative boss characters. The best element is probably the gigantic area you cover, and the plot twists throughout the game. Overall 38/50.”[1]

GameFan: “The game excels in almost every category. The music gets a tad repetitive, but it’s high quality… Overall 94.7%.[2]

Next Generation: “The use of magic, whether it be the fireball or meteor storm; a user-friendly interface, and an ever-ready map put Beyond Oasis beyond others of its type. But ultimately, poor fighting and an uninspired storyline leave this title looking more like a mirage. Overall 2/5.[3]

Awards:

Action RPG of the Year – GameFan’s Mega Awards 1995[4]

My Verdict:

“This game looks fantastic and incorporates some very interesting features such as the different abilities of the four spirits and the imaginative bosses. What let’s this game down is the music and game length. It’s well worth playing though!”

My Rating:

What are your memories of The Story of Thor: A Successor of the Light/Beyond Oasis? 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] ‘Review Crew – Beyond Oasis’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (March 1995). Issue 68:36.

[2] ‘Viewpoint Beyond Oasis’. GameFan. (March 1005). Volume 3 Issue 3:18.

[3] ‘Rating Genesis – Beyond Oasis’. Next Generation. Issue 4:94.

[4] ‘GameFan’s Mega Awards 1995’. GameFan. (January 1996). Volume 4, Issue 1:106.