Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder
  • Genre:
    • Beat 'Em Up
  • Platform:
    • Arcade
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    • 1992
Score: 80%

This review was published on 01/09/2018.

Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder is a side-scrolling beat 'em up video game developed and published by Sega for the Sega System 32 arcade board in 1992. It's another game in the Golden Axe series, which began in 1989 as an arcade game before being ported to a myriad of home platforms, like Sega's very own Sega Genesis. Since the Genesis version of the first Golden Axe was the most popular, Sega released Golden Axe II exclusively for the Genesis towards the end of 1991. Despite that, Sega still opted to release The Revenge of Death Adder for the arcades in 1992. While a strange decision, it turned out rather well, because The Revenge of Death Adder is easily the best game in the Golden Axe series. Golden Axe II was mostly a retread of the first game, but The Revenge of Death Adder is leaps and bounds better. Read the rest of my review if you want to find out why.

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The original Golden Axe came out during the infancy of 16-bit technology, so it looked more like a beefed up 8-bit game than a 16-bit title. Golden Axe II didn't look much better. On the other hand, the Sega System 32 board that The Revenge of Death Adder was built on is basically like 32-bit hardware. That puts it more in league with consoles like the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, both of which launched in 1995. This was 1992, though, so this hardware was cutting edge at the time. It's for this reason that the graphics of The Revenge of Death Adder are a colossal improvement over the first two games. Everything's still 2-D, but the detail has been increased tenfold. Character sprites have been made massive to better showcase their added detail and extraordinary animations. That's to say nothing of the backgrounds, which are breathtaking. In addition to all of that, there are some rotation and zoom effects. The only issue with the visuals is that they're sometimes grainy, but you'll be too distracted by how good everything looks to notice that.

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As far as the basics of combat, things aren't too different from the previous games. You're still capable of smoothly walking in eight directions on the ground, and there are buttons for jumping, attacking, and using magic. Hitting the attack button multiple times triggers one of your standard combos, which still changes based on how close you are to the enemy. Like before, you'll pick up and throw the enemy if you're close enough. Obviously, attacking in the air will result in aerial attacks. You're still capable of performing a downwards aerial strike after a dash jump, but now you need to hold down on the joystick right before pressing the attack button. Speaking of dashing, you can dash by double tapping the joystick either left or right, and attacking during a dash still executes a dash attack. If you've played the previous games, then you'll have absolutely no problems getting to grips with this game's controls. Even if you haven't, the controls are intuitive enough for newcomers.

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There have been some changes and additions to the basics of battle, though. For instance, there are a couple more variations to the standard combos when rapidly pressing the attack button. There are also some new aerial attacks; pressing the jump button while in the air usually does an aerial kick, and pressing the attack button twice in a row while holding left or right on the joystick does a dive attack. Additionally, pressing the jump and attack buttons simultaneously now results in a powerful special attack that drains a bit of your life meter, a la Final Fight. These additions are for the better, because they add more depth to the game's core mechanics. However, there is at least one change that isn't for the better: a button press is now required to pick up magic restoring potions or health replenishing food, whereas you only had to touch them in previous games. That's only a minor inconvenience, though.

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The first two Golden Axe games shared the same trio of playable characters, but The Revenge of Death Adder has an entirely new playable cast. Not only that, but there are a whopping four playable characters instead of the typical three. The first is a barbarian by the name of Stern Blade, who does as his name implies by sternly wielding a blade. He's basically a clone of Ax Battler from the previous games, providing players with a balanced choice. The second character is named Dora, and no, she's not an explorer. Instead, she's a centaur equipped with a staff-like weapon. The third character is Goah, who's a giant with Gilius Thunderhead, the dwarf from the previous games, riding on his back. Goah is by far the strongest character, but he's rather slow. Little Trix is the fourth and final character, and he's a tricky little imp armed with a trident. Trix is the fastest character in the game, but also the weakest. All of the characters are fun to play as, so you should play as them all.

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Magic works differently from how it did in the last two games. Every character now only has access to a single spell, but the catch is that each spell costs a different amount of magic points to use. This means that some characters can use their spells more frequently than others, though the spells with a lower cost do less damage. As for the spells themselves, they're basically massive attacks that damage all enemies on the screen in a flashy fashion. The sole exception is Trix, whose magic sprouts forth a tree that drops health replenishing apples. Some of the spell animations are rather ruthless, like how Stern's fire spell sometimes cuts to a close up of an enemy's face, showing their skin being burned off. The magic system in this game is definitely simpler than the one in the previous titles, which makes things more intuitive. However, this also means that there's less depth to casting spells. It's not necessarily a bad tradeoff, but it's one that may disappoint diehard fans of the original games.

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None of the mountable creatures from the previous titles return, but this game does introduce a whole slew of new ones, such as fire breathing mantises, electrical scorpions, and undead dragons. There's a bit more depth to riding creatures in this game, as each one has access to more than one move. You can also keep them between stages this time, but you still have to make sure not to lose them during battle. I know the question that's on your mind, though: how does Dora ride a beast when she's already basically a horse? Well, she somehow transforms into a regular human when riding stuff. It's weird. Anyway, another new feature this game adds to the table is that it lets you load tiny catapults and ballistae onto the mountable creatures. Normally, the catapults and ballistae are stationary, but you can carry them around with a creature's help. These are some cool creatures.

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Stages aren't just pretty backdrops to compliment the carnage anymore; they have a ton of traps and other interactive elements to make them feel more distinct. For example, one cavernous section has you dodging big boulders and operating levers to illuminate dark areas, and you eventually end up on a ship that's being attacked by a giant squid. Like the other games, you'll occasionally encounter people being subjugated or imprisoned by baddies, and rescuing them generally rewards you with magic potions. The campfire bonus stages where you beat up gnomes for goodies are back, too, but there are some new kinds, like this one where you beat on a meat that bounces around everywhere. Unlike the previous games, there are also a couple of branching paths that take you to alternate stages. This adds a teensy bit of replay value to the game, and that's never a bad thing.

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Depending on the arcade cabinet, the game could either support up to two or four players. Additional players are allowed to join in at any time by inserting tokens, and everyone works together to pulverize the enemies. Also, it's possible for multiple players to pick the same character, so no disputes will occur on that front. There are team attacks, too. Team attacks can be done with either two or four characters, and they do massive damage to a single enemy, provided that enemy is dizzied. The sole problem with the multiplayer is that the game feels a little too cluttered if you play with four players all at once. This is due to the aforementioned gargantuan size of the character sprites. Still, if you ever have the opportunity to play this game with a full four players, you should definitely take it. Oh, and there's no more friendly fire!

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Without a doubt, The Revenge of Death Adder is the pinnacle of the Golden Axe series. It improves upon the previous games in a myriad of ways, and it looks fantastic. The game's sole weak point is that the music is a little underwhelming, especially when compared to the previous Golden Axe titles. Other than that, though, this is a shining example of what a beat 'em up ought to be. It's highly unfortunate that this game was never ported to any home platforms. This is probably why the game is largely forgotten today. That's a shame, because this is a game worth remembering.

Word Count: 1,593

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