Arcade Wishes: Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder

Arcade Wishes posts are occasional pieces where I lament quality arcade titles that inexplicably have no home ports – this time its the turn of Sega’s Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder.

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The game came out in 1992 on Sega’s System 32 board, the same year as arcade classic Virtua Racing and the best-forgotten Holosseum, and a year after the Mega Drive had its own Golden Axe sequel in the surprisingly titled (and totally unrelated) Golden Axe II.

Revenge of Death Adder throws out almost everything recognisable about the original Golden Axe and reworks the rest – the old cast are all gone (bar Gilius riding on the back of the hulking Goah) and with the exception of blue clad beefcake Stern there aren’t really any obvious like-for-like replacements either. The playable cast has increased from three to four - Ax=Battler replacement Stern, female centaur Dora, giant Goah and finally the short and nimble Trix. If the cabinet has enough joysticks up to four players can take a character each and play through the game together. Revenge may not have the extensive co-op attack possibilities of Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara (released four years after Revenge) or Streets of Rage 3 (released two years after Revenge) it does have at least one unique combo attack that’s only possible with multiple players.

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There are five stages in a game, with stages 2 and 4 being decided by the player at the beginning of the level. While the decision making is straightforward the difference is dramatic - each route is a completely separate experience.

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Several levels take the opportunity to show of the System 32’s impressive sprite scaling hardware with some nifty into the screen sections; they’re short and simple but also a nice change of pace and they certainly left a strong impression on my mind at the time.

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One thing that really elevates this game and makes it something special is the relatively extensive moves list. There are only three buttons used by the game – attack, jump, and magic - but there’s still a lot of interesting and useful combos that come out of it.

In the table below A=attack and B=jump. Trix has ever-so-slightly different combos, his basic combo setup has four attacks so he needs an extra “A” added to the below list at the start of each combo. All characters use the same commands and have the same effects but they have slightly different damage values.

A,A,[forward]+A Knockback attack
A,A,[down]+A Stun attack
A,A,[up]+A Looks different, but no special properties
B,B Quick jump attack
[Running jump],[forward]+A Diagonal jump attack
[Running jump], [down]+A Vertical jump attack
A+B Special attack

Combos are also effected by distance from the enemy and if they’re stunned or not – Stern’s standard AAA combo ends with a throw if he’s close to an unstunned enemy, but if he’s a bit further away he’ll close with a gut punch.

Another neat little trick is the ability to knock spears, arrows and other projectiles out of the air with a well timed attack – if you can!

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The magic system is really very different from the first Golden Axe, each character has one spell and only one power level for it. Dora looks like the go-to magic user but her magic is the actually the weakest – however as it only requires four potions to cast and she starts with twelve she can use it more or less as often as she pleases. Gaoh’s magic is the most powerful (a little unexpected for the power hitter character) but he needs thirteen potions stocked up before he can use it! Trix is different from everyone as his “attack” is actually a healing spell – a small tree grows and drops a pile of apples, if the player can get to them and pick them up they get a bit of a health refill.

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Scoring as is merciless as the previous game – a perfect score of 1000 points is only possible if you kill every enemy and collect every item… and not die while you’re doing it. It’s worth doing though as the game not only gives you the top spot on the high score table but grants you the super hardcore title “No.1 IN THE UNIVERSE” too!

It’s understandable why it didn’t have a home port at the time – the Mega Drive absolutely isn’t up to reproducing the game… but surely the Saturn could have had a go? That didn’t happen, so perhaps the Sega Ages range on PS2 would have been the perfect opportunity for a Golden Axe collection too… but all we got was that rather middling 3D Ages remake (with the nice new remixed soundtrack) instead. So, now I’m left hoping for a digital release (another one, as the PSN/XBLA Golden Axe Collection is missing both Revenge and Golden Axe: The Duel) because otherwise yet another generation of both consoles and gamers are going to miss out on this excellent game.

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