As strange as it might sound, there was a time when people actually enjoyed looking at movies featuring the huge Arnold Schwarzenegger in movies like Conan the Barbarian, Brigitte Nielsen in Red Sonja and all sorts of other B flicks which only offered three things: lots of skin, lots of fighting and bad acting all the way. It only seems natural now that during those times games offering the same stuff (minus the bad acting) were highly popular as well. But one game was more popular than all: Golden Axe (yes, the game that was ruined by a Beast Rider recently).
The original Golden Axe is a side scrolling arcade game set in the fantasy worlds of Yuria where, as it usually happens in video games, an evil monster threatens to take over the world and he must be dealt with. As you can see, it was not the story which turned this game into an immortal: it was the gameplay, it was the fantasy world, it was the right alignment of the planets when it got released… and nobody can say for sure what it was.
It could’ve been the characters: a Conan lookalike barbarian (I always used to call him “Arnold” and so did my friends, so I have no idea what was his real name – if there was one), a Red Sonja lookalike amazon warrior (once again, I always called her “Sonja” even though recently I found out her name was Tyris) and a powerful, fans’ favorite battle axe-wielding dwarf, Mr. Thunderhead.
It could’ve been the gameplay: Golden Axe offered the most exciting co-op multiplayer of the time, a co-op mode where you really had to work together with your partner otherwise you were doomed. Also, it was nothing complicated: button mashing all the way with a few special moves and devastating superpowers. It was, however, a full-speed game all the time: you barely had any time to take a breath, you always had hordes of enemies to destroy, challenging bosses and some really varied opposing characters (which, for the early 90s was really impressive).
As I said, I have no idea what made Golden Axe such an enjoyable and successful title. The visuals were obviously top notch for the times and it was a pretty lengthy game (because the monsters were so damn tough and you had to start it over and over again) and, as opposed to its most recent relative, it was full quality all the way.
But it is a game of the past. Offer gamers barely clothed ladies and steroid-eating males fighting in co-op against hordes of enemies, let them have fun and challenge their skills and you’ll totally fail. Because today you’ve got to offer them DLC 30 minutes after launch, gameplay three-years-old kids can master and cell-shaded, blood-free visuals so more people will be allowed to purchase your game. Golden Axe, you’ll be missed!