Golden Axe: Beast Rider

The next time someone says that they’ve got ‘fond memories’ of the original Golden Axe (or look at you in all seriousness and claim that it was “really good”) remember to tell them in the kindest possible way to stick it.

It was bad enough you could complete it using the same move over and over, but it was made worse by the fact that the only long-term amusement to be had was seeing how far you can get with your eyes closed (for the record: far) and coaxing enemies to fall down holes of their own free will.

Which means we’re intrigued, rather than ravenous, to get our hands on this next-gen update. Admittedly, things don’t start well when you discover developer Secret Level were behind the heinous button-mashing crime, Final Fight Streetwise, a game so evil, that God stamps on a panda every time somebody exchanges money for it. But, we’re willing to give this fantasy offering a fair crack of the whip - because, the newest consoles aren’t exactly a hotbed of high quality hack ‘n’ slash at the moment.

Rather than go the sequel route, this is getting the remake treatment - which will please fans, if only for the fact that the original’s heroes will almost certainly return. Tyris Flare you’ve no doubt already noticed, and you’d be mental not to bet cold hard cash on series favorite Gilius Thunderhead making a comeback - he’s been in every other Golden Axe ever made, after all. We sincerely hope we’ve seen the last of ‘Ax Battler’ - his unfeasibly tight underpants are an affront to every self-respecting human being. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that slicing your way through Death Adder’s hoards, and abusing the main attack button, will make up the bulk of the action.

So what are the big changes? That’ll be the introduction of RPG elements - a necessary evolution that will see it crawl from the shallow swamp of button-mashery and into a more substantial experience. We’d imagine key to this will be progressively more powerful magical attacks (a feature of the original which basically involved picking up potions) fleshed out to offer a good deal more depth - allowing for more elemental magic types per character, for example; or introducing status-affecting or healing magic into the mix.

Undoubtedly, though, the biggest draw would be something that has not yet been announced. Co-op play, surely, has to be a given - as well as the ability to upgrade weapons and armor to allow for customization. In the case of the recent disastrous Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom, online play just about managed to make a terrible game bearable. If Golden Axe can trump it in single-player stakes (and we don’t doubt that it will) it could provide something to savor in multiplayer.

A long neglected series from Sega that’s definitely got plenty of potential, so long as they steer it in the right direction. Judging by the early shots, there’s little chance we’ve got a God of War-beater here, but with enough online options and customization through magic, weapons and armor, this could blossom into something pretty entertaining.

Apr 4, 2008