Golden Axe II was definitely a sign of its time and did things right and wrong which video game sequels today tend to do even though this is a history lesson over two decades old. Golden Axe was a huge success, even more so on the console than on the standup arcade game so the decision was made to get it out on console first, then work out all the logistics of the arcade version. It makes sense, the software is written and stuck on a cartridge then sent out to Genesis players without having to worry about motherboards, standup displays and monitors. They could rush it out, have it on the market and work out the arcade version later. So they did and it didn’t do so hot. Some players of the time probably don’t even remember there was a sequel that came out in 1991 and those that remember might wish they had forgot. It isn’t a bad game, don’t get me wrong, it does have some solid play value. The problem is that it suffers what many game sequels do: it feels too much like you are playing the original game to warrant a new one.
Evil forces are back and they claim Golden Axe again causing our three adventurers from the first game to take on mostly the same minions from the first game in a battle to get Yuria free again. If you didn’t play the first game that was fine, this is essentially a rehashed plot without a twist that occurred in the first because, well, the twist already happened. This was a failing of the sequel and many sequels both in games and movies since, they didn’t come up with a new story so the story didn’t really matter.
Gameplay is just like other games on the Sega Genesis and the original Golden Axe so there is no learning curve if you are familiar with either or both. Directionals on the keyboard or OnLive controller combined with three assigned buttons for battle. One is dedicated to magic potion attacks, one is for weapon attack and the last is for jumping. A combination of hitting and jumping can give you a jumping strike or if you hit the buttons both at the same time you can do a special class combo and each of the classes which are the same from the first: warrior, amazon and barbarian have their own combo attack as well as their own magic attack. In the previous game I favored the barbarian’s magic attack but in this one the amazon’s magic stands out above the rest with its fiery phoenix. Strategy is a little more key in this one than in the previous since besides high ground there are also falls that can happen if you line your enemy up just right during battle. Just like the first one it is good to save potions for bosses, heavy attacks or resetting your location after death and I can’t recommend enough using the four save slots that come with the Sega Gaming Classics on OnLive which allow you to save anywhere so if you are doing particularly good or know there is a particularly rough spot ahead make sure to save! There were some concerns when the game came out that the game was easier to beat than the original, setting it to “challenging” gives you the similar difficulty but I found if you use proper strategy this game is much easier.
The graphics in this game are VERY superior to the first, I don’t use all caps lightly. This is something they really got right, everything is more detailed and honestly kicks the crap out of many indie companies of today. Every aspect of the game looks better, though unfortunately they used the same tricks to improve them that they did in the first game to make them that good. You fight the same minions a lot, some taken directly from the first game. So a minion has a fist weapon instead of a mace, the other one has the same club and they both look just like more detailed versions of the first game’s enemies. The characters are the same from the first game too, just more detailed (especially the amazon’s boobs) so that once again people who bought it at the time wondered if it was worth the money they plunked out. Also the sound actually seemed a bit better in the first, though it is possible it was the exact same quality but gets so out shined by the graphics that it just seems worse. It really fell into the sequel trap: if the graphics are better but the sound, story and characters are basically the same then is it worth it? Of course in this case it is part of the same PlayPack as the first so it definitely IS worth it because it doesn’t cost you any more money, it just gives you more playtime of the game. Plus the new rideables in this game I think are a lot more fun to ride and more challenging to dismount.
I mentioned to someone that I was reviewing this game and they said, “There was a sequel?” even though they were a heavy Genesis player at the time it came out. It isn’t a bad game, I totally recommend playing it especially as part of OnLive’s $9.99 PlayPack which comes with over 200 other games as well so if you get bored you can play a different one. So when you consider how many games there are it costs 1/2 of a penny to play a month, pretty good deal I think. If you still aren’t sure you can always go to http://www.onlive.com/promote where you can demo just about every game that OnLive has to offer.