Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Chapter VII: Golden Axe

While growing up, my parents, in an effort to make me slightly less nerdy, tried to convince me to enroll in some extra activities besides school. I tried many sports including football, table tennis and hockey, but often I would lose interest after a few months. I still remember that the reason for not wanting to go to hockey practice was because it collided with Denver the Last Dinosaur cartoon TV broadcast. As any of you would do, I chose Denver and quit hockey.

In between all those endeavours I became a boy scout and for some reason I didn't quit right away. Well, that reason was a girl that I fancied that was also in the boy scouts. That was the first love of my live, and just being near her was reason enough to forget about transformers, ninja turtles and videogames.

Even though being in the boy scouts seem like a very common occupation for a boy my age, I was raised by atheist parents and wasn't even baptised. I did the whole Boy Scout oath, and went regularly to Sunday morning mass while not being a Catholic and not caring one bit for religion. I did commit all of these heresies just to be close to her, even if she hardly cared for me.

One year, probably in May 1991, I participated in my hometown procession with the boy scouts, right behind all the Romans, the clergy and the crucified statue of Jesus Christ. It was an abnormally hot day and I started to question if maybe it was a test of our faith. Not only the whole walk was kind of hard with such weather, but it was also a total bore. Midway through the procession I just said to the kid next to me 'screw this, I'll go play Golden Axe'. That's how awesome Golden Axe was. It made me forget my childhood love, at least for a while, and made me risk the wrath of God. I left the boy scouts for good.

Golden Axe was the most badass game at the time. Everything about it was incredibly cool, as it had dragons, big swords and axes, scantily clad strong hot women, big muscular barbarians and lots of cool looking armours. It was Metal as fuck! Yet, like most games of this type, it suffered with the one button controlling method that was common in the Amiga. I do remember one particular jump being harder than Death Adder itself.

My kind of woman. No, not orphans! Badass redheads I meant.
It’s also worth mentioning another episode that contributed to my arrogance as an owner of the ultimate gaming machine. For many years there was no other game machine in my mind that could compare to the power of the Amiga, and that included Arcade systems. One day, while walking through the itinerant arcade saloon of the local fair, I glanced at the machines on display. I wasn’t old enough to play them, but I remember vividly how weird the graphics on the Golden Axe cabinet looked. They were all in shades of purple, which kind of defeated the purpose of the manliest game ever. Not for a second it I realized that there was probably something wrong with the machine. No, of course not. It wasn’t an Amiga, so therefore it looked like crap, or in this particular case, effeminate crap.

I know most of these kind of brawlers didn't stand the test of time and look too simplistic and shallow nowadays. I tried the game in MAME not long ago and even though it still looked incredibly cool and not purple at all, it didn't hold my interest for long. But! It wasn't the Amiga version, so let's if this version is worthy of offending the Lord and making me forget my childhood sweetheart.

After loading the game I noticed something that I never did before. It seems Death Adder’s official name is Death=Adder. This is kind of confusing, because if maths comes into the equation (sorry!), then his name could also be Death Death or Adder Adder. There’s still a chance that the name is only Death or Adder, being both options correct. Villains are supposed to have simple and catchy names, like Hitler, Stalin and Megatron. But even so it’s a good thing Death=Adder took the reins of evilness over his brother “Dread(Doom+Hell/3)^5”.

Tyris=Flare, while unfortunately also suffering because of a generation of parents obsessed with mathematics, still looks great after all this years. And what’s about Ax=Battler? Is that the real name of the son of George Battler, or is it a nickname gained after years of battling with an axe? If the second option is true, then the people responsible for it should be ashamed for having had the opportunity of removing the equal sign from the name and not doing so.

Why are you laughing? Did you notice you're both fat?
What more is there to say about this game? It’s an excellent conversion, there’s no doubt about that. The regular culprits “Colours” and “Framerate” are the most obvious downgrades here, with the Amiga colour palette being much more garish. It’s true what I said earlier about the game being quite shallow nowadays, but it’s still very fun, especially with two players, when there’s not much patience for something more demanding. The overall atmosphere and feel of the game has a timeless appeal and I can still imagine myself playing this in 10 years or more.

One thing that the Amiga version doesn’t lose over the original is the sound. This may be just a matter of personal preference, but I really do prefer the music on the Amiga. It packs so much more punch and clarity that is hard to not drop the controller and start air guitaring on the first level. Credit must go to veteran Amiga composer David Whittaker for such a great work.

The pit part of level three of which I alluded earlier was as anticlimactic as it could be. So it went like this: My diminute hero arrived at the edge of the pit on the back of a blue dragon. Before jumping over he thanked the gods of videogame logic for giving him extra lives. The dragon jumped, and in the next second he was already on the other side on his way to Sega Tavern wondering what the fuss was all about.

They didn't let Gillius in the Tavern because he was too short.
The bouncer eventually regretted his decision
Gillius adventure didn’t last long though. I think he got reckless after that particular jump, thinking himself to be invincible. He caught a particularly vicious strain of tetanus after a skeleton’s rusty sword wounded him on the fourth level, dying shortly afterwards, and by shortly I mean half of a second.

Was this game worth of making me leave the boy scouts? Of course! But then again, every other game would be. The boy scouts were pretty lame.

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