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Golden Axe: The Duel
 

 
STORY
80 years after Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder, the people had forgotten the tragic events of the past and had rebuilt their lives. However, now the terror begins once again. The legendary Golden Axe was rediscovered, and its power appears to have grown over the years. Now, numerous fighters from across the land are attempting to obtain this artifact, which is said to be able to grant its owner anything his heart desires. After dueling the other characters, the player must face a physical representation of the Golden Axe's powers: a giant, golden-armored warrior. It is believed to be the spirit of a sacred god dwelling inside the artifact.
 
REVIEWThe iconic beat-em-up / hack & slash arcade title, Golden Axe, made its original debut in 1989. It was followed by Golden Axe II (1991), Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder (1992), and Golden Axe 3 (1993). The fighting game spin-off, Golden Axe: The Duel was first released in Japan in 1994 and was later ported to Sega Saturn. The Duel features heroes who are (or appear to be) "descendants" of the original characters from the Golden Axe series. They are joined by a variety of colorful baddies, offering a unique and fresh-looking character roster, while not straying too far from what one would expect from a Golden Axe title.
 

Golden Axe: The Duel features descendants of the original Golden Axe characters.

 
Like many other mid-90's fighting games, you can tell right off the bat that Golden Axe: The Duel takes some obvious cues from the genre-defining Street Fighter 2 series. Actually, The Duel takes even heavier inspiration from SNK's early Samurai Shodown series (1 & 2), as seen in the animation style, special moves, sound effects, and overall look of the game. The Duel also borrows SNK's trademark "zoom-in / zoom-out" camera effect during battles (although I'd say its a bit overused and slightly "jerky" compared to SNK's more refined effect). 

Thankfully, Golden Axe: The Duel does manage to stand out among other 2D fighters of the era, in a few different ways. For starters, the game features "big" super moves for the time, filling the screen with effects that try their darndest to look epic. Some hit the mark and are visually satisfying, while others are a bit underwhelming and awkward. In general, the art style and animation quality is definitely "above average" for an early / mid-90's 2D fighter. The character sprites are beefy, bright, and have some impressively smooth animations.
 

Death Adder. That old bastard. He stole many quarters back in the day. Many.

 
It was a respectably risky yet questionable decision for Golden Axe: The Duel to star "descendants" of the franchise's iconic characters, rather than the original main characters themselves. Thankfully, Golden Axe: The Duel still features a healthy dose of fan service for gamers who played any previous Golden Axe titles. One of the most prominent throwbacks are the "imps" that run into the battlefield, only to get hit and drop their little blue potions. ...pure nostalgia. Some of the environments and characters / monsters appearing in the background also pay homage to those from the beat-em-up titles. Lastly, the sound effects and stage music are well done, and have that "epic" vibe that the Golden Axe series is praised for.

While Golden Axe: The Duel has all of its fundamentals intact, there are some areas that hold it back. Visually, the background environments are a tad too loud and don't have enough perspective and sense of space to really "draw you in". Some of the color combinations used are also a bit straining on the eyes, and many stages seem to give off a claustrophobic feeling. If anything, the backgrounds are packed with too much detail and color, taking the focus off of the great character sprites... which stand quite well on their own. Calmer backgrounds (and more variety) would've helped set the stage a bit better. Another element that just feels "missing" in Golden Axe: The Duel.... Finishing Moves! I understand Sega wanted to keep the Golden Axe series "PG", but after the epic (yet classy) deaths of Samurai Shodown 2 or Fatalities in Mortal Kombat, a 2D sword fighting game of this nature seems to warrant at least some kind of finishers. The classic Street Fighter K.O. just doesn't quite "cut it" (no pun intended).

Gameplay-wise, The Duel is a straight-forward, traditional weapon-based 2D fighter. The pace of the game is most comparable to the likes of Samurai Shodown or Samurai Shodown 2. While there's no combo counter, the game features an intuitive combo system that stays in line with classic 2D fighters. Most combos are on the short side, with some that can lead into nasty throws and setups. There are even some lengthier combos that can be performed by specific characters, along with some pretty cheap-ish tactics than can kill an unsuspecting barbarian grunt in seconds. All in all, the solid combo system makes Golden Axe: The Duel very "playable," and the roster is arguably well balanced.
 
 

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Page Updated: February 23rd, 2017
Developer(s): Sega AM1
Publisher(s): Sega
Platform(s): Arcade, Sega Saturn
Release Date(s): 1994                                 ( Arcade)
Sept. 29th, 1995
         ( Saturn)
June 27th, 1996
          ( Saturn)
Characters Kain Blade, Milan Flare, Gillius Rockhead, Zoma, Doc, Keel, Jamm, Panchos, Green, Death Adder, Golden Axe

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Featured Video:

Related Games: Double Dragon, Samurai Shodown, Samurai Shodown 4, Savage Reign, Kizuna Encounter, Ninja Master's, Fighters History, World Heroes, World Heroes Perfect, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, KOF '94KOF '95KOF '96, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, X-Men: Children of the Atom, Tekken 2, Soul Blade
  

Gameplay Engine

 8.0 / 10

Story / Theme

 7.5 / 10

Overall Graphics

 7.5 / 10

Animation

 8.5 / 10

Music / Sound Effects

 8.0 / 10

Innovation

 7.5 / 10

Art Direction

 8.0 / 10

Customization

 6.5 / 10

Options / Extras

 5.5 / 10

Intro / Presentation

 8.0 / 10

Replayability / Fun

 7.0 / 10

"Ouch" Factor

 8.0 / 10

Characters

 7.0 / 10

BOTTOM LINE

 7.8 / 10

 

 

Final Words:

The original Golden Axe was one of my all time favorite arcade games when I was a kid... and I mean all time favorites. I fell in love with Golden Axe (1) at the arcade. The music, the characters, the environments, and the overall epic vibe really made an impression on me. (And hell, you could ride freakin' dragons in the game!) I was beyond thrilled to finally get the Amiga (home) version when it came out, and played it literally for years. I "lived" in barbarian / medieval worlds when I was a kid, so Golden Axe was always up my alley.

Due to a very limited release in North America, and only being ported to Sega Saturn (during a very competitive time in the fighting genre), unfortunately Golden Axe: The Duel fell below the radar for many fighting game fans. The game arrived in North America in 1996 (nearly 2 years late mind you), and arrived during a time where fighting games were evolving and advancing dramatically. 1996 brought blockbuster titles like Soul Blade, Tekken 2 and X-Men VS Street Fighter (to name just a few). By that time, a traditional, Samurai Shodown-esk 2D fighter like Golden Axe: The Duel definitely appeared and played a bit "dated" compared to newer fighting games.


In retrospect, Golden Axe: The Duel actually had a lot going for it, and was a more wholesome and more vibrant fighting game package than some other "me too" 2D fighters that came out in the early / mid-90's. This hidden gem was also one of the first (and few) "fantasy-style" fighters set in Medieval times, easily distinguishing it from most other fighting games.

While it has a few shortcomings, Golden Axe: The Duel is probably one of the most underrated and under-appreciated 2D fighters of the time period. It's not quite as epic as it set out to be (and should've been), but Golden Axe: The Duel was a "more than solid" fighting game effort from Sega. And like the classic Golden Axe arcade beat-em-ups, the game has aged rather nicely.
~TFG Webmaster  
 

 
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