Golden Axe III (ゴールデンアックスIII) is the fourth published game in the Golden Axe series, having been released in 1993 a few weeks after Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder (though the story most likely takes place beforehand), and is the third Golden Axe game on the Mega Drive.
The game received largely negative reviews, and was seen by many as a decline in the franchise.
Some years after Golden Axe II, Gilius Thunderhead attempts to return the Golden Axe to the gods. However, the axe is lost in a shipwreck, and obtained by Damned Hellstrike, an evil giant. Hellstrike overruns the Kingdom of Splash Hill and the East Land with his minions. To ensure his rule, he has placed the four main heroes under a curse, possessing them and controlling them to do his will.
Gilius is too old to fight, and so frees one or two of the heroes from the evil curse (depending on how many are playing) and sends them to defeat Hellstrike. They travel from one location to another (depending on the player's choice of route), until they reach the Gate of Fate. There, they fight Eve, a humanoid griffin who, after being defeated, turns out to be the king formerly under Hellstrike's control. He asks the heroes to save the princess in the castle, after which he is struck by lightning and killed, presumably by Hellstrike.
The heroes storm the castle, where they eventually defeat Hellstrike and rescue the princess. If the player defeats Hellstrike while not on their last continue, Hellstrike appears again here with the Golden Axe; the heroes defeat him again, and this time the castle crumbles into the ground. Peace returns to the land, the Golden Axe is returned, and the heroes' victory is said to become legend.
Release and Reception Edit
Golden Axe III was released for the Sega Mega Drive in Japan on June 25, 1993. It was also re-released on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on September 4, 2007, and in PAL regions on October 5, 2007.
The cartridge wasn't released outside Asia, although it was made available in the Sega Channel, Sega's modem-based game downloading system. It was re-released for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable as part of the Sega Genesis Collection. It was likewise re-released on the North American Virtual Console on October 22, 2007, and appeared in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Electric Gaming Monthly, in a feature of the game, called the graphics "by far some of the most plain looking on the Mega Drive," saying "if you are considering purchasing this title from an overseas seller, don't waste your bucks!" IGN rated the game 6.5/10, claiming that Sega "thought the quality of the product was so low, that it would be worthless or, worse, damaging to even publish the game in the States," and added "whether or not that's actually true, the quality assessment at its heart is on target – because Golden Axe III is certainly the worst of its franchise trilogy." IGN likewise accused Golden Axe III of removing the improvements seen in Golden Axe II. Similar negativity was found at Gamespot, which rated it 5/10, as well as at Nintendo Life, which rated it 6/10.
A few review sources rated the game more favorably: Eurogamer rated the game 7/10, and Sega-16 rated it 8/10.
The game's lineup of playable characters includes swordman Kain Grinder (カイン・グリンダー), swordwoman Sara Burn (サラ・バーン), giant Proud Cragger (プラウド・クラッガー) and beastman Chronos "Evil" Lait (クロノス・”イビル”・レート). Gilius Thunderhead also appear as a non-playable character at the character select screen.
In this game the objective is to travel along a number of truly branching paths and eventually defeat the main boss of the game, the Prince of Darkness Damud Hellstrike. Players can choose different branching paths in this game toward that objective just as in The Revenge of Death Adder. However, these paths are more elaborate and do not loop back together. Many of the characters encountered are good characters that were possessed, and once beaten they are freed. An anthropomorphic eagle is a recurring boss who may possibly be Hellbringer's right-hand man, and is playable in VS mode.
As opposed to Golden Axe II, where the characters, moves, and controls remained largely the same as Golden Axe, Golden Axe III brought many changes to the gameplay. The background scenery was less lush and colorful than in previous games, as were the sprites themselves. There was a greater variety of moves. Furthermore, there were several abilities unique to certain characters: for example, Braoude could throw, while Chronos and Sarah could double jump and wall jump. Finally, each character had a super-move with its own unique button combination.
Some features that had been cut in previous sequels returned in this title. Golden Axe III brought back the Thieves from the original game, rather than the Magicians from Golden Axe II. Also, extra lives could be gained by freeing prisoners scattered throughout the levels. The magic system was returned to the original version where all Magic Pots are used at the same time, as opposed to the improved system in Golden Axe II that allowed the player to only use as many spellbooks as they wanted.
Though there were innovations in play not seen in the first two games, the graphics were less colorful than other Sega games of the time, such as the Streets of Rage series.