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Golden Axe Beast Rider

version: pal (it) - year: 2008 - developer: secret level - publisher: sega - format: blu-ray disc, ps3 - condition: mint - rarity: common

Developed by now defunct Secret Level as a single player game in which you play only as the sexy amazon Tyris Flare.

 

The hardcover artbook features plenty of nice concept art. Was a preorder bonus.

 

A singleplayer adventure which should keep you busy for 10-12 hours

 

Beasts play a big role in the gameplay

 

Jump with triangle and then press square+ X simultaneously to kick enemies off their ride

 

The graphics are not bad although they tend to be repetitive and too "brown"

 

Some beasts are animated very nicely

 

The megabrax level is one of the most inspired moments in the entire game. Too bad it is too little, too late

 

Death Adder is actually a worthy opponent. The last fight is at least entertaining

 

Tyris Flare's new look is reminiscent of Nariko in Heavenly Sword. The face paint and most of the costumes are inspired from North American indian tribes. A look which is hardly faithful to the original. And on a personal note, the new Tyris looks often trashy, with that crackwhore expression...

 

...nothing to do with the clean look of 1989's Tyris!

 

Eventually, the classic look can be unlocked upon completing the game. A good thing indeed.

Review - In an attempt to be more successful in western markets, Sega started acquiring a few studios both in Europe and in America, and as a result of this policy, in 2006 the San Francisco-based company Secret Level was purchased.

Secret Level was given the opportunity to work on a sequel of Golden Axe, the seminal 2D side-scrolling beat’em up released in the arcades back in 1989.

The original Golden Axe is considered even today as a cult classic whose greatest strength was an insanely fun two-players option framed within a beautifully characterized fantasy universe, spectacular magic spells and the ability to mount onto beasts.

If we have to analyze what made the original game great, it is probably a combination of factors which made it so playable and long lasting, and the 2 players co-op mode is a big part of that. Golden Axe was fun mainly because it was possible to cooperate or to happily beat the crap out of one another in an attempt to collect all important health boosts and magic potions. What could start like a “friendly-fire” incident could often end into an insane free-for-all brawl in which you would focus on killing your friend first and eventually take care of the enemies later. This was the strength of Golden Axe. You could play it mindlessly with the idea of just kicking your friend’s ass or you could play it to actually attempt to reach the end of the game, collaborating with your friend. This freedom of choice resulted in one of the most playable and viciously fun coin-op ever.

Anyways, a very faithful port was released on Mega Drive, a version which also included two extra levels and a very fun arena mode in which you could openly fight against a friend.

The Golden Axe franchise later spawned two sequels on Sega’s 16 bit consoles, but these chapters were generally regarded as being inferior to the original game.

An entire different sequel was also released for the arcades and it delivered everything the original delivered, plus a 4 players co-op mode! Sadly, that version was never release on any home system.

After that, the game appeared as a weak rpg for the GameGear system, and then as an underwhelming 1-on-1 fighting game for the arcades, later ported with enhanced graphics to the Saturn.

An extremely disappointing re-skin of the original game was finally released as a “coup de grace” on PS2 as part of the Sega Ages collection.

Looking back at this glorious series, it becomes clear that as time went by, it started an inexorable decline which was supposed to be reversed with the release of a blockbuster reinvention of the original game, on the all powerful PS3 hardware.

This time around, the franchise was entrusted to a western developer, in an attempt to revitalize the moribund series.

Secret Level obviously played the original game. This can be seen in many of the tributes paid to it in the form of the hard to hit gnomes, which appear in certain parts of the levels, as well as a remake of their little accompanying tune.

Tyris magic spells also retain the same fire and dragon theme, although now they can be upgraded.

Some of the backgrounds such as the giant turtle return, and obviously, even the beasts return, although this time they are more central to the gameplay mechanic. What unfortunately doesn’t return is the co-op game mode, which has been abandoned to offer a solo experience.

What to say about Beast Rider? To be fair, it had a very tough responsibility: reviving such an icon of the past wasn’t going to be easy. Dealing with fans expectations who had played the original game for decades wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Secret Level probably tried their best, but unfortunately, they didn’t manage to give the original game justice but they rather contributed to the decline of the series.

Why such harsh words, you might ask?

The graphics are fairly well done, with decent character models but I found the background to be a bit repetitive, maybe because all the graphics are inexplicably brown-tinted, making it difficult to appreciate the difference there might be in the background details. This really hurts the game in my opinion, as a more vibrant color palette would have certainly benefitted the look of the different settings.

Also, some of the backgrounds are a bit unfocused, with murky textures which make it impossible to appreciate details. I am referring for example to the bodies of impaled women in one of the levels.

Moreover, there is a big difference in quality between in game graphics and cut-scenes. To give you an idea, I would say that cut-scenes which look nice have the quality of the in-game graphics of Heavenly Sword, which is a first gen PS3 title...

Finally, the camera moves in a weird way, often drifting god knows where, forcing you to continually adjust it to have a decent view of the action on screen.

Moving on to the audio side, the tribal music of the original game has been somewhat brought back, and it works well. For some reason though, there is also an over abundance of metal music which I found out of context.

After playing the game from start to finish, I have to say that unfortunately it isn’t fun enough for you to invest a lot of time in it.

The fighting system is somewhat original and mainly consists of parrying and dodging enemy attacks based on their color. A system which takes a bit of effort getting used to and that works fine most of the time if your timing is right. But when there are a lot of enemies on screen, the system becomes cumbersome and lacks precision, leaving you vulnerable to tons of damage. Since your health bar can go down quickly and losing a life means restarting a level (unless you collect rare statues which act as immediate respawn points), it can become a bit tedious to replay a level from the beginning because the fighting system lacks polish.

Controlling the beasts can also be fiddly, but that shouldn’t surprise you because it was the same thing in the original game. These beasts give a huge advantage over your foes, but they are also very vulnerable when attacked. They do provide some satisfying moments of pure savagery though although some of their attacks can create an insane amount of slowdown, which is a shame.

One thing I kind of liked was the gore though. There is a lot of blood and dismemberments, so fighting enemies is a bit more satisfying because of that. When you kill an enemy, he won’t collapse on the floor right away but it will hang in there for a couple of seconds for you to slash him into pieces. Relieving, especially after a day at work!

In the end, Golden Axe Beast Rider tried to revitalize the franchise, restoring the glorious times of the first game but it unfortunately failed in its attempt.

Bottom line: Beast Rider merely contributes to leave the franchise where it has been forgotten for too long now, in a sea of uninspired mediocrity. 6/10


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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