Saturday 16 November 2019

The Legendary Axe (TurboGrafx 16 / PC Engine review)

Developer: Victor Interactive Software
Publisher: NEC
Released: 1989

The Legendary Axe is a side-scrolling action-platformer and one of the launch games for the TurboGrafx 16 console.

As mighty warrior Gogan, your mission is to rescue your childhood friend Flare who has been kidnapped by an evil cult named the Jagu. There's five zones (with multiple acts each) and your only method of attack is a short-range axe; however, your strength can be boosted by collecting Power Supply icons, and attack speed is increased by obtaining Wing items. The action resembles Castlevania (1986, NES) down to its medieval setting and obligatory knock-backs when you take damage. However, it does have a number of unique features. Firstly, rather than attacking at will, you need to time your attacks and wait until your power gauge metre is full in order to do the most damage; it's a clever mechanic that forces you to occasionally retreat while recharging, and this cat-and-mouse game is an effective strategy that keeps the combat engaging. Managing to power-up to full strength is thrilling, as one swing kills most enemies instantly while the screen flashes white to signify the massive damage being done! The game also does a terrific job of adding new enemy types into the mix that all look and fight differently, and some of the bosses become regular foes in subsequent zones which is an interesting idea. This does make the game incredibly hard at times though and it's certainly not for the faint of heart. The platforming doesn't help matters, as your jump is floaty and mid-air adjustments are overly sensitive. While the level design is strong, zone 5 is a huge misstep as it suddenly tasks you with navigating endless, boring corridors filled with enemies and a maze-like layout in order to reach the boss.

The Legendary Axe is more of a thinking man's action game and for the most part it succeeds in being an entertaining hack-and-slash adventure. Its brutal difficulty will test your patience at times, but the sleek level design, cool attack mechanics and enemy variety will likely have you coming back for more.

Random trivia: A sequel called The Legendary Axe II was released on the TurboGrafx 16 in 1990.

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