Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe (Sniper)
Genre: Action platformer
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

Ax Battler alternates between two perspectives; a three-quarter overhead view, which is used for the field map and towns, and a side-scrolling mode, which is used for combat and the game's dungeons. The former view's tile set-- brick walls, grass, mountains, flowing streams-- are strongly representative of the simple but excellent pixel art of the era, while the latter features large character sprites and detailed backgrounds.

From the game's opening melody, which is thematically similar to the excellent Phantasy Star III theme-- emotional and evocative-- to the town tune, to the battle song, to the various dungeon compositions, Ax Battler's music is quite good, even if it is a bit formulaic. Sound effects are fairly minimal, but they do enough to convey their actions appropriately.

Like an RPG, Ax Battler has towns, inns, an overworld, and dungeons. It lacks, however, any concept of stats or equipment, making this title more of an action platformer than an action RPG. The dungeon layouts are fairly simple, and the enemies are distinctive, even if the engine's collision detection is a bit spotty.

It's a shame Sega wasn't a bit more ambitious with this game. The Golden Axe universe is excellent, and a true "Golden Axe RPG" game for the Game Gear would have been great fun! As it is, Ax Battler is a simple action platformer with a good sound track and some nice artwork, dressed up in a superficial RPG guise. The formula works well as is, but it could have been much more.

Sniper's verdict: