Monday, 24 November 2014

Little Arcade of the Golden Axe

I was lucky enough as a boy to have a small arcade open up in the basement area of a shopping centre close to my house back in the early 1990s. It was by no means massive and housed about 6-7 arcade cabinets, but to me and my friends it was incredible to have this just on our doorstep. I'm struggling to remember all the machines, there was definitely a Gauntlet II machine. Gauntlet was the cheapest machine at 10p a go, but because you're always losing health it was a deceptive coin guzzler.

The most popular machine was that of Golden Axe, that was the one everyone crowded around to watch. Back in 1990 the big detailed sprites looked incredible, the music and sound effects... but most of all the magic. When you collected potions you could unleash magic, and the more potions you collected before using them the more powerful and visually impressive was the magic. Makoto Uchida designed a great new spin on the scrolling beat-em-up with Golden Axe's hack and slash play.

I remember one of my friends was the best at it and could defeat Death Adder on just a few credits. He loved that game. He was pretty crushed when his parents bought him a Super Nintendo for Christmas and realised he'd never get to play a home conversion of Golden Axe. He even converted my basic Master System version of it.

One weekend things changed, Golden Axe was there no more. And in its place was a new machine with odd octagonal joysticks. It was Midnight Resistance. Kei Akibayashi's novel take on the run and gunner wrong footed a lot of us used to the hack and slash of Golden Axe. But it did not take long before it was the most popular game that everybody crowded round in the little arcade. The rotatable joystick meant you could fire in a different direction than you were running and the power-ups for the weapons were fun.

Eventually there was less and less machines in the arcade and no new ones came in, so everybody became bored and lost interest with the little arcade. And I stopped going.

A couple of years later I rented the home conversion of Midnight Resistance for the Mega Drive, the controls just did not translate well to a 3 button control pad. But I enjoyed it despite its flaws as it reminded me of the little arcade and the good times me and my friends used to have down there. I decided to go down there and see what had become of it. The old place was now a pet food stall, but just a few paces down there was the 4 player The Simpsons Arcade Game. It was a pretty unforgiving beat-em-up but had great graphics. And a coin gobbler.

I guess some things just do not change.

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