There aren’t enough games that you can play as a Centaur. Or Centaurides, I guess. Or Centauresses, if you prefer. There aren’t enough games where you play as people with butts that are also horses. I’d have to think very hard to name a single one, which is why it’s unfortunate that it’s taken me so long to find Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder.
I’m familiar with the Golden Axe series, but I mostly know them from the games on Sega Genesis. My cousin and I used to play the original quite a bit, though we preferred Streets of Rage. I later discovered that the Japan-only Golden Axe III let you play as a ripped, shirtless panther-man. So, that’s pretty great.
Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder is a bit unique, however, in that it was arcade-exclusive. It has, to my knowledge, never been ported to a home console. The closest thing we have now is the Sega Astro City Mini, which isn’t exactly available all over the market. I’m not sure why Sega is trying to keep all the centaurs under wraps.
Me and my Centauride
It may be important to point out that Dora the Centauride isn’t the only character to choose from, but the only reason why I can imagine anyone choosing someone else is if they’re playing co-op and someone already picked Dora. It’s like playing Final Fight and not choosing Mike Haggar. You can choose someone else, and they may even be easier to play as, but you’re clearly not having the best experience.
Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder has four-player co-op if you happen to be on a cabinet that supports it. The Astro City Mini only supports two players, but I’m sad and alone, so it’s just me and my Centauride. That’s a shame, because co-op looks so cool. There are tag-team moves you can pull off, sort of like the Road Warrior’s Doomsday Device. So, if you have someone around who’s weak enough to bully into playing as someone other than Dora, it looks like a fun time.
Dora, on the other hand, comes equipped with one of those big cotton swabs from American Gladiators. Her attacks are kind of cute. Sometimes, she’ll just jab someone with the end of her cotton swab, whereas other times, she’ll rear up and pummel them with her front hooves. For whatever reason, her dash attack is one of the worst of all the characters. I figure all the weight from the extra horse meat would make her more deadly in motion, but that’s not the case. Even more strangely, however, is that she has a jump kick that’s really effective. I guess horses can jump, I just don’t expect it when there isn’t a fence in their way.
If you’re unfamiliar with Golden Axe, most of the core games are belt-scrolling brawlers. The first one was released in 1989 for arcade and Genesis/Mega Drive, and was unique for having monsters you could steal from enemies and ride around. Final Fight would be released later that year and immediately establish the standards for brawlers with its tight gameplay, but Golden Axe still stands on its own for its fantasy setting.
Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder is honestly not too far off from that. There’s still a weird floatiness to the combat, and attacks don’t really feel all that impactful. Likewise, there’s still no grab function, and I absolutely hate it when a brawler doesn’t have grab attacks.
On the other hand, the magic system has been revamped and is much easier to quickly understand and strategize around. There are branching paths to take through the game. There are sections where the perspective changes, and you walk away from the screen as things scale towards you. It looks both bizarrely off-kilter and fantastically Sega.
One weird feature is the inclusion of mountable weaponry. Things like little miniature catapults and ballistae. Enemies drag them onto the screen and then can only hit you if you’re standing on the same horizontal plane. If you knock them off of it, you can then control the weapon yourself. Once again, you can only hit things in two directions, but enemies don’t have a problem lining up to take a boulder in the face. The whole thing looks goofy, but it’s also completely awesome.
Disappearing horse butts
Really, though, this is the best Golden Axe in the series because you can play as a Centauride. Pony people make everything much better.
Another bizarre facet of Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder is the fact that Dora can still ride on beasts, but to do so, her horse butt disappears, and she just has a pair of human legs. That’s pretty cowardly. I want to see a horse lady straddling a gigantic mantis. Having her magically grow a human backside is cheating!
There’s also a scene where the party is briefly captured and confined by being strung up by the wrists. So, Dora is hanging there by a rope, and her whole back half is off the ground. That seems painful; all that horse meat held up by her shoulders. I mean, she’s muscular and all, but horse butts are pretty heavy. I’m sort of making an assumption here. I’ve never tried to lift a horse, I just kind of assume that I can’t, and that I probably wouldn’t like it.
I talk a lot about the Centauride, but that’s only because that’s the only feature you need to sell me on a game. But beneath the horse-butted woman, Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder is a pretty great brawler through its other merits. I mentioned that it’s not a whole lot different than Golden Axe, but that’s largely underselling it.
What I love most about it is its personality. It has a sort of fantasy B-movie vibe to it. There’s some subtle humor packed in aside absurd magic that brings it to life. The animations are incredibly detailed, and the backgrounds are varied and impressive. You maybe don’t ride on the back of giant birds or adventure through towns on the backs of giant turtles, but there is an obnoxiously long ship, and you do catch a ride on a dragon. The little gnomes from the first game that you kick around to steal magic from are back in this one, alongside the camping intermissions between levels.
In a lot of ways, I prefer Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder, even to Capcom’s Dungeons and Dragons arcade brawlers. But, once again, that just might be because of the Centauride.
Raiders of the Lost Arcade
My recent purchase of a Sega Astro City Mini has demonstrated to me that, while Sega is hardly the worst company when it comes to handling its arcade classics, there’s still a lot buried in its catalog that doesn’t get a lot of recognition. Considering that Golden Axe is one of their more renowned franchises and there’s a huge gap in the market for Centaur games, it’s rather surprising that we’ve seen so little of Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder.
That’s a shame since it’s easily the best entry in the series, even beyond the presence of half-horses. So, hopefully, Sega will eventually get around to giving it a wider re-release. But while I’m asking for unreasonable things, can we also have more games with Dora the Centauride as a playable character? I know the last attempt to revive Golden Axe went terribly, but maybe that’s just because it didn’t have enough pony-people.
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