The PC port of Golden Axe is a pretty good piece of work. Classic old-school hack-and-slash fun.
1990 saw the emergence of games using actual soundcards, instead of simulated "music" cranked through the PC's onboard speaker. Although the background tunes are pretty poor by MIDI standards, and the sound effects horribly undersampled, they gave early PC gamers a taste of things to come. 8-bit music, baby! Golden Axe also came with VGA support - nothing to sneeze at when most games ran in good ol' 16-colour EGA at the time.
Being a hack-and-slash game, Golden Axe really shines. The keyboard controls are solid and responsive - doubletaps work when they should, and you could perform combos pretty much on command. Even with two players playing co-op simultaneously. Yeah, the coop mode: like the Double Dragon games which appeared around the same time, you could pick a friend to help you through the game.
The sprites were fairly chunky and the animation barely passable, but everything moved at a smooth rate. Even scrolling, with you and your pal running around, bodies flying, the game never stuttered or jerked. True, there was very little onscreen compared to nowadays, but at the time the PC was not yet known as a games machine.
Pro tip : the various characters and enemies are entirely prepackaged in their own .SPR sprite files - you can actually have two Dwarf players simultaneously with some careful file renaming (axe jump slash rules!). You can also switch enemies around, or even turn them all into those gnome thingies which deliver powerups. In that form they can't fight back at all, and the game degenerates into a hilarious kick-a-thon. Just don't swap characters and enemies - enemies don' t have enough frames to be playable and will cause weird glitches. Also, characters will not work as enemies and crash the game. Other than that, go crazy!
Everyone knows Golden Axe's story, and like the arcade version it stays obediently out of the way as you plough your way through hordes of enemies, headbutting, jump-slashing, and magicking your way through. It's a pretty short ride, unfortunately (veteran players can play with only one hand on the keypad AND finish the entire game in 15 minutes), and despite the inclusion of a survival mode, it isn't something for the long term.
Still, Golden Axe has a minuscule footprint compared to anything new. Hell, you can install the DOSBox emulator as well as the DFend frontend, and still the whole thing would be smaller than, say, your MS Office temporary folders. I'm not kidding. This means you can sneak this little gem around and take it out - like solitaire - for those quick breaks between work. Excellent!
It's pretty much impossible to buy this game anymore - although if I'm not mistaken Sega belongs to the IDSA and they don't condone abandonware - and besides, I hear they're actually going to create new Golden Axe games so it's not like they've buried the series. Still, do whatever you must to get this game if you don't have it. A true arcade hack-and-slash gem from the days of yore, still with plenty of fire and gameplay spirit to compete for your attention with the games of today. That's saying something.