Released in 1989, Golden Axe is a side-scrolling beat 'em up. An evil entity called Death Adder has captured the King, his daughter and a Golden Axe, and it's up to three warriors to save everyone. Each of the playable characters has different weapons and special magic spells as they battle Death Adder's henchmen.
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With Tyris Flare: 0:09:27 by Jason 'honorableJay' Feeney
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I've always had a soft spot for the Golden Axe series, having played the arcade version when I was a kid numerous times. So when the summer hit and my living room got too hot for me to use my computer for speedrunning, I started searching the SDA game list to find a side project. Not finding Golden Axe on the list sparked my interest. After a quick search on eBay and a few weeks of grinding, I finally got a run that not only breaks the 10 minute barrier, but is overall pretty clean.
Before getting to the actual run, here's a breakdown of what I know about the game:
Damage (actual stats taken from http://tasvideos.org/1064S.html)
The strongest normal moves in the game are the back attack (6 dmg) and the downward stab (8 dmg). For the magic attacks, anything under level 4 with Tyris is not worth using unless the goal is just to knock someone down. While I don't know exactly how much damage levels 4, 5, and 6 deal, I do know stage 2 requires level 4, stage 3 requires level 5, and stage 6 requires level 6 to get guaranteed kills.
By default, all enemies try for a surround pattern, which has 1 enemy attack from your left and right. If there are more than 2 enemies, the extras stick to an avoid pattern which keeps their z-axis positioning a certain height above/below your character. They'll still move to your left or right but won't come into attack position until you render one of the attacking enemies inactive (by knockdown or kill). If you're at a sufficient distance, enemies will go for a dash attack, allowing you to either bait them to a pit or setup a downstab. Animals can also be used as bait since all normal enemies will try to mount without dodging anything. Whoever is closest to the animal will get priority, causing others to walk in a straight line yet still dodge attacks. Dodge patterns are pretty simple (of which there are 2): enemies will move down on the z-axis if you're doing a downstab, and the avoid pattern will make an enemy increase z-axis distance if you try to move in and engage.
All enemies can be manipulated without a RNG getting in the way. It all boils down to your current positioning and what action you're executing. Animals can also be used to setup easy downstabs, as can forcing different spawns for enemies. While it's easy in theory, execution errors or small timing mistakes can make a fight go bad really quickly.
Enemy Annoyance (highest to lowest)
1 frame first attack, range that extends well outside of the sprite, attacks get faster and more aggressive with every stage.
Longest attack range and quick swings, each hit takes away 1 lifebar, slow movements make baiting into position hard, always come in pairs.
All attacks are very fast, first swing has a rear-back animation which shifts the hitbox away from your character (causing back attacks to miss).
Slow movements make baiting a chore, all attacks have rear-back animation, and all attacks take away 1 lifebar.
Bat-boys and Mace-men
Generally easy to handle, Bat-boys have better attack range while Mace-men have heavily accelerated attacks at later stages with a very high chance for attacks to connect multiple times (possibly a bug, highest combo I've encountered was almost 9 hits and instant death at full life).
By far the easiest character set in the game, only thing to worry about are the supporting Skeletons, with Death Bringer's Skeletons having double his health.
The first 4 stages give you a chance to fill up on your magic/health after the completing the stage. The problem with these stages is the fact that the thief patterns are random. There is nothing I can do but pray I don't get a bad pattern. This is the only spot in the game with random elements, making them the most frustrating at times.
No real issues with this stage, everything went according to plan. Every downstab I get is position/distance based. For the first 2 enemies I can't be any closer to them or they'll dodge. The next 2 enemies involves a spawning trick: by moving to the top right of the screen, I force the Mace-man to spawn in active rather than him running into the screen. From there I can manip him to walk down and catch both enemies at the same time. For the boss fight, I use the animal to manip a downstab on both the Giant and 1 of the Mace-men, then mount the Chicken Leg to finish things out. One good thing about using the animals is it increases the enemy aggressiveness, making them engage faster.
Bonus Stage 1
A few runs before this one, I started using dash attacks on the thieves, and it turned out to be faster. In this case it saved a little bit of time, but cost me in the end due to the random factor. I also lost out on grabbing a magic pot for the next stage.
Everything here goes according to plan, although a few things are as fast as I'd hoped. After 'convincing' the first 3 enemies into the pit, the Maceman I delayed slightly to make sure I could guarantee he'd go into the pit. In other attempts I've saved about ¼ to 1/3 of a second by catching him earlier in his dash attack. I also go lucky with the thief: being able to catch him with a back attack while he's out of the screen saves time since he doesn't run around like a madman (the level can't advance until he's off the screen). The last fight is fine, but I waited a few more frames than normal to make sure the magic caught all 3 enemies just after they spawned.
Bonus Stage 2
Here is one of times I abuse the hitbox/animation of the back attack to catch the blue thief while he's off-screen. Overall I had very good luck with the thief patterns here.
The strategy here is to knock the Maceman into the off-screen pit, then bait the other two into downstabs. It goes fine until the Amazon: I landed on the dragon and couldn't avoid getting off. The death is intentional since riding the Dragon wastes well over a minute on this stage. When I respawn, two things happened: the first thing I did was wait a bit to make sure I didn't run into the pit (the game has a tendency to buffer input at times) then the controls didn't want to respond as fast as I needed them to. Overall I lost almost 2 seconds to that hiccup. Then the controls decided to play with me again: when I tried to back-attack the second Amazon I jumped instead. I was still able to connect with both Amazons to kill the first, but the input mistake allowed the second Amazon to get into attack position and knock me down, which cost me about 4 seconds. After that I recovered and was able to successfully pull off one of the run-killing tricks: the dreaded TAS-Giant strat. Right off the bat, I have to start the run just before the game pauses to load the Giants, then I have to jump as the game unpauses, scroll the screen far enough to the right, then catch both with a downstab. This is only the setup. I have had runs that have gotten the initial downstab, but the rear-back animation for the Giants has caught me on the final downstab and destroyed plenty of attempts. The thieves could've gone better, but I was too high by about a pixel or two to quickly grab all of the pots. As for the final fight, aside from the controls botching a backstab, it's just a flesh wound.......
Bonus Stage 3
I get some decent-but-still-bad luck with the thief patterns. The first problem was grabbing the first pot from the blue thief: since I don't need magic for the next stage it means I need to hit the blue thief in the next bonus stage one more time, which increases my chances for bad thief patterns. I do get the rest of the thieves pretty quickly, but I have gotten patterns where I can catch 2, sometimes 3, of them in 1 attack.
A few small hiccups in this stage, but still one of my fastest times. The first mistake came from the first set of Skeletons: another damn control input not working right. At this point I've figured out how to work with the Skeletons to abuse a jump attack as best as possible: a knocked down Skeleton can easily be hit with a downstab due to their slow standup recovery times. The final fight consists of 3 rounds. I have a few hiccups, but nothing run shattering (this was actually my fastest time by about 5 seconds). I had to constantly reposition myself to avoid the 1-frame first attack that the Skeletons have, and while it is slower than what is possible, it's also the safest strat to use here.
Bonus Stage 4
Grabbing the pot in bonus stage 3 may have cost me some time, but luckily I had really good thief positioning this time around so the loss was very minimal. I did have to use an extra back-attack on the blue thief, but at least the green thief stayed close and didn't run away like they normally do.
Right off the bat I get to show a funny glitch: even if you're falling into a pit, the game still considers you to be on solid ground. This allows you to run into a pit and jump out. If you walk into a pit you can still do a normal dash jump for extra height. The only hiccup here is the second set of enemies: I messed up a RJA and had to finish off the Maceman with normal back attacks (getting him into the pit would've been slower). The strat I use for the Knights seems slow, but it's the quickest safe strat to use. By waiting until they get to that specific spot on the screen, I can guarantee knocking them off of the pit (which is off-screen). Unlike stage 7, the pit here is very small, so any aggressive strat runs a very high risk of a Knight, most of the time both, not falling into the pit. One of the glitches with Knights is they cannot walk into a pit, they must be knocked off of it. If a Knight walks into a pit he'll float in the air like it's solid ground (which most players notice only on stage 7 due to the size of the pit).
This stage consists of 2 fights, both of which go according to plan. Using downstabs against the Giant isn't viable (yet, still working on a reliable method) due to the short screen space and the fact that he can be knocked off-screen (and his recovery is quicker compared to the other Giants). Death Adder, however, can't be knocked off the screen. Combined with his really slow recovery, it becomes a downstab festival. The initial dash attack against the Skeleton forces Death Adder to become an active enemy and breaks his avoid pattern, which moves him into attacking position. I need to use level 6 magic (Dragon attack) to ensure the Skeletons are killed, and I have to stand in a specific spot to start the cutscene as quickly as possible.
Compared to my last effort, this level is pretty solid. Both enemies running into the screen at the start is something I'd hoped for but didn't necessarily plan for. Since it's so random when it happens (I still haven't figured out the exact way to do it every time) I dash jumped across the pit too soon. The next few Skeletons are 'convinced' into committing suicide. Then it's a pit-party as everyone else decides to find out just what is at the bottom of a Death Bringer's castle. The very last thief I rushed a bit, which made me whiff a couple of swings, but everyone else played pretty nicely. Against the Knights I decided to use a very experimental and dangerous tactic (which failed but not as bad and I thought) where I take a shot, then use a RJA to get both Knights into position quickly. Since the RJA failed (for some reason I fail against the Knights more than any other enemy) I had to regroup and hope for the best. This also shows just why I hate the surround pattern so much as the last Knight refuses to come into attacking position until I'm a specific distance away from him.
This fight went almost perfectly, but I do get a cheap shot from one of the Skeletons that I couldn't avoid. Whether or not they behave is all position based, and apparently I must've been a few pixels away from where I needed to be. Regardless, I still recover quickly and wind up getting the very last hit on Death Bringer on not only the last frame of my downstab, but it was also the very first frame he could be hit on (double bonus luck there).
I'm definitely happy with this run even if there are still a few areas to save time. If I had to guess, it could be as close to 9:20 with perfect luck, and getting anything under that would require TAS-style luck and execution.
First off I'd like to thank Heidman for his help in planning out sections and smacking me on the head whenever something needed to be improved.
Mary, my psychologist (and sometimes gf), is next on the list for keeping me sane while I not only got my recording setup working, but constantly beat my head against a wall.
The admins who work hard to keep this site running and get killer runs on the front pages also deserve more thanks than anyone.
Final thanks goes to you, the viewer, for watching this run and (hopefully) enjoying watching an old child favorite get demolished.
With 2 Players: 0:08:09 by Steve '8-Bit Steve' Lynn, Anthony 'Sync' Hawkes
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First off this record was played on an original model 1 genesis with the original Golden Axe cart. We used the 6 button controllers that were bundled with the model 3 genesis because they were they only ones even remotely playable after trying at least a dozen different kinds. Even then they were still pretty bad and required constant cleaning.
I originally started working on this record with Anthony because he wanted to break into speed running and I thought it would be a quick and easy record to get, boy was I wrong! Over eight months of my life have been invested into this record and it is still not really close to where I want it to be. In the following paragraphs I will attempt to explain why this has taken so long and been so difficult to attain.
We did not have a posted 2-player record to work from so we had to learn everything on our own which took a lot of trial and error and intense research. Doing anything with two people is harder than a single person in most games because it requires coordination which means more things to execute, think about, and watch. This is true with almost all 2-player records but this one is its own kind of evil.
Screen Pressing: In Golden axe there are stop screens. A stop screen is where the screen will not advance unless you kill all the enemies. In fact the entire game is based on these. In some games the screen will move as you move and then lock in place. In Golden Axe the screen slowly moves on its own and can cause problems if one of the players is too far to the left side of the screen. This results in time loss, poor coordination, and throws off your timing. Another problem with the screen is that you can accidentally dash into a scrolling screen. If you do this it will cancel your dash. This is particularly frustrating because the strongest move in the game is the down stab and it requires you to do a dash jump first. As you may have guessed if one of the players is not far enough to the right and the other player is doing a dash to the right then he will accidentally hit the screen and that usually results in a reset.
AI Targeting / Manipulation: The real difficulty in this game is the enemy AI, let me explain. Enemies spawn and then immediately lock onto a particular player. This is based on your proximity to that particular enemy. This is a basic rule but has a few exceptions. If you are doing a down thrust the enemies will not lock onto you and will change targets in some cases depending on positioning. Enemies will switch targets if the other player walks too closely to them or sometimes during back swings. This basically means each player has to execute his moves near perfectly to prevent AI chaos. We also have to position correctly, dash correctly, swing at the right times, all while avoiding the other player. Because of the way this works it makes the game very difficult to speedrun with two people. Essentially every set of enemies is a difficult agility trick because we have to dash down stab so much.
RNG: Even after playing the game for eight months and having over 2500 restarts the game will still does things I have not seen before. I can’t stress enough how intricate the enemy manipulation is with two people. The biggest RNG element though is the thieves. The ones in the levels are not so bad because they spawn in the same spots in most cases with the exceptions of the left side thieves on levels 6 and 7. The ones at the ends of levels 1-4 have several different patterns and seem to move at random. These patterns can cause time flux of 1-3 seconds per level.
Magic: We have a very specific strategy and only collect exactly enough magic. If you collect extra magic during a stage they are added to the thief at end of that stage costing at least one second per magic. Tyris’s level 4, 5, and 6 magic scale up in the time it takes for the animation to finish. We use the lowest level magic possible in every case. Tyris’s level 4 magic is faster than Ax battlers but he only needs 6 potions compared to Tyris’s 7.
Interesting notes and Strategies:
Level 1 Boss: I and Anthony invented this strategy. I do not think it is getting much faster than this unless you use magic.
Level 2 Boss: We use Tyris’s level 4 magic instead of Ax battlers because the animation time is shorter.
Level 3 First three enemies 1: There is an invisible block and pit on the left side of the screen that you can get the enemies to fall into. This is a strategy we found that only seems to work well in 2-player and is unique to this run. I have experimented in single player but for some reason the enemy on the top right of the screen affects the behavior of the other enemies.
Level 4 First Three Enemies: This is a strategy we invented that is very consistent. We have another strategy that is faster but could only execute it about 10 percent of the time. It involves doing a flip down stab to the right and catching all three enemies.
We opt to use level 6 magic here instead of on Death Bringer on the following level. Once we found out you can hit the statues before they spawn we knew it was significantly faster for that section because you have to wait for them to spawn. I am pretty sure they are on a timer.
Down stabbing an enemy takes approximately 1.5 seconds. Therefore two down stabs would take about 3 seconds. Level 6 magic takes approximately 5.25 seconds and does far less damage than two down stabs. This means using magic on Death Bringer is slower.
A slightly better end of level thief patter exists
Lost 1 second due to slow button pressing during the level description screen
Tyris did not dash to back swing causing 1-2 seconds of time loss
Tyris did not hit magic as quickly as possible causing 1 second of time loss.
Very unfavorable Thief pattern cost us 2-3
Everything went well
The first three black enemies of this level can be done about 1-2 seconds faster if both enemies are hit with the down stab instead of just one.
Ax Battler misses the down stab flip on the left skeleton and then gets knocked down afterwards. We estimate about 3 second of time loss.
Ax battler did not execute the boss strategy correctly which caused 4 -6 seconds of time loss.
The enemies before Death Adder acted a little differently than normal but it only resulted in a 1 second time loss.
Ax Battler has to shoulder dash one of the enemies in the second section twice due to poor positioning costing 1-2 seconds.
The thief section has about 3-4 seconds of time loss due to poor RNG.
We did not use magic quickly enough on the enemies before the boss. This was due to the fact that we just implemented the magic strategy the session before and we panicked a bit. Estimate about 4 seconds of time loss
Our boss strategy did not work correctly which cost 3-5 seconds.
Our death bringer fight can be about 3 seconds faster if Ax Battler prevents the skeletons from hitting Tyris.
Based on our estimations, split times, and research there is about 19 -35 seconds of improvement time in this run. Sadly we are just too burned out and probably will not come back to this game unless someone beats the record. Hope you guys enjoy.
PS: To those attempting to beat this I predict lots of pain and suffering in your future, good luck!
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