Seeing some of the talk about TurboGrafx CD RPGs on the Racketboy forums lately and my own brainstorming about the possibility of expanding my own NEC collection has sparked a bit of renewed interest in the TurboGrafx-16 for me. I was playing a bit of Blazing Lazers tonight (my favorite TG16 game) and I thought "You know, I never was able to get very far in Legendary Axe; I should give that a shot tonight." Well, it took me about five hours of almost non-stop play (just a 30 minute break between Game Over screens to pee and grab a slice of pizza), but I finally managed to finish the game.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the game, Legendary Axe was a launch title for the TurboGrafx-16 in America (known as the PC Engine in Japan) and a damn good platformer with hack-and-slash combat. The game is broken into five levels (technically six, but the six zone is just the final boss), each with a unique theme. The basic plot is that you're a barbarian (whom I will call Harambe), and you're trying to save your barbarian girlfriend (whom I will call Harambina) from some evil demon or something (whom I will call Kozuki). As you progress through the game, you'll fill your axe's power meter. The higher the meter, the stronger your attack is (it drains when you attack, but it refills automatically), and when you get enough power-ups to max out the meter, your attack becomes ridiculously powerful and dramatic.
The soundtrack is fantastic, and the visuals are quite good (especially if you have your TurboGrafx modded to output composite like I do). My only gripe with the game is the difficulty curve. The first stage can feel challenging at first if you're not used to the controls (or, if you're like me, forget that you have the jump button set to turbo and spend 20 minutes trying to figure out why you can't jump high enough to get to the next part of the level), but once you get a feel for the controls and the mechanics of the game, the first stage becomes a cake walk. Not gonna lie, the spider sub-boss always frustrates me, but I think that's as much because I hate giant spiders as it is because of any actual difficulty. Anyway, the second level isn't much more challenging than the first. Level three shows some moderate increase in difficulty, but nothing too bad if you don't rush ahead blindly. The boss for level three is a pain in the ass, but level four is where the difficulty really spikes. The stage itself is much more challenging and much longer than the previous one, and the level boss is a bitch. I've seen it described several times as the hardest boss in the game, and while I think that title goes to the level five boss, it's a close second. Speaking of level five, Jesus Christ, that level is balls hard, and it's longer than the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. After all that (and those last two levels took a LOT of repeat gameplay and memorization with game over screen after game over screen), the final boss is extremely anti-climactic. It mostly just jumps around, and while it's gigantic and easy to get crushed by, once you get a feel for his patter, all you have to do is make sure that you stay crouched and between his legs, you can just slash away at his ankles for a few minutes until he dies. I think that boss only killed me once (though I slipped up and nearly died the second time).
The movement controls can feel a bit heavier and slower than I'd like, but the game is so damn well made that it's more than worth it to be patient and get a feel for them. The Legendary Axe doesn't quite take the crown of my favorite TurboGrafx-16 game away from Blazing Lasers, but it definitely comes in at a damn close second. While it's not dirt cheap (it is a TurboGrafx-16 game, after all), you can find a copy for around $30, and it's absolutely worth that much. Honestly, I'd say you'd be getting your money's worth in terms of fun and quality up to $45 or $50, though I might be a bit biased given my love for the console. Point is, this game is fantastic, and you should absolutely play it any way that you can.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.