This is an Achievement website so this review will mostly rate the game and it's relation to the achievements... Although I'll still point out if it's still fun or not.
If you're looking at this game you probably already know what you're interested in but just for the ones who don't...
Golden Axe was an old classic 2D side scrolling beat em up from the Arcades in 1989. They later ported the game to the then new 16 Bit Sega Mega Drive (Called Sega Genesis in the US). A few years later Golden Axe 2 and 3 came out on the Mega Drive Only in 1991 and 1993, skipping the arcades completely (Golden Axe 3 was pretty much only released in Japan at the time though).
It was Castle Crashers before Castle Crashers
The versions you get are the Arcade version of Golden Axe 1 (good choice as the Mega Drive version, although gameplay wise was exactly the same, suffered from inferior graphics compared to the Arcade original) and Golden Axe 2 and 3 (which were Mega Drive only anyhow).
They allow you to play any version of the game you like in the options menu, i.e. Japan/Europe/North America. However I swapped a few times and couldn't see any obvious differences, unlike swapping between USA/Japan in Simpsons Arcade which changes the balancing of the game and unlike USA/Japan Streets of Rage 3 in SVC: Streets of Rage where the Japanese version of SOR 3 was left uncensored and better balanced.
I did a quick Google search but didn't find any information on regional differences between the Golden Axe games so my review has been based on the game running with everything set to 'Default' just to make sure we're all on the same page.
If anyone knows the differences please comment and let us know.
As a young child I played to death the Mega Drive version of Golden Axe 1. Because of this I blasted through Golden Axe 1 immediately as the dwarf and beat it hands down. It was quite cool to see the Arcade graphics though as my memory is ingrained with the Mega Drive presentation. One thing is, in the Mega Drive version they added an extra level and boss on top of where the Arcade finished. Seeing it now presented in the Arcade format I laugh at how tacked on the final Mega Drive level was thinking back on it, the MD game saying the final boss was actually just Death Adders son and you had to play an extra baloney level to get to the REAL Death Adder. Although I grew up on the Mega Drive version the Arcade version is def my personal preference. Better graphics and not dragged out to satisfy a home console audience.
(The version in the Mega Drive Ultimate Collection was the Mega Drive version).
I never played Golden Axe 2 and 3 as a child so my experience is different than when I played the first game. as they were in a way new to me.
Golden Axe 2 is similar to the first game although oddly lacks a lot of it's charm. Graphically they didn't seem to bother trying to be better than the first game and although there's all new enemies to beat they all lack something and come off bland.
The lizard men for example could have been really cool new enemies but end up doing nothing that any other human type enemy does and the music just doesn't hit the same exciting dramatic cords the original did. Golden Axe 2 is def the weakest of the bunch.
Golden Axe 3 is where they finally improved the game somewhat graphics wise and made the controls tighter and moves more varied. Newcomers will find Golden Axe 3 to be the least old and retro-y of the bunch.
So let's get onto the Achievements!!!
Achievement hunters will be happy to find that it's a fairly easy 400G's. Although luckily not a complete phoned in list compared to other Sega XBLA games (Daytona/Virtua Fighter 5 grrrrrr).
You'll have to complete all 3 games for 100G's which is both easy/fun and oddly still challenging. Challenging because you can't just switch it to easy and rocket through you have to play on a minimum of Normal difficultly.
This would potentially be a pain but luckily they've added a very good save system where you can save at ANY point and just continue whenever you like. This gives you 'Legal' cheating in that you can go through the game and save after every good fight and reload every time you mess up.
Cheeky, but still legit gaming :)
There's also an Achievement for riding all the creatures in every game. Pretty easy as there's only 3 in each game and you can't miss them as long as you hop on the moment you can.
An Achievement for knocking an enemy into a hole in every game. You'll probably work this one out yourself too that it's sometimes easier to knock an annoying Skeleton into a hole rather than fighting them as they're some of the tougher regular foes.
Using Tyris's strongest magic in Golden Axe 1 and 2. Easy (she's basically just showing off her giant Dragon friend, talk about name dropping).
The only annoying ones are completing The Duel mode in Golden Axe 2 where you have to defeat 15 opponents in a row with only the same amount of health. Technically easy using the save/load legal glitch, and technically it's doesn't take hours of grinding to do... But it's still a sucky mode and like holding your hand on a hot stove for 2 seconds. It's not long but feels painful, like it lasts forever and leaves you pissed off afterward.
Golden Axe 3 has a similar Vs mode but gets away with it more as you only face 5 opponents and can change the stage you fight on.
There's also a slightly tough one where you have to get the 'true' ending to Golden Axe 3 which you get by getting a high score, or basically completing the game without using a continue.
Tough... But made easy again by using the save/load system, using the panther character and spamming his special move.
Oddly I quite enjoyed doing it though.
One Major sad point is that they've included online Co-Op gaming across all 3 games(that Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection sadly omitted), which is Great... BUT... You can't earn A SINGLE ACHIEVEMENT doing it!!!
WHAT A WASTE!!!
I wouldn't even have minded a separate Achievement for online if they had to do it of 'Complete all 3 games in Online Co-Op.'
So basically unless you get a retro loving buddy over for local Co-Op you have to complete and get all the Achievements ON YOUR LONESOME
Not a deal breaker but more of missed opportunity for extra Retro Awesomeness, and Co-Op was one of Golden Axe's trump cards.
So to Sum up:
An Awesome Retro Trilogy package. Left for Better or Worse in their original Retro condition with enough options to play the games any way you prefer. With great simple Achievements, that Challenge, but never outstay their welcome. Huge Shame to include Online Co-Op but lock you out from getting any Achievements that way.
Perhaps not worth 800Mpts but Def worth 400Mpts during DOTW.
My personal favourite is 'Sega Vintage Collection: Streets of Rage' but this is it's Fun but not quite so attractive cousin.
If you Loved the originals you'll love this package.