There were fewer things I loved more than a great side-scrolling action game as a child. The likes of Golden Axe, Revenge of Shinobi and Streets of Rage 2 were in regular circulation on the Sega Megadrive. Gaming has largely moved on from the golden era of 16-bit side-scrolling action platformers, but fortunately there’s still a large community of developers creating games inspired by those classics, with all the benefits of modern game development.
Golden Force is one such action platformer, taking players across four islands to beat The King of Demons, who has taken up residence on muscle island alongside his army of monsters. It’s up to you and four other bounty hunters to take the king on by beating his armies, traversing the pitfalls of each island and battling past tough bosses.
My expectations weren’t too high going into Golden Force. Far too often I’ve seen similar looking games and gotten far too excited, only to feel let down by lacklustre fighting or movement mechanics. Fortunately, Golden Force surprised me. Each of the game’s four characters control excellently, with each one having unique melee combos and special attacks. On top of the basic combat mechanics, they all have a powerful attack which attacks everything on screen, it’s very Mega Drive era and I absolutely love it.
Golden Force also takes some inspiration from Sega’s biggest competitor of the time: Nintendo. Each level plays slightly like a Mario course, with hidden coins to find, pipes to warp through and even floating platforms. It’s this mix between old-style Mario platforming and a 90s beat ’em up that makes Golden Force feel so great to play. It perfectly mixes the two to create something that feels fresh, but also like an homage at the same time.
The real standout moments on each of the four islands are without a doubt the boss fights. Each boss fight challenges players with unique gameplay elements that push your skills to the limit. From bullet hell projectiles firing across the screen, to platforming sections that test your ability to react to the floor below you shifting, each boss fight is filled with a myriad of challenges, creating some of the best moments in the game.
Even when you aren’t collecting the hidden coins, there’s still plenty of gold to be found through each level. Enemies and hidden chests drop gold, which can be spent on items between levels. The shop offers permanent boosts like more health and increased combos in return for those hidden coins, but also stat and weapon altering items which can be bought with gold to increase your effectiveness in fights. It’s an additional system that adds depth to the levels and gives players a reason to explore every nook and cranny of each island.
The excellent combat system includes a combo mechanic, which enables your character to carry a combo for as long as possible. The higher your combo, the more gold you will be rewarded with. A higher combo also goes towards unlocking a powerful attack, which targets the entire screen with projectiles.
Golden Force has its shortcomings, namely, its length. It won’t take long for skilled players to breeze through the game’s four levels. While multiple characters, hidden coins and secrets add to the replayability, I’d liked to have seen a little more content, just because the game is such a delight to play. Fortunately, that replayability is also improved with the addition of two player co-op, meaning you can buddy up with a friend while you take on The King of Demons.
I also found the dodge move to be a little inconsistent. I would often press it while moving in the direction I wanted to dodge, only to have my character move directly into an enemy.