Another Sega classic, Golden Axe was one of the first games to apply the side-scrolling beat'em up formula to a fantasy setting. The plot follows three warriors who go on a quest to destroy an evil tyrant named Death Adder who wields the game's namesake, Golden Axe.
The three playable characters don't seem to have much difference between them beyond how they look. The dwarf character is strong and slow, the Amazon is fast but weak, the warrior is a balance between the two. However the strength/speed differences between them isn't very noticeable; It might take the Amazon a few extra hits to kill a bad guy, but not much. What is noticeable is the extent and strength of the various magic attacks each character has.
Speaking of which seeing what each magic attack does probably was the who reason any of us played this game back in the day. In addition to a short combo, jumping, and running attacks, each character has a screen clearing magic attack. This is by far the most interesting feature of the game. A weak attack may be a few explosions or random fires around the screen. Thyris Flare's maxed out magic attack summons a huge dragon that breathes fire over the whole screen. I distinctly remember plopping in quarters just so I could see that dragon. The Genesis versions of these effects are just as impressive as their arcade counterparts.
Enemy types are the usual generic club wielding barbarians and skeletons. The end bosses go for size vs any type of special attacks or patterns. First level has you facing these large bald-headed giants with sledge hammers (called "Bad Brothers" in the end credits,) later on you fight knights in shining armor, regenerating skeletons, etc. Occasionally someone will show up riding some kind of fantasy creature that you can take from them and ride yourself, each of which has it's own special attack (such as breathing fire or tail swipes.) For the most part they follow the usual beat'em up formula, surround you and kill you, and none of them are particularly hard to get past.
The rest of the game is translated well, although there are some sacrifices for the weaker Genesis hardware. All of the characters are somewhat smaller and have less frames of animation although for the most part they look pretty good. The sound however takes a major hit down from the arcade. The voice samples are pretty weak and the music has to stop in order to play them. It does get a little annoying to hear everything stop then a scratchy "Blaargh!" every time you kill a guy. For some reason the skeletons make this screaming noise also, which I always thought was weird. There are other little differences here and there, lower number of colors used, fewer screaming villagers run past you, etc. But for the most part only anal arcade purist people will even notice these differences, much less care.
Still an arcade classic that is worth picking up for nostalgia value. It's always cool being able to headbutt random bozos while riding a Chicken Stinger.