I bought my TurboGrafx-16 shortly after the system's debut, back in 1989, along with a copy of The Legendary Axe, produced by Victor Musical Industries, RCA Victor's Japanese division, and published in the US by NEC. I've always liked this game, and out of curiosity I recently picked up the original HuCard, Makyo Densetsu, released in Japan in 1988 as Victor's first PC Engine title.
It's clear why this was selected as a US launch title -- the graphics are detailed and colorful, the music sounds better than anything the NES could put out, and the hack-and-slash action is late-1980s arcade quality. It's the only game featured in Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine's early coverage of the PC Engine that actually made it to North America.
And, contrary to NEC's general approach to TurboGrafx marketing, they didn't screw up the cover art too badly, replacing the clean, airbrushed Japanese original with a cluttered but legible new drawing, marred primarily by poor logo placement and coloration:
The game was originally 100% in English, aside from the title screen, so little localization was required; as far as I can tell, a title screen redraw was the only change made for the American release. Here's the original Japanese version:
And the updated US version:
Even better, the game is a lot of fun in any language. The level designs and enemy characters are varied, the chiptune music is great, with unique hi-hat sounds and a solid bass line, and the power-up approach makes preserving the hero's health important. Because the hero's axe charges up, doing more damage when employed at full strength, and gets reset to zero whenever he takes damage, there's a bit of timing and strategy involved.
Both versions feature the game's first major enemy, a giant tarantula, on the packaging, but in truth this is just a mini-boss -- we have to jump and run to avoid its web missiles, striking a series of blows as opportunity permits to sever its limbs one by one, before proceeding to conquer the remainder of Zone 1:
Animal abuse is a common theme here -- we will also fight bears and eagles, in addition to the game's various axe-wielding goblins -- but presumably these are evil animals. At least, this appears to be clear in some cases, like this missile-spitting giant weevil:
This was an early PC Engine release, but it makes solid use of the system's technical capabilities with detailed graphics and atmospheric music. This cave level even puts some environmental stalactites and stalagmites in the foreground, although if we look closely we can see that the priority isn't always set properly -- here, we also appear to be jumping BEHIND the brown wall in the background:
Zone 3A pits us against giant rock men, whose reach exceeds our own, so hitting them with a powered-up axe is important:
And, just in case we're getting bored, there's some Jungle Hunt-style vinework to deal with in Zone 3B:
I managed to finish this game back in the day, but that was more than twenty years ago and my video gaming skills are not what they used to be. But there's a lot of challenge and variety packed into this HuCard release, even if we only sample the early levels. The Legendary Axe was an excellent launch title for the American console, and is still one of my favorite action games of the era.
The US version is fairly easy to find, as TurboGrafx-16 games go, but unfortunately it has not yet found its way onto the Wii Virtual Console (and is not, at this writing, likely to.) Fortunately, it can be found at Amazon.com:
If the import version appeals, you may be able to purchase it here or here: