Golden Axe: Ax Battler and Red Dragon Mount by Storm Collectibles

To know me is to know that I was a SEGA kid. I reveled in my Master System when I was a teenager and the first purchase I made with my very first credit card when I was in college was a Genesis console. I drifted away from SEGA for a little while after that, but I was welcomed back home with my nearly fanatical love of the Dreamcast, which just celebrated it’s 21st birthday here in the US last week. 9.9.99 FOREVER!!! And yes, my love for SEGA still burns brightly today. So when a company like Storm Collectibles comes out of nowhere with an action figure set based on Golden Axe, you can be damn sure I’m going to be there to support them.

I don’t know how many of you toyhounds cross over into retro video gaming, so let me take a moment for some background. Golden Axe was a Sword-and-Sorcery themed beat-em-up, which I first played on the SEGA Genesis. Actually, it was the third cartridge that I bought for the console. And boy did I drop a lot of time into this game. Hell, I still play it fairly regularly on one of my many Genesis Collections. It’s pretty great to have it portable on Nintendo’s Switch too! Storm Collectibles is a company that has made its mark developing highly articulated, 6-inch scale action figures based on various video game properties, but most notably Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. I passed on the figures from both of those franchises, because I’ve been burned so many times by other companies which have started lines but don’t see them through, and I didn’t want to start over again. And so it took the most unlikely of franchises, Golden Axe, to finally give me an opportunity to see what their figures are all about. So let’s check out the Barbarian, Ax Battler, and his Red Dragon mount!

The packaging is… well, fairly subpar. The figure set comes in a window box, which is pretty flimsy. Mine was actually torn in two places, and it came from a retailer that prides themselves on careful packaging and catering to the picky nature of collectors. There’s some grainy artwork on the front and back, and the window isn’t very useful because the contents are wrapped in so much plastic, that I couldn’t see anything until opening it. The picture I snapped looks better than it did in person, because I have since removed all that interior wrapping. About the only props I’ll give the presentation is the illustrated cardboard tray is a mock up of the character select screen in the game. Granted, I’m usually looking for an excuse to get rid of packaging so none of this really phases me, but it would have been cool to get some background copy on the character… Naw! I’m kidding. Golden Axe franchise has had about a half dozen games and spin-offs in its catalog, but none of the characters are anything more than avatars to let you beat the shit out of medieval assholes.

Freed of his package, Ax Battler is a fairly non-descript character, but very faithful to his video game counterpart. He’s a muscle-bound Barbarian in a pair of blue underwear and blue boots. There are silver buttons on the front of the boots, a silver belt running around the tops of the undies, and silver wrist bracers, but otherwise this dude is just a slab of musclebound meat. But, like I said, very faithful to the character’s appearance in the game. And for what is a pretty minimalist design, Storm did a wonderful job with the sculpt. His musculature is all very well defined, you get some veins running through his arms, and they even sculpted him with a permanent wedgie, which is probably why he’s so angry all the time.

The figure comes with two heads, one neutral and one angry, and while both are pretty good, I think I prefer the neutral one the most. And here’s where Storm probably got to exercise some creative license, because I’m not sure what source material they used to model the portrait. You sure don’t get that great a look at him in the game, as his head is just a collection of tiny pixels, so I’d guess they used the cover art from the Genesis cartridge case. Either way, I’m not complaining, because what we got is pretty good, albeit generic. He has a strong nose, high cheekbones, a jutting chin, and a determined, pouty lip. The eyes that are set deep under his prominent brow are painted very well, giving him a pretty realistic spark of life. The long hair is sculpted separately from the head, complete with some unkept strands that cover his forehead. He doesn’t look overly bright, but I’ve never seen anything in the game that suggested otherwise. All in all, a damn fine portrait for a figure in this scale.

The heads are mounted on ball joints, so swapping them out is pretty easy. The angry portrait is pretty good, but I don’t think it quite conveys the ferocity that I would have liked. He’s gritting his teeth, but it looks more like he’s forcing a smile while posing for a SEGA promotional picture. Or just smiling in a wind tunnel. The rest of the face just needed some more evidence of fury here. Maybe squint the eyes a bit, furl the brow more, and put some wrinkles in the nose. It’s always nice to get the option of a second portrait, and what we got here isn’t bad, but could be better. I think I’ll likely stick to the neutral portrait for display.

Ax Battler has articulation in spades, and this is one of those examples of how all that extra articulation can sometimes affect the look of the figure. Some of the joints here are a little ugly, particularly the fronts of the elbows, the backs of the knees, and the wrists in general. Still, I wouldn’t change anything because this is a crazy fun figure to pose and play around with. In addition to double hinges in the elbows and knees, he has ball joints in the hips, hinges and lateral rockers in the ankles, and even hinges in his feet. The shoulders are ball jointed and have lateral crunches, he has swivels in the biceps, and his wrists are on rotating hinges. There’s a ball joint under his big muffiny chest and his neck is ball jointed. All the points work quite well and offer up a satisfying range of motion, which is pretty ironic because the character animations in the game were pretty stiff!

As you’ve already seen in the pictures, Battler comes with a surprising four sets of hands. You get fists, accessory holding hands, relaxed hands, and grabby hands. Honestly, I was not expecting this man hands! Like the head, they are extremely easy to swap out, but with those exposed joints in the wrists, they sure should be!

Besides the passel of hands and an extra noggin, Ax Battler also comes with his trusty sword. Wait, what? Why isn’t he called Sword Battler? Always wondered that. Anyway, this is a really nice accessory with a beautiful painted silver finish on the blade, crossguard, and pommel. The grip is painted gold, and there’s a gold decorative fixture rising up from the crossguard and extending up for about a third of the blade. I love how the blade swells a little before coming to a point. The sword can be held securely in either of the accessory holding hands, but the grip isn’t long enough for him to go two-handed with it. There’s no scabbard or anywhere for him to stow it, but then again, this guy has his sword out pretty much all the time. All in all, they did a nice job recreating this weapon from the game cartridge’s cover art. OK, I’ve gone on long enough about Ax Battler, let’s move on to his Dragon Mount!

And that’s this beautiful red-scaled sunovabitch! At various points in the game, Ax Battler (or whoever you are playing) can hop onto different types of mounts and use them to move more quickly and deliver heavier attacks. At least until you get knocked off of it too many times and it runs off screen. It was kind of a fun play mechanic because whenever there was an empty mount on the screen, the game turned into a power-struggle to claim it and stay on it, which was easier said than done. The first mount you can acquire in the game is a really weird two-legged pink parrot-salamander-looking thing and part of me wishes they had attempted that figure because the design is so goddamn bizarre and totally unique to the game. But then I cast my peepers on this beauty and I knew they made the right decision. I mean, holy hell just look at him!

This is an absolutely beautiful sculpt with a scaled texture over most of the body and a smooth, ribbed strip running from his neck, down his belly, and to his tail. The fingers and toes are armed with hooked claws, there’s a stripe of ridges running down his back, from head to tail, and there’s some nice attention to detail in the muscles, particularly in the legs. He actually requires one bit of assembly when he comes out of the box, and that’s attaching the tail to the double-ball joint. It goes in pretty easy and can be removed again if you want to return him to the box for storage. The body is packed with articulation, mostly in the form of ball joints and rotating hinges. The arms and legs each have three points, and he even has hinges in his toes. The only disappointing thing about his articulation is that the legs attach to the body with only the means to rotate. I would have loved to see ball joints up there to give him a wider stance. Still, the balance on this guy is pretty nice, and he stands quite well on his own.

The head sculpt is a work of art, and it’s pretty damn cool that Storm got this much detail out of some pixels and whatever promotional art was available. The dragon sports two segmented horns sweeping backwards and up at the tips, and I really dig how they flow into the ridges over his deep set eyes. The dragon’s mouth is punctuated at the snout by a beak and an smaller horn jutting upward, while the jaws are studded with some impressive teeth and a giant tongue. And yes, the jaw is indeed hinged. The portrait is rounded out by the two fin-like fans that protrude backwards from the sides of his head. The coloring is also worthy of note. The bulk of the dragon is a mix of red and orange, with the two colors blended beautifully throughout the various features of the head.

The dragon comes equipped with his riding tackle, which is cast in soft plastic, painted brown, and textured to look like leather. The gear includes a saddle with stirrups coming off the sides, and a harness for the head, with reins for the rider to hold onto. One of the coolest things about this figure is that all the tackle is sculpted separately from the dragon itself, so you could theoretically take it all off if you wanted to make him the kind of dragon that prefers to guard treasure hoards, and doesn’t like to be ridden. Whether it could be reattached is another matter, and while I’m not going to attempt it on this figure, I may just keep an eye out for the set to turn up on sale or clearance to pick up a second. So how does the Ax Battler figure work as a rider?

Pretty damn well! There aren’t any tricks to attach him to the beast. You just sit him in the saddle, put his feet through the stirrups, and he can hold the reins in his accessory holding hands. He fits perfectly and stays on pretty well too. At least until one of Death Adder’s assholes comes along and knocks him off of it.

The Dragon Mount comes with an effect part to recreate the fireballs that he can spit in the game. It’s cast in translucent yellow and orange plastic and it looks good! There’s no special trick to attaching it to him. You just kind of shove it in his mouth and tighten his jaw around it.

As someone who has been collecting toys pretty hardcore for the better part of 25 years, it’s amazing to still be both surprised and impressed by a release like this. I never in a million years would have imagined that someone would release an action figure set of this quality based off a thirty-one year old video game beat-em-up. And yet here we are. Life is good. It’s an amazing time to be alive and collecting toys. I think Storm did an amazing job here and I’ll even say that at $59.99, I don’t think the price is too bad either. Especially not for something as niche as this set. And even more surprising, this was not a one-off release, as they have also produced a Skeleton Warrior 2-pack from the series, and I’ll be checking that out within the next week or so. As to whether there will be any more, who can tell? I think the Skeleton 2-pack will get a lot of traction well beyond fans of the game, and I can even see people picking this set up to integrate the dragon into their Mythic Legions collections. I would love to see the another two-pack featuring Gillus the Dwarf and the super hawt amazon Tyris Flare. Or maybe repaint the dragon into the other flavor dragon mount in the series and give him the appropriate fire stream effect part.

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