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Devs behind Sega’s revived Golden Axe prototype didn’t know it was coming back

"This appears to be a surprise to everyone I know who actually worked on it"

Sega revealed yesterday that it was launching four minigames in celebration of its 60th anniversary. Among those free PC games was a prototype for a previously-abandoned Golden Axe game. While it was a pleasant surprise for fans, it was less so for some of the people who worked on it.

“Woke up to the surprising news that Sega is releasing the Golden Axe prototype I coded in 2012 under crunch conditions,” tweets Tim Dawson, the prototype’s coder who is now of Witch Beam. “At least I’m not alone – this appears to be a surprise to everyone I know who actually worked on it.”

Dawson goes on to explain the conditions that the team created the prototype under. He calls it his personal nexus of excessive hours, industry realisations, and “heroics achieved with a small team under unreasonable conditions”. The team had to make the prototype in just two weeks, he says, and at one point a lead designer criticised it for not being the “God of War-like 3D brawler” they wanted.

He also calls attention to a now-deleted joke on the game’s Steam page that said “Golden Axed may be janky, may be buggy, may be an artefact of its time, but it offers a unique glimpse into the prospect of a project that could have been”.

That’s a brief snapshot of what he said, but you can read through his thread below for the full story.

Another developer who worked on the project – Sanatana Misha, also now of Witch Beam – similarly expressed surprise at the game’s reveal. He says: “Please be aware this was roughly two weeks’ work, and our weird bosses wouldn’t let us spend more than a day on combat design”.

We reached out to Sega for comment and received the following:

“Sega Europe reached out to former members of the Golden Axe: Reborn dev team to produce this prototype of the game for Steam as part of our 60th Anniversary celebrations. We wanted to bring the work of the developers at the time to light and celebrate it as a part of our history. Something we didn’t get the chance to do first time around.

“We certainly didn’t mean to dredge up painful memories for Mr. Dawson and his former colleagues or appear disrespectful. We’ve removed the line from the Steam copy that could have been taken as a slur on the development and would like to reassure everyone that it was intended as a comment on the build we had ported to PC, not the quality of the original work.

“We’re hoping lots of fans play the prototype and can appreciate the work he and his colleagues put into this developing this prototype.”

The line Sega is referring to is the one Dawson mentions about it being “janky” and “buggy”.

The Golden Axe prototype first came about as Sega’s Australian studio was initially working on rebooting several classic games at the beginning of the decade. It was called the Sega Reborn series and included 2.5D reboots of Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Streets of Rage, and a version of Shinobi that would have been an endless runner. All that came to an end, however, when Sega Studios Australia was closed down in 2013.

As for Dawson and Mishra, they went on to start up an indie studio called Witch Beam. They have made a twin-stick shooter called Assault Android Cactus, and are working on a house-moving game called Unpacking.