Double Dragon meets Conan is the best way to sum up Golden Axe. Easily one of the better side-scrolling fighers to be found on the Megadrive (regardless of the basic nature of the fighting system compared to the likes of Streets of Rage), Golden Axe is still a gorgeous game to behold, even today. The character and level design are brilliant, and in two player mode it really is a hoot.
The aim is simple - move from one end of each leve to the other being sure to take out the many bad guys along the way. At the end of each stage a boss character (or group of characters) is waiting for you to come along and brandish your steel. It's not terribly original stuff but the presentation is first class so you can't really complain too much. Like the classic fantasy movies of the '80s, Golden Axe emits authenticity that is hard to match.
The combat is pretty basic when you break it down and doesn't come anywhere near to challenging the likes of Streets of Rage, but it works well regardless. Combination attacks are pretty effective and impressive (smashing the butt of your sword on the head of an enemy never gets old) and you can even string together other moves, such as throws - although they don't work in the same way they do in games like Final Fight and SOR. You have to wait until your foe is prone on the ground and then attack them, and your character will automatically scoop them up and hurl them skywards.
You also have magic attacks available, which are boosted by collecting potions dropped by little elves along the way. I used the word 'dropped' in the loosest sense possible as you actualy force them to part with their potions by giving them a swift kick up the backside!
As with many of the Virtual Console releases, you have to ask yourself if you're not just better off purchasing the host system and a copy of the game, but presuming you've decided to stick with the Wii rather than heading off to eBay, then this really should be high on your list. It's not for everyone and games like SOR and Final Fight are arguably better, but this is classic Sega and is therefore worthy of your time and money. It's also worth noting that it's not arcade perfect (although lots of people seem to think it is) but does feature an extra level exclusive to the Genesis/Megadrive.