Originally known in its Japanese market as "Fighting Fantasy
now for MAME
enthusiasts), undoubtedly copyright issues over the name led Data East
to rename this 1989
arcade Hippodrome for the North American audience despite the total lack of horses involved.
An unusually-compelling member of its genre for its time (pre-SF2 blah on account of only featuring two buttons - jump and attack) this can only be accounted for by its inspired appropriation from mythological sources (and, uh, AD&D sourcebooks). Like any early fighting game it featured a small roster of increasingly-difficult baddies for you to pump quarters against in single combat but unlike palette-shifted clones (sorry, MK fans) these enemies had personality!
Cawnus the lamia in the arena of Pandemonium would throttle you with her tail, given half a chance, though you could sidestep this by knocking the tip off. Gran the gargoyle in Gehenna crumbled to pebbles after being defeated! Norfolk the Lizard Man warrior in "Tarterus" hid cravenly behind his shield until you sent it blasting into a thousand pieces -- though rumour had it that if you could sneak blows around the shield and kill him without destroying it, you could pick it up and use it yourself!
(Hey, gimme a break. We were still giddy off the novelty of Golden Axe showing the corpses of fallen opponents - this was high drama!)
Other opponents included Solomon the Wizard in Elysium (and his insidious arsenal: Fire Ball, Acid Rain, Thunder Volt, Fire Tower and Ice Ball), Sharon the Armour Dragon in Gladsheim, Daldnoa the web-spitting Scorpion-man in Acheron, "Charry & Steeve" the, uh, Assassins, in the, uh, "Twim Paradises" and, finally, Pon the Giant in the Abyss.
Your performance in combat would influence how much coin you acquired for expenditure in post-bout re-equipping, where you could stock up with the Hammer, Battle-Axe, Halberd, Potion and Pendant - these purchases would in turn become available for selection before each round, and not surprisingly certain weapons worked better or worse when matched with different opponents.
Despite some weirdness (how can the twin assassins be competing for the title of singular champion? That just ain't fair! And why does Daldnoa spit webs if he's a scorpion, not a spider?) and some "You chose the wrong weapon so now you will be summarily slaughtered without managing to successfully land a single blow"-ness, the sheer bout-to-bout diversity of the opponents (ignoring their small number and unchangable sequence) kept us enthralled, little-suspecting the six-button revolution that was lurking just around the corner...