Axelay. One of the most revered shooters in history, mentioned in the same
breath as Gradius, R-Type, Radiant Silvergun and Einhander. Considered to be
one of the best SNES games ever, Axelay is one of Konami's finest from start
The story? That's typical shooter matierial: the Armada of Annihilation has
attacked the planet Illis. All the ships in the fleet have been destroyed...
except one: the D-117B Axelay Stratafighter. One lone pilot climbs aboard to
singlehandedly take on the Armada and thier dreaded leader, Veinon, with the
fate of Illis at stake. . .
In a lot of ways, Axelay is reminiscent of the NES game Life Force; mush
like Life Force, the perspective changes from top view to side view every
level; also like Life Force, there are only six stages. That's where the
simlarities end, however.
The overhead stages are presented very uniquely: as you fly up the screen,
you can see the horizon curve off into the distance. It was a nice effect -
one of the many Mode 7 tricks that Konami used when creating this
masterpiece. The sideview scenes are pretty standard, but done very nicely.
The basic enemies are pretty standard fare, but nicely animated - in fact,
there are dragons in level five which resemble a certain Salamander from
another Konami game (guess which one?). The bosses, though - wow! They are
some of the greatest bosses to ever inhabit a shooter. My personal favorites
would have to be the Level 2 (the Traileb Space Colony) boss - it looks like
an Alien (from Alien, natch) that got fused with an AT-ST from Star Wars,
and Wayler, the boss of Level 5 (the obligatory lava level) - he's a half
fire/half machine cyborg! Pretty cool, if you ask me.
You start with your choice of the three weapons (your ship can carry up to
three), and you get one new weapon for every stage that you clear. You can
look at the weapons before you select them - you get a small picture
depicting what they do. Upon selecting your arsenal, a very clear voice
announces "Arms installation complete - good luck!". Possibly, as a nod to
Castlevania, the weapon you get upon completing Stage 4 is called the
"Morning Star". Hmmm...
Every time you get hit during the game, you lose a weapon. There are no
shield powerups at all, so if you get hit more that three times, you're
toast. Every so often, an enemy will score a lucky shot that fries you,
whether you have weapons or not - and hitting a wall or some other obstacle
is instant death. As a nice touch, though, when your ship explodes, shrapnel
from the explosion flies everywhere and kills (or severly damages) any enemy
that's nearby. They may take you out, but some of them are going down with
The graphics are phenomenal - some of the best ever done on the SNES.
Konami's trademark Mode 7 effects are out in force. The Axelay itself is
nicely designed (personally, though, I like the side view better). One thing
I would like to point out - the cover art for the U.S. version sucks. They
should have stuck with the original Japanese artwork.
The soundtrack, while not as good as, say, Contra III or Gradius III, has
it's moments. The first level music is great, as is the end credit theme.
It's still much better that 50 percent of the SNES games that came out -
plus the SFX is done very well - lots of loud explosions!
Axelay has a decent difficulty curve - you can make it through the first
couple of levels easily enough, but then it just gets harder and harder.
Hopefully you can make it through the last level with most of your lives
intact, because when you face Veinon, you'll need them. QUICK TIP: When
Veinon scans the Axelay and starts sending duplicates of it to fight you
(one of the coolest parts of the game, btw) park yourself over Veinon (as
close as you can get to him on the top of the screen without running into
him), equip your air to ground napalm bombs, and let him have it! You'll
take out most of the Axelay duplicates and do some serious damage to Veinon.
Be on your guard, though: every so often, an Axelay duplicate will fly up to
where you are, so be ready!
An interesting little fact - if you complete Axelay on Hard twice in a row,
you get a announcement - "Axelay 2 Coming Soon!" or something to that
effect. Too bad this never happened. According to KoA, Axelay just didn't
sell well enough to warrant a sequel. What garbage!
All in all, Axelay is fantastic, and well worth picking up if you have a
SNES. Of course, you'd have to find it first - it's not readily available.
If you're a shooter fan, and you don't have Axelay - FIND IT NOW, BEFORE
IT'S TOO LATE! You won't regret it.