Box Shot
Platform: Super Nintendo
Publisher: Konami
Designer: Konami
Genre: Shoot-em-up
Players: 1
Published Date 1993
Reviewed by: Rob Strangman

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 to finish.

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 you!

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.