Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All

Axelay (SNES) artwork

Axelay (SNES) review


"Listen to that. It’s the sound of crescendoing drums and bass line as you begin the game, and excitably contemplate the weapon select screen. It will only get better. From the Robotech inspired level two track, to the haunting, otherworldly undersea imaginings of level four, your ears are met with constant, engaging quality. "



Axelay. Ack-slay. Axle-ay?

This is inordinately important ground I’m treading, I know, but I’ll give up. Phenomenal is easy enough to say, and it describes the game just as well. Konami’s coup de grace in the 2D shooter world is not any one of their much heralded Gradius games--though that series is definitely worthy of its own share of praise. Axelay does not try new things, so much as get less-worked ideas right, and run with them.

The story certainly is not new. Defending the earth is a shooter staple; it doesn’t change on this outing. The format of the game is a bit fresh, however, and is sure to please fans of the genre.

How so? Well then, do you like vertical shooters? Yes you do. That’s good. And horizontal ones? Even better. What is the purpose of this soliloquy? To establish the fact that you’ve got both views incorporated seamlessly into this solid package. Thunder Force II had both side-scrolling and overhead levels as well, and they too, were intertwined after a fashion, but that game looks and plays awfully bland beside this one.

Axelay is far from bland. It looks amazing, besting the presentations of many ‘next generation’ titles in the shooter vein. It is unapologetic in its use of copious Mode 7 effects (reminiscent of Konami’s platform marvel, Super Castlevania IV) and also like its label mate, the view might only be superceded by its incredible score playing in the background. The two titles might well be linked in one other way; they have both become standard bearers for their genre on the Super Nintendo, no small feat considering the massive library belonging to said system.

Listen to that. It’s the sound of crescendoing drums and bass line as you begin the game, and excitably contemplate the weapon select screen. It will only get better. From the Robotech inspired level two track, to the haunting, otherworldly undersea imaginings of level four, your ears are met with constant, engaging quality.

We know shooter bosses are large, and difficult to dispatch, but how often do we use the word imaginative to describe them? Certainly not often enough. Axelay takes this personally. The stage four boss, Wayler is nothing if not creative, a firestorm with malevolent intent, he strives to ensnare you as you pound your weapons into his chest and arms. Even the first level's heavily clichéd spider boss is represented here, better than anywhere else. His web actually hinders your movements, as he sends baby spiders hurtling at you, kamikaze style.

Other enemies are standard issue, but even they are done with style, and are well drawn and animated. The entire production is well drawn and animated, and the impressive ‘special’ effects only add a sparkle to a shiny package. The overhead levels in particular, feature a shocking sight for fans of the near defunct vertical shmup: the scrolling horizon. It looks quite odd, yet oddly delicious when you first see it. Your ship moves upward on the screen, and the screen retreats at the top, into the horizon. The mist that gathers there adds to the effect, while simultaneously helping the programmers in pulling it off, no doubt.

So it looks and sounds good. Is it intense? On any difficulty level this game gives you as much as you can handle. There is talk by detractors of it being too short and too easy. It may well be too short, at a too-fast six levels, but too easy? They must not have tried it on hard. On hard, you see (for the shoot-em-up pros among us), the game is a downright bastard.

You've got three weapons (some with great names like the Needle Cracker) that you select going into each level. You choose the three from an arsenal that varies depending on the mission you are about to undertake. This makes for a bit of strategy in the game. Select the wrong weapon, and the difficulty just went up a notch. When you get hit, you lose the weapon you were firing, are left with two more weapons and thus, two more hits left to take. When the second stage's AT-AT walker inspired guardian fires its rainbow spread of bullets at you, you'll pray for a higher hit total. But, rest assured that Axelay is never unfair--the controls are tight, and when you mess up you'll know it.

Axelay is as smooth as silk, and manages that elusive quality that many games strive for, and perhaps it was not striving for it, and that was why it hit its mark. The game looks like it’s not even trying. All of this is a natural, expected phenomenon; an inevitability when a talented team comes together. The superb music, the ahead-of-their-time graphics, the all important heart-stopping final boss encounter--Axelay convinces us that this was all done very nonchalantly. The second best shooter for the SNES and one of the top shooters of all time. Ho-hum indeed.

Rating: 9/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 13, 2004)

A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.

More Reviews by Marc Golding
My Hero (Sega Master System) artwork
My Hero (Sega Master System)

You play the role of The Hero, but you look like Edward Carnby, specifically from Alone in the Dark 2, right down to the blue leisure suit and pitiful death sequences. You are the strapping, golden-domed captain of the football team, enjoying a sunset with your prudish girlfriend on the beach, besotting her with...
Silent Hill HD Collection (Xbox 360) artwork
Silent Hill HD Collection (Xbox 360)

I am not enamoured of any two old games slapped together (just Silent Hill 2 and 3 in this case) being called a “collection” in the first place, especially given how easily Silent Hill 4: The Room (of the same ‘era’) could have been included for more value if not quality. Moreover, the third instal...
Silent Hill: Downpour (Xbox 360) artwork
Silent Hill: Downpour (Xbox 360)

Some might argue that the canon was lost once it left the hands of its original developers; since that time it has been passed from studio to studio, each with ingenuous intentions of making the first ‘next gen’ standout. Regrettably, that still hasn’t happened.

Feedback

If you enjoyed this Axelay review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Info | Help | Privacy Policy | Contact | Advertise | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Axelay is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Axelay, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors.