North American SNES box art
Axelay (アクスレイ, Akusurei) is a 1992 scrolling shooter video game developed and published by Konami of Japan for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The game was released on September 11, 1992 in Japan, later in that month in North America, and the following year in Europe. The game was re-released on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console service in Australia and North America in 2007 and in Japan in 2008.
Axelay is a sci-fi scrolling-shooter in the same vein as other Konami titles such as Life Force (Salamander) and Gradius. The game features both horizontal and vertically scrolling levels and allows the player to choose three different weapon-types, which increase in number as they progress through the game.
The game was programmed by Hideo Ueda. Kazuhiko Ishida, credited with "support program" on Axelay, later left Konami to help found Treasure Co. Ltd. Taro Kudo primarily composed the game's soundtrack.
Axelay's gameplay varies quite a bit from that of traditional 2D scrolling shooters. Instead of the player collecting weapon power-ups from defeated enemies in order to acquire more advanced weapons, the player earns weapons as he or she advances in the game. There are three weapon types with which the fighter is outfitted at the start of the level: a standard weapon, a special weapon, and a bomb or missile. The player may freely switch between each of these weapon types during a level. At the end of each level, a new choice of one of these types of weapons is added to the player's armory, and the player is given the ability to modify his or her fighter to suit the needs of the next level. Similar to Konami's own Life Force, levels transition between vertical and horizontal scrolling layouts, forcing the player to select weapons that will be most effective for each level. Finally, the game eschews the standard one-hit-kill model prevalent in space shooters, instead simply disabling the currently selected weapon and reducing the player to a weak default version of that weapon type. Sustaining a second hit while using a weakened weapon will destroy the player's ship. However, directly colliding into an enemy will still destroy the ship instantly.
The game's graphics utilize the Super Nintendo's mode 7 and parallax scrolling effects. Such visual effects combined with what was then seen as an advanced selection of weapons available, as well as the music score, made Axelay into a popular shooter for the SNES console.
Axelay takes place in the fictional planetary system known as Illis. Once a peaceful system, it was invaded by an alien empire known as the Armada of Annihilation, taking over the planets of the Illis system, including the Earth-like Corliss (known in the Japanese version as "Mother"). As a last resort against the alien forces, the D117B Axelay fighter is sent out to recover its lost weaponry and put a stop to the invasion.
Having traversed the cloud covered Cumuluses, the space colony Tralieb, the largely populated Urbanite, the watery Cavern, and Sector 3 Lava Planet, Axelay makes its way to the Armada of Annihilation's Fortress and completes its mission. At the end of the game on the hardest difficulty, after beating the game twice, a message promises a sequel to this game. However, Axelay 2 never materialized.
Axelay was originally intended to be a Japanese exclusive, but was given a U.S. release in response to numerous letters from consumers and critics.
Axelay was composed by Taro Kudo, credited as "Taro." The music for the second stage ("Colony") was remixed by Masanori Adachi, credited as "M.C. Ada". The soundtrack was released on a single 22-song disc on October 21, 1992, published by King Records. The track "Unkai" was included on the Konami All Stars 1993 compilation and the track "Colony" was included on the Perfect Selection Konami Shooting Battle II disc.
Reception and legacy
Nintendo Power scored Axelay 3.75 out of 5, praising its graphics but noting that its head-on perspective takes some getting used to. Super Play gave the game an 85%. Both IGN and GameSpot gave the Virtual Console re-release of Axelay a 7.5 out of 10.
Axelay is considered by some publications as a classic of its genre. It was voted #91 on Electronic Gaming Monthly's 100 best games of all time in their 100th issue. The website ScrewAttack called it the #6 best 2D shooter of all time. Nintendo Power magazine later called it the #18 best game on the SNES. Super Play listed it number 36 on its list of the top 100 SNES games of all time in 1996.
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