Posted by Damien McFerran
Who said the SNES couldn't handle shmups?
Regardless of the fact that it was released fairly early on in the life of Nintendo’s 16-bit console, Axelay remains one of the best looking and most impressive shooters available for the format.
Employing a similar format to Konami stable mate Lifeforce, Axelay switches between a vertical and horizontal viewpoint as you progress through the levels. The vertical sections are slightly infamous for the not entirely successful use of Mode 7 to simulate depth of field. Whatever your opinion on this visual trick, you can’t deny that it was mind-blowing at the time, even if it doesn’t look very realistic!
The rest of the game is graphically faultless, and it’s hard to think of any 2D shooter that has been released since that has quite the same polished and detailed style.
The gameplay is also top-notch, with a neat selection of weapons and some impressive boss battles (who could forget the robot spider, ED-209 look-alike and the lava boss?). It’s also fairly challenging, with some of the later levels being especially tough to crack.
A special mention must go to the sound – if ever there was a game that confirmed the sonic divide between the SNES and the Megadrive/Genesis, this was it. The music is practically CD-quality and the sound effects are punchy and dynamic. There’s also a little bit of crystal-clear speech thrown in for good measure.
It’s extremely difficult to pick fault with a game this well produced. Although Thunderforce IV is more fun and Radiant Silvergun has more depth and lasting appeal (ironically, one of the developers of Axelay would later leave Konami to form Treasure), I honestly can’t think of another shooter that brings everything together with such aplomb.
It’s like Konami threw all their weight behind the game to make it as good as possible – a seemingly rare event these days! Playing games like Axelay makes you realize just how vital retro gaming is – download and enjoy!