Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 10

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 9

If there was one company who knew what the SNES hardware was capable of, it was Konami. Very few companies have such an impressive resume of title for the system. "Axelay" was not only one of the most beautiful titles to see shelf space, but it's one spectacular shooter as well.

The Armada of Annihilation has declared war on the Illis solar system. Their only hope is a single fighter, D-117B, or Axelay. So advanced and expensive, you're in control of the only one. You'll be faced with six stages before the final battle that will save the small alignment of planets.

Ok, so Konami's writers aren't exactly top notch. It doesn't matter. Their designers were. "Axelay" is arguably more advanced than any other shooter on the console, including Nintendo's own "Star Fox." Stages fall into both of the standard shooter views, vertical and horizontal.

The vertical stages are the amazing ones, featuring a gorgeously rendered scrolling and scaling backdrop unlike anything seen before on a game system. The effect is not only mesmerizing, but it never causes major gameplay issues. It's obvious this effect taxes the hardware's abilities and some of the battles will be fought in slow motion, but it actually becomes beneficial to the player. These enemies have an insane amount of firepower.

D-117B can hold three weapons at a time, each one selected before the stage begins. Every time you make it to the next stage, more weapons become available. You'll eventually find a nice mix that suits your playing style and stay with it every time you play. Likewise, every time the ship takes a hit, the weapon you were using will become disabled. You won't see it again until you lose all of your weapons, which will make the financial backers of the ship slightly unhappy when they see it in pieces.

It's not always that easy. Some enemy weapons and hazards are not so forgiving. Running into a wall or getting trapped on the screen will result in an instantaneous death for the player. Bosses generally pack the big guns with them when they come to play, so be prepared for a quick demise if you don't know what's coming.

After a few times through, you will of course learn the patterns and make your way through the six stages. That's a problem. The experience maybe a wonderful one, but it's far too short. Most of the game will end up being memorable, but even a fantastic title can grow old after a while. This one certainly has more life to it than most others, but it will find permanent shelf space sooner than later.

Though the vertical stages are obviously the highlight here, the horizontal ones are no slouch. There are a ton of small details and brilliant color use throughout. Parallax scrolling is used effectively and the boss design is nothing short of remarkable. Stage two features one of the most incredible looking bosses in 16-bit history, an extraordinarily animated robot that uses just about every effect the SNES has in its arsenal.

Every stage brings with it a new blistering addition to the soundtrack, each one seemingly better than the last. They fit in perfectly with the design of every stage. Some of the slower stages are accompanied by a more graceful, flowing track, while those that pick up the pace really shine in the bass department. The explosions are meaty, and each boss will generally meet an individual fate he call his own.

So, would "Axelay" succeed if it wasn't for all the graphical and sound prowess it contains? Probably not. This is one of those rare exceptions to the rules where the graphics actually compensate for a game that would have been lost in a crowd. It's probably just above average as shooters go. Because of the looks, "Axelay" is a game that sticks with you after the initial experience and one you'll certainly come back to. That proves this title not only has staying power, but the ability to hook the gamer and keep him or her playing. If that's not a sign of a classic, I can't imagine what is.


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Last updated: Saturday, December 04, 2004 08:58 AM