For the longest time now, I've always gotten Axelay confused with ActRaiser. They're nothing like each other, by any measure you can think of, but their names would always blur together in my mind and I'd then fail to remember what they were each about.
I can't fail anymore - I hope - having played both very clearly distinct and not at all related games, with Axelay taking the form of a visually and technically impressive space shoo-ugh, blimey, you just can't get away from these space shooters, can you?
Like many of its genre, Axelay is light on plot, but unlike other titles, its introduction goes quite far above what you might have expected. It's not full on video, of course not, but it's interesting enough to raise at least a 'huh'.
A 'huh' warrants a bit more investigation, and diving into the game turns that 'huh' into more of a 'huahwhaaauhwoah', kinda thing.
You are dropped into Mode 7 Heaven almost immediately, with a sprawling world unfolding in front of you. Again, screenshots aren't going to do it for you here, go and find it in motion. The barreling of the planet beneath you can be distracting, so you better remember what you're here for.
As the last hope of ridding the solar system of alien threats, your ship is equipped with a variety of weapons that you will hopefully point towards a much bigger variety of threats. If you manage to make it to the end of the stage and defeat the boss, the next stage begins with a weapon selection screen that now contains an additional weapon choice.
You can mix and match these weapons to some degree to best suit your tastes, and this is the only way you'll be adjusting and upgrading weapons in Axelay, with no power-ups and upgrades in the heat of the moment to keep an eye out for.
Getting used to those weapons, well... that might take a little while.
I was having an absolutely torrid time with Axelay. Yes, sure, to start with I was distracted by the visuals, but before long it was becoming a test at remembering which threat was coming next (having fallen to it on the previous attempt through the stage) and switching to the correct weapon to deal with it, preferably at the right time.
I read that, despite it seeming like everything will kill you instantly - getting hit, obviously, but also colliding into things, I think - it's actually possible to merely have one of your weapons knocked out and live to fight on, turning a 'one hit and you're out' game into a 'three hits and you're out'.
Suffice it to say I didn't notice a whole load of that happening, because I usually proceeded to explode as I said words to the effect of "Why can't I shoot anymore?"
Further Fun Times
Though I was absolutely shit at this game (with the exception of one flukey run where I inexplicably got much further than usual), I knew I had to watch it, and blimey was I rewarded.
Axelay switches from vertical to horizontal and back, and each stage looks fantastic. The details you see in the backgrounds are incredible, and it's confusing to even begin thinking about how it was all put together.
The enemies are inventive, here and there, with boss battles having all manner of big and nasty problems all up in your face. I wish I could feel the panic of dealing with them myself, but alas, I just can't seem to get it.
And that's why you see so many screenshots here show the first level and my ship in bits.
It is pleasing to know that Axelay may have beaten me but didn't beat me in such a way that I never want to see it again. It's happened a few times now, and probably will many more times in the future. A game can be difficult for you, but you still want to devour its plot, its concepts, its style.
The plot here was minimal and did nothing new, the concept of only upgrading your ship in between stages was nice but again wasn't exactly show-stopping, but the style - those graphics. Joyous.
Axelay will push you, but it's damn good to see pushing you. Though if you concentrate on the backgrounds more than the opposition forces it's harder to play. Maybe that's where I went wrong. I need to not care about how good it looks...
Be right back. Going to save the solar sys-nope, no. Next time.
The game ends with a tease of a sequel that would never come.
Axelay, developed by Konami, first released in 1992.
Version played: SNES, 1992, via emulation.
Version watched: SNES, 1992 (World of Longplays)