The idea to use Mode-7 to produce a semi-perspective background is a worthy one, and certainly adds appeal.
A conversation at a friend's house would go something like this...
"So then, Mike, let's have a look at this new game, then - you know - Axelay"
"Sure; it's great"
"Wow! Look at those graphics!"
"Smart, aren't they?"
"Yeah! I'm off to buy myself a copy; how much does this game cost, then?"
"Yeah. Maybe a bit less"
"I'll have to wait 'til my birthday, then"
So this conversation proves that although Axelay is a bit of a jaw-dropper, it costs far too much for a shoot 'em up which won't last you a fortnight (maybe a month if you're an average games-player). Right.
The animation, particularly on the bosses, is superb - just look at that spider. Axelay certainly features the best graphics around for a traditional shoot 'em up. Examples? Well, how about the water level for starters? The animation - whilst not up there with the likes of Project X - is more than adequate. The amount of colour used is fantastic, and the underwater translucency part is dreamy. Ah, and that 'Aquadon'...
The fire level has a nice hot sizzling surface, with fire earthworms and dragons controlling the mayhem; whilst the city level features a bizarre city-upon-city in the sky (and there's a nice planet bit when you come to the standard mid-guardian).
The other three levels, while not as impressive as the ones we have just talked about, certainly have their high points - namely the spider, the walker and the spotlight effect on the last level.
A special mention must go towards the sound. Now, I think it's a touch unfair that most magazines say things like "Wow! This game's got incredible graphics... They're great... [three more pages are then filled by how there're many colours and things]... Oh, and the sound's not bad at all. End of review." To me, the soundtrack/s in a game mean just as much as the graphics - look at Lemmings. While the graphic artist gets all the praise, hours of time must be taken up by thinking up the soundtracks (especially ones with a decent tune in there), and how many compliments do the musicians get? Not very many for sure.
So, for the first time ever in a magazine (well, ish), you're going to experience some compliments for the soundtracks...
Good examples include the fourth, watery
area. The tune is so relaxing and mellow, you could almost go to sleep listening to it (that's not to say it's boring, though). And when the Aquadon finally appears, the music keeps its pace, but changes to a different - but still very similar - tune. And it's not just the fact the tunes are good either, they also fit in extremely well with each level. The first level features a suitably planet-like composition, and changes to an up-beat rhythm when you reach the spider. The second level's tune is similar (in the way that it fits the level), but goes intentionally off-beat when you reach the walker. The final level's starts off like just any other tune, but upon reaching the main enemy base, the music fades out, and a brilliant crazy tension-building tune pumps through the speakers. Fab music all round.
One of the things that makes Axelay so great is the playability. Axelay is extremely fun to play. Don't ask me why, but, somehow, I just can't imagine a standard shoot 'em up being more enjoyable than this. Okay, it's frustrating at times, but you'll want to stick with it. The weapons - while nothing special - certainly make the game more fun, and the stunning sound and graphics back up the playability perfectly.
So why does the game only get an (admittedly, respective) score of 84% instead of somewhere in the nineties? Well, as already explained, slow-down and flicker can hinder your enjoyment; and what's there in the game is so good, that I wish there was more of it. After completing it on Hard (yes, you can bet I'll keep drumming this into you), I found myself going back for a few more goes; but, I'd seen everything, and it just didn't seem anywhere near as much fun as when I first started playing the game.
The best way to look at Axelay is like this: The horizontal scrolling bits are certainly better than those on UN Squadron, whilst the vertical levels are (arguably) superior to the ones featured in Super Aleste. While all this sounds good, you're still only getting around half of the amount of levels featured in Squadron, and half the amount featured in Aleste, but then you're getting better graphics and sound.
It's quite clear that a lot of effort has gone into producing Axelay. There's a touch more imagination in this than you'd expect for a shoot 'em up, and the game has been well play-tested (apart from that horrible flaw mentioned earlier). The levels themselves are enough to get your adrenaline going, but there's always the first-time excitement wondering exactly
what the guardian is going to be like. Apart from the last level, no guardian will disappoint you - from the brilliant animation of the spider and walker - to the morphing of the flying saucer, and the size of the fire monster, I guarantee you'll fail to be impressed. Oh, and after you've enjoyed their graphical excellence, they leave the screen in a spectacular fashion. The 'Aquadon' blocks/fades out, whilst the fire-monster leaves in a 'trail of lines'. You have to see the effects to believe them.
The sum up: Axelay's got great graphics, superb sound, perfect playability, but limited lastability (and several other alliterations to boot).
If you've got a shoot 'em up or two, you'd still be advised to check out Axelay, but something like Super Aleste - though not as technically excellent as Axelay - gives you more for your money.
The three shoot 'em ups on test are just few of the many demonstrations of the SNES' shoot 'em up range. There are several other examples - things like Parodius, Gradius 3, SWIV, Pop 'n' Twin Bee, Super R-Type et al. The three we have picked on - namely Axelay, Super Aleste and UN Squadron - are three of the most popular shoot 'em ups available on the Super NES.
Almost inevitably, you've read the 3-page reviews given to each of the three shoot 'em ups. There isn't much more to add to the reviews, but I'd say that Axelay is the most
impressive out of the trio - no question. Aleste is pretty jaw-dropping, too, but isn't quite as slick. UN Squadron has respectable graphics on the whole, but the animation isn't implemented as well as it could be.
Axelay, as mentioned in the review, features impressive soundtracks all the way through. Super Aleste's soundtracks aren't bad at all either, but the ones in UN Squadron can grate after a couple of days of hearing.
Axelay comes out top in technicality, then, but UN Squadron will last you a lot longer,
and so will Aleste for that matter.
The problem with Axelay is that it doesn't feature enough levels - I'd be inclined to rate it as the best shoot 'em up ever if it had just a few more levels. The simple solution is to produce a sequel on CD (when it arrives, of course) with many more levels.
All of the three shoot 'em ups are packed into an 8 Megabit cartridge, which is the most common size; but, unfortunately, Axelay spends too much memory on the visuals and sonics.
To finish off, here's a table detailing the top-notch trio...