Back in the day scrolling shooters were a dime a dozen. To stand out from the crowd you had to have something unique in your shooter. Just being a side or horizontal scroll shooter was not enough anymore. Konami was, at this time, kicking butt with their other games- Castlevania IV, Contra III etc. They didn’t have a good shooter in their arsenal outside of Gradius, at least as far as Super Nintendo went. 16-Bit was the age of experimentation and with the capabilities offered by the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 and Axelay was no different.
Konami pretty much created a new type of overhead scrolling shooter with Axelay. Kind of a curved planet overhead scrolling shooter of sorts. The overhead levels are angled so you see into the horizon rather than “down” onto the level with very little forward look. This, at first, is a little disorienting as it is so unique to any other overhead scrolling shooter. What we have in Axelay is something challenging and unique at the same time.
One neat change to the scrolling shooter format that Konami implemented in Axelay was how weapons upgrades happened. In just about every scrolling shooter ever you earned weapons upgrades by defeating enemies during the levels and then lose those upgrades when you died. This process left you up the creek without a paddle when fighting bosses in later levels. In Axelay, weapons upgrades are allotted throughout the game as you progressed in the game levels. This was a huge departure from the norm and believe me, it took me a bit to get used to.
Konami even changed the method in which you lost lives in a shooter with Axelay. You didn’t die right off the bat from most impacts, you simply have your currently equipped weapon downgraded to the lowest available power. Get hit again while using that lower power weapon then it is game over.
Man, Axelay is one of those iconic titles that holds you once you get past the learning curve. Go grab a copy off Ebay and just start blasting your night away.