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Video Game / Axelay

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Axelay is a Shoot 'Em Up for the SNES, made by Konami and released in the US in 1993. It has also been released onto the Wii's Virtual Console service. It pushed the limits of what was capable for the SNES's graphics and sound capabilities.

Several elements make this shooter stand out from the pack. First, the perspective alternates between a behind-the-back perspective (which plays like the more conventional top-looking-down perspective) and a side view (a la Gradius or R-Type). The closest comparison to the behind-the-back look might be the original F-Zero.

Second, there are no power-ups. Before the level begins, you pick three weapons from a list of weapons that grows with each level. These weapons are either upgrades for your main gun, or an upgrade or a replacement for your missiles (of which you have infinite). The weapon that is not enhanced is comparatively weak. You can switch between the three at will, however, if you get hit by enemy fire, you lose the weapon you are using for the rest of the life, replaced by the regular weapon. In theory, you have four Hit Points, though it is debatable how far you could go with only the weak weapon.

Third, the soundtrack is a bit unconventional. Instead of just a song for all the bosses, each boss has a remixed version of the song for the stage you just went through. There's a strong jazz influence to the soundtrack, believe it or not. It also has some of the best 16-bit drums you'll ever hear.

Fourth, the bosses. This game has some awesome bosses.

This game contains examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Final Boss scans your ship, then sends out multiple evil clones of them at you. They follow your every vertical movement as well as firing their primary/secondary weapon whenever you fire yours, making it look like a nightmare to avoid. Hint: What happens if you don't fire?
  • Ambushing Enemy: Stage 4 has a few enemies hiding in a pod, who spring out when you get too close. It's not a good idea to kill them, though, as they'll spawn the amoeba-things (see Personal Space Invader) when destroyed.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Almost all the bosses have a weak spot that you have to aim for if you want to cause damage to them.
  • Boss Remix: The boss themes are darker remixes of the stage themes. The stage clear theme is also remixed into the final boss's last phase.
  • Boss Warning Siren: The game has an audible warning siren when approaching a stage boss.
  • Breakable Weapons: Every time you get hit, you lose a weapon! If you are hit without any weapon equipped, you die.
  • Chicken Walker: The second boss, T-36 "Towbar," and the invincible walker inside the final battleship..
  • Collision Damage: Hitting anything "solid," i.e., not a bullet, results in instant death.
    • Slightly subverted in that upon dying either way, the explosion of your ship and the shrapnel that fly out of it do significant amounts of damage to anything they touch, so the enemies are subject to it as well.
  • Continuing is Painful: Averted. When you die, you get all your weapons back.
  • Continuous Decompression: The Mini-Boss of the final stage uses this on you- its Combat Tentacles rip apart the spaceship walls, causing a vacuum to quickly suck you to the walls where you meet your doom via Collision Damage.
  • Critical Annoyance: If you lose all three weapons, an alarm will trigger. This is caused by the automatic weapon switch that can't find a usable weapon, and it may be shut off with the manual weapon select.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: Defeating Regenertoid is this, if the manual is to be believed.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: The Wind Laser, which shoots out 4 red laser beams above and below your ship that can either fly straight, spread apart or cross each other in front of your ship depending on its horizonal movement and which pierce all enemies and obstacles. If you manage to keep it, that is.
  • Evil Is Visceral: The final part of the Final Boss, Veinion, is some freakish organic alien thing.
  • Fatal Family Photo: If the player fails to complete the game, then the locket with the photo would be this.
  • Floating Continent: Stage 1 is a sky scattered with floating islands, some of which are destructible.
  • Flying Saucer: The boss in stage 3, Regenertoid, resembles one in it's second phase. The third phase is more or less the same, but heavily reinforced in red armor with laser cannons.
  • Gatling Good: The Round Vulcan. Probably one of the most original weapons in any Shoot 'Em Up, it fires two rapid streams of initial backward shots that rotate and aim forward as the player holds the fire button.
  • Giant Spider Mech: Arachnatron, The boss of stage 1.
  • Harder Than Hard: The difficulty levels are "Easy," "Normal," "Hard," and "Hardest/Expert."
    • The last difficulty can be only played after you beat the game in the "Hard" difficulty, as if the game weren't difficult enough...
  • He Was Right There All Along: The fourth boss, some organic thing hanging on the ceiling that drops down into the water and fights the player.
  • Homing Projectile: You receive the needle cracker on Stage 3, which automatically adjust their aim after firing. The enemy starts using them on Stage 4, although the missiles stop homing after a short travel time. Homing projectiles cause a One-Hit Kill, and become more dangerous on Stage 6.
  • Humongous Mecha: The boss for stage 2. It's got a Robocop-ish look to it, too.
  • It's Up to You: Justified. In-Universe, your ship is the last surviving craft capable of attacking the enemy.
  • Justified Tutorial: The start of stage 1. Very early on, you'll fight a group of ships that encircle the character, then close in, forcing you to learn how to use the Round Vulcan. Immediately after a few waves of those ships, you'll be faced off with a big one that has invulnerable shields in front, which the explosions from your Macro Missiles can bypass...
  • Lightning Bruiser: Arachnatron is a valid case, especially given it's utterly massive while being the fastest boss in the game.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: The boss in stage 4, Aquadon, uses it to change your weapons involuntarily.
  • Living Weapon: Aquadon may very well be a case of this.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: The final boss is a case of this. Uniquely, it only happens at the end of the second phase, with the last one consisting of chasing and shooting down Veinion while the explosions slowly catch up with you.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: the Macro Missiles, in a way. The Cluster Bomb would count if it didn't fire straight down.
  • Magma Man: A more literal case with Stage 5's boss, Wayler, a towering machine partially made of lava.
  • Mascot Villain: A minor case, with Wayler getting to be featured on the cover art.
  • Memento MacGuffin: Seen in the beginning and end of the game, carried by the pilot.
  • Mirror Boss: Sort of, the Final Boss will scan your ship and send out evil clones of your character. These enemy Axelays will move vertically with you, as well as shoot their primary/secondary weapon whenever you do. It would be quite a big problem to come out unscathed, if not for the fact that the evil clones won't attack if you do not fire at all.
  • Mook Maker: Lots of them- the 1st boss, the mini carrier ships in the second level, the fly spawners as well as the boss in the fourth, as well as the Final Boss.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The boss for stage 5 is a giant cyborg lava ogre. It was featured on the cover art.
  • One Bullet at a Time: The threshold is high and varies per weapon.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Downplayed. in theory, you get four hit points (you get three weapons that each tank in one hit), but they only work against bullets, hitting anything else is an instant death.
  • Outrun the Fireball: After you destroy the final boss, you must escape from the self-destructing base! But if you think you're just gonna fly out of there...
  • Personal Space Invader: Stage 4 has those amoeba-like things that stick to your ship and weigh it down. Shake them off by mashing the directional buttons.
  • Ramming Always Works: If you have the lives to spare, and you're all out of special weapons, go for it. See Collision Damage above.
  • Shout-Out - Stage 2 has a definite Gundam influence, and stage 4 looks a bit like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
  • Subsystem Damage: Getting hit by enemy fire will only damage whatever weapon module you currently have equipped, disabling it until you lose a life or finish the stage. Your ship will only be destroyed if you receive Collision Damage or if you only have a damaged subweapon selected when you get hit by enemy fire.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: An extended version of the "Stage Clear" theme plays as you escape from the exploding base and confront the Final Boss's final form.
  • Triumphant Reprise: The opening of the game depicts the invading armada laying waste to planets in the system while set to a somber, hopeless dirge before moving on to the main theme tune. The opening half of Stage 6 (the final stage) reprises the dirge and remixes it into a "heroic comeback" theme.
  • Turns Red: Stage 3 boss ("Regenertoid") first appears to be very small. When its Attack Drones are wasted, it becomes a much larger and fires a lot of flak. When that it damaged, it increases size again to become a battleship. The manual calls it "an ominous machine that grows when attacked".
  • Unseen Evil: Veinion is made out to be this in the instruction manual.
    "There is no data on this life force. You will be the first to know what horror it's capable of."
  • Wave-Motion Gun: T-36 Towbar's most powerful attack, or a forward mounted, two-megaton cannon and laser as the manual describes it.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: According to the manual, the first boss Arachnatron was "engineered to intimidate the enemy so much that they freeze up from fear".