Genre: Scrolling Shooter
Year: 1992
Developed by: Konami
Published by: Konami
Platforms: SNES
Feeling Like: Going Vertical

Konami didn’t used to be the laughing stock of the gaming industry. Before the entire Metal Gear Solid 5 debacle, before they took their ball and pretended like they never even had a ball, they rocked the industry with consistent quality releases across a ton of different genres. Even the animation logo prior to their games brought a smile to my face. Particularly in the era of the Super Nintendo, still one of the best systems ever made and, I’ll go outside my usual Canadian politeness with this one – that’s not disputable.

The Super Nintendo had a colossal range of great video games and expertly expanded upon whatever its prior iteration brought to the masses. You’ll rarely find an NES game that’s aged well, but the Super Nintendo’s library is like a fine barrel-aged stout. Konami was one of the generals at the forefront of this army of excellence and one of the best third party developers Nintendo ever had. Axelay, a comparatively unknown shooter, took advantage of everything Konami was good at and utilized every trick the Super Nintendo’s hardware was capable of. The result is a mostly successful experiment and will quickly remind you why it doesn’t matter if it’s a horizontal perspective, or a side-scrolling vertical one, as long as Konami was at the helm in the early/mid 90’s, it was going to be a blast.

I always appreciated when the box art actually looked like the game

This is the kind of game you want with a great sound system. The bass is just as important as the melodies, as a wall of sound hits you every second you’re controlling your intrepid spaceship. That’s everything from the killer soundtrack, to the crab/witch hat boss’ shenanigans, to the menu selection confirmation (which sounds like Contra 3), to the explosions you’ll feel in your hand with every level defeated.

The tricks keep on coming. The vertical sections appear like you’re shooting towards the horizon, with a giant city beneath you. This likely won’t impress in 2016, but in 1992, it was pretty impressive. Weapon choices are ample and the game is far more forgiving than its counterparts, as a few hits will take down your weapons first, then the final blow to yourself rather than a one hit kill.

You’re able to fire both in front of you and behind you and the speed in which you, and your enemies travel, seems entirely fair. When you die, you won’t have anybody but yourself to blame. While the changing perspective was seen in Contra 3, here it feels far less annoying. Your weapon choice and style of play will adjust naturally, though I found the vertical levels far more memorable and I can’t help but think the lava level was clearly an inspiration for Star Fox 64’s Solar.

They even went so far as to put some effort into the story. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and is nowhere near the level of Ikaruga or other modern shooters, but that’s why I’m putting it at 475 – the best of the “worst”. Onto the Dregs!

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