Review by Caden

Reviewed: 11/17/02 | Updated: 11/17/02

The spell has been broken.

Perhaps it was blind devotion or lack of experience, but for a while I thought of Axelay as a great game. At that time I was inexperienced with games in general and shooters in particular. Now after playing more impressive games, including the mighty Radiant Silvergun and its even mightier follow-up Ikaruga, Axelay just can not compare.

I'm not saying it is a bad game really; I still like the game somewhat. I'm just saying if you want to be impressed by Axelay you more than likely need to play games that are inferior to it. In other words never play a shooter on any Sega system, especially the Saturn. The Super Nintendo is not a system for shooter fans so those who only play the Snes will likely think of it as one of the best - mainly because the lack of competition on that system.

Don't let the pretty graphics and luscious music confuse you. These atmospheric beauties are as misleading as the sirens that led forlorn sailors to their death upon the rocky shores--the ''prettiness'' of Axelay is a siren that will lead gamers to their death on its own jagged coastline.

Axelay's first misstep is its layout. Shooter fans by breed tend to prefer one type of shooter over the other. A horizontal fan will likely become bored with games that have a vertical style, and vice versa. Axelay is a hybrid that alternates its stages between those two types. Right off the bat it's more likely to alienate members of each sector, rather than pleasing everybody. Even people who like both styles (me) still prefers one to the other (vertical), therefore might feel sleepy during the opposite stages (horizontal).

Its second problem: the levels themselves. There are only six stages (three of each style) and these stages are very short. The game is also very easy (I played the game on normal and hard mode). It seems to be more focused on making spectacular moments of style rather than putting some substance in its adventure. Sure, the first stage looks nice, with the floating islands - but it's just too simple and rather mundane to someone who likes their games to have some hardass action and speed. The action does pick up on the final stage, but that's about five stages too late.

Axelay's biggest problem is the poor weapon system. Most shooters allow you to collect weapons during the stage. You can try them out, and then pick and choose as you play what you like and what you don't like by collecting the power-ups or avoiding them. Axelay forces you to make the selection at the beginning of each stage and you earn no new weapons or power-ups during the stage. After completing the level a new weapon is added to your selection screen and that's it. Maybe this wouldn't be such a big problem if the weapons were first-rate, but they are mediocre at best.

The weapons you acquire are so useless and/or terrible that you will probably stick with the three initial weapons throughout the entire game (and even if you don't you may not notice much of a difference). The three bay weapons are equally useless; there is one decent side weapon and one awful one. There is nothing special about any of the pod weapons, but the one you begin with is better than either (needle cracker, wind laser) you obtain.

Even with its problems there are still some high points to be found in Axelay: the last stage shows what the game could have been if all stages had been that intense and the fourth level's aesthetics shows what the game could have been if every stage had a stellar setting and a musical score that was moody, mysterious, and serene all at the same time. Unfortunately moments like those are few and far between and the ones that are here just aren't enough to save the game from mediocrity.

Rating:   2.0 - Poor

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