Quality Control – Axelay

Box art for Axelay
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When it comes to reviewing the also-rans in Nintendo Power, the reasons for picking that game as a Quality Control title are different from the reasons why I’d pick a game that was featured prominently in the magazine (say, with a guide). With the games that get a guide, I’m looking for a game that’s generally not a classic, and attempting to see if it was worth the consumer’s time. The assumption behind this is that the customer is more likely to buy a game that gets a guide over one that doesn’t. When I’m picking an also-ran, I’m looking for a game that the consumer would likely overlook because of the lack of a guide, but would be worth picking up. A diamond in the rough, if you will.

That brings me to Axelay. The game had stood out to me earlier based on how well the game had fared in reviews in Electronic Gaming Monthly – getting 9s across the board due to its quality of gameplay, and its graphics (and being chosen for Game of the Month). However, when I came to this issue of Nintendo Power, the game was considered an also-ran, and was negatively regarded by the only two people at Nintendo Power who are their “critics”. Thus, it seemed to me to be the perfect Quality Control pick.

The Premise:

The solar system of Illis finds itself besieged by an invading alien armada. After their defenses are overrun, a lone pilot sets out in the D117B “Axelay” starfighter to fend off the enemy attack.

The Good:

This game has some of the best uses of Mode 7 graphics in shumps. By means of explanation – the game has, like Lifeforce, top down stages and side scrolling stages. However, with the top down stages, the backgrounds are done in Mode 7, giving the illusion of skimming the surface of some alien world. This also allows level designers to have enemy space ships fly below the player’s ship before coming up in front and attacking, as well as giving some distant hints that enemy ships are coming. This in turn gives the player a bit more information about what is going up – which is better level design.

The Bad:

I’d be nice if we had some “preview” footage of each weapon being used, so we could find out which weapons work better under what circumstances. Additionally, the homing laser feels like a “pew-pew” gun in terms of the amount of damage it does.

The Ugly:

Like with Thunder Spirits, when you get hit by enemies bullets you lose your active weapon. However, unlike Thunder Spirits, there is no way to get your active weapon back. The game needs a way to earn back the weapons you lost, otherwise the mechanic just locks the player into a death spiral.

The Verdict:

This game is worthy of the praise heaped upon it in Electronic Gaming Monthly and, frankly, I would have preferred if this game had gotten a guide in this issue of Nintendo Power, instead of a brief mention in the Now Playing section.