Once upon a time, 2D shooters were the ultimate show of force for videogame consoles. Every few months a new graphically intense, hardware-pushing game would land on the SNES, Genesis and TurboGrafx-16, each one attempting to use every trick in the book to lure us into the console wars. Axelay came around about a year into the SNES' existence, and hoo boy, it ticked all the boxes: amazing visuals, titanic bosses, a varied, and a varied, robust soundtrack that still stands as one of the system's best.
This song is from the second stage, where you're flying through a space colony that's orbiting your home planet. It begins with an omnious hum and Inception-like horn, then brings in a moody backbeat and haunting melody. The song continues to escalate until around 1:15 in, where it kicks up in to a big ol' fanfare. Motivating stuff for sure.
Above: Also consider the game's opening cutscene, which puts a rather personal spin on the "one ship versus a million" game. This guy lost his whole family!
Above: Mother is a totally bizarre song - the opening sounds like it's going to lead into a '40s brass number, then it goes all '90s funk on us
Above: A fantastically shredding version of the Axelay theme from OverClocked ReMix
There was no shortage of shooters in the early '90s. Gradius, R-Type, Gaiares, Raiden, Darius, Viewpoint, Blazing Lazers... the list goes on. Yet among all those, Axelay stood out as one of my all-time favorites, partly due to its music. I also loved the slight personal touch in the opening, where the pilot is looking at the picture of his lost family - finally, an actual reason for someone to go on a suicide mission against an alien fleet! Aside from that, the weapon variation and weirdo Mode-7-soaked level design made it stand out in such a crowded field. Axelay was released on the Virtual Console on November 12, 2007 (same day as Mario Galaxy, btw), so if you're at all curious, by all means follow-up. Or just watch YouTube videos, if that's your preferred method of digesting olde timey games.
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