Game music of the day: Axelay

Game: Axelay

Song: Colony

Composer: Akiropito, Adachi and Kudou

Above: Colony from Axelay

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, avaried, and a varied, robust soundtrack thatstill 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 anomnious hum and Inception-like horn, then brings in amoody backbeat and hauntingmelody.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.

Final level music by Yoshihiro Sakaguchi

Gate Area/Jungle by Jonathan Dunn

Sneakman by Hideki Naganuma

Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.