A spectacular game with impressive graphical detail and eye-popping Mode 7 effects, Axelay is a challenging and varied space shooter with vertical as well as horizontal scrolling levels. Unlike earlier Super NES shooters such as Super R-Type and Gradius III, the game is fast with very little slowdown. At the helm of the titular ship, which gains a new special weapon with every stage completed, players laser, bomb and otherwise blast their way through six stages of aliens, dragons, asteroids, space stations, giant bosses (include a spider and a lava monster) and other obstacles in order to protect the Illis Solar System from destruction. A plethora of options, including three difficulty levels and the ability to adjust the brightness of the screen, round out this highly enjoyable game. The only axe to grind is that there is no save feature (a common fault of many games of this type).
— Brett Alan Weiss, All Game Guide
You can move your ship in 4 different directions and fire in whatever direction your spacecraft is facing. The view can change between side on and overhead depending on what level you're doing.
- Six large levels
- Eight different weapons to destroy the waves of enemies
- Three difficulty levels
- Shooting action for one player