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What About the Lysine Contingency…?

Best Boss Music #7: Einhänder

Einhänder was Squaresoft’s first and only scrolling shooting game.

Released in 1998 on the Playstation, the game represented a rare foray into the action genre for Squaresoft.

Despite the companies’ reputation for producing almost exclusively RPG games, the late 90’s represented a wonderful era of experimentation and change in the types of games Square would produce.

Pictured: A game we won't be talking about.

During this time Square would branch out and produce a great number of quality games across a myriad of genres.

Tobal No. 1 and 2,

How come we didn't get this awesome cover art in the U.S.?

Bushido Blade 1 and 2,

Pictured: Why Bushido Blade was the shit.

as well the Namco collaborative project, Ehrgeiz, represented Square’s first 3D fighting games.

Pictured: The only reasons any of you fanboy fuckers remember the mediocrity that was Ehrgeiz.

Parasite Eve 1 and 2 turned the RPG genre on it’s head with it’s modern and horror infused plot, as well as it’s hybrid real-time, turn-based combat system.

Oh yeah, and boobies.

Brave Fencer Musashi was one of Square’s first (and best) attempts to create a Zelda-style dungeon crawling adventure game.

I fuckin' LOVED this game. Never beat it though...

And Einhänder, was one of the finest space shooters ever made.

The game was absolutely gorgeous, with spectacular art design, wonderful atmosphere, and an especially noteworthy soundtrack by Kenichiro Fukui.

The basic story of the game was that, in the future, mankind expands it’s civilization to the moon, which at some point sparks a war between the people of the Earth, and the people of the Moon.

The player takes control of the moon-based pilot of a special, wasp shaped plane with a giant manipulator arm for snatching and using enemy weapons, or “Gun Pods.”

Essentially, the game represents a suicide run on the part of the player, wherein they are expected to destroy as many enemy facilities as possible to force the end of the war.

By the end of the game however, the player is faced with the unfortunate task of having to fight for their lives against their fellow soldiers, the reasoning behind which being that they were in fact expected to die on their suicide run on Earth.

"Can't you even die right!?" I'll never get tired of Revolver Ocelot quotes...

Einhänder was presented in a beautifully well-executed 2.5D format.

Essentially, the entire game takes place on a horizontal scrolling, 2D plane, while the graphics and camera angles are rendered in 3D polygons, resulting in a number of dynamic angles that do little to disrupt the relatively simple nature of the gameplay.

Thankfully the camera is in fact better than Superman 64.

At the outset of the game, the player is given the choice of 1 of 3 different “Einhänder” planes, the word being German for “Single-Handed.”

The Endymion FRS Mk. II was a larger plane that could house 3 Gun Pods at any given time, but could only operate one of them at a time.

The Endymion FRS Mk. III was a plane recommended for beginners, as it fielded 2 machine guns by default, as opposed to the normal 1, and it could only hold and operate 1 Gun Pod at a time, limiting the complexity of the gameplay.

And the Astraea FGA Mk. I, was a beastly powerhouse of a machine that could operate 2 Gun Pods at any time, making it the most difficult to pilot, but by far the cream of the crop in my opinion.

Trust me there’s a reason they put the Astraea on the cover.

Throughout the game, the player is faced with the task of battling enemies, while properly managing their Gun Pod arsenal from situation to situation.

Gun Pods could be mounted on the top or bottom of the plane, (or both when using the Astraea) and came in a huge number of varieties, with each having limited ammo so as to require the player to switch them out constantly.

Weapon types ranged from machine guns like the common Vulcan, and it’s overpowered cousin, the Juno, to oddities like the Riot lightning gun, and the defensive chaff gun, the Hedgehog.

Several Gun Pods could only be unlocked by meeting certain conditions, such as killing all of the enemies in a particular scene, or defeating certain bosses in certain ways.

In fact, there were many secrets and branching paths in the game depending upon the player’s performance, resulting in a rare shooter that had the potential to play out differently every time.

Unlike this game, where you can bet on dieing pretty much every time.

Like any other scrolling shooter, bosses were plentiful and spectacular throughout.

Many bosses had weaknesses and could be taken out relatively quickly, (especially when using the ridiculously overpowered Grenade) though in most cases this was ideal, as many of the bosses had variable patterns depending upon the types of damage inflicted on them.

Of course we all know the best damage, is Collateral Damage.

All the bosses in the game had multiple damage quadrants, resulting in interesting scenarios wherein the player would have to quickly decipher which spots made for the most effective targets.

Some of my favorite bosses in the game were the games first boss, a massive elephant like whats-it,

The spider-legged mid-boss of level 3, which could be insanely difficult if not taken out quickly,

KILL IT. NOOOOOOWWWW.

the giant bipedal monkey robot from level 5 that makes Doom noises when it roars,

and the giant satellite that serves as the game’s second to last boss.

PIG FUCKER of a boss. But awesome music, so all is forgiven.

Of course, none of these boss battles would be half as great if not for the game’s amazing soundtrack.

The game doesn’t have a singular boss theme, though in this case I think I would call the first boss theme, “Shudder” the Best Boss Music in Einhänder:

Ah hell, here’s the rest of the boss themes I just listed, in order:
Warning

Madness

and closest runner-up to Shudder, Thermosphere

Much of Einhänder universe uses German and Greek mythological terms, and as such, the game has an appropriately German techno-esque soundtrack.

Pictured: The physical embodiment of German Techno.

The atmosphere is moody, energetic, and undeniably futuristic, giving the game an uncommon sense of drama and urgency for a space shooter.

The game was incredibly difficult, using the annoying-as-fuck “back to the checkpoint every death” system of Gradius, and yet it was packed to the rim with so many beautiful sights and sounds that it was hard to put down.

Einhänder is one of those games that I find myself playing again every few years, and I scarcely believe I will ever get tired of it.

I wouldn’t be lying if I said Einhänder reminded me of Axelay at times.

That’s probably the biggest complement I can give to a space shooter.

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The Best Track in the Game #10: Axelay

That's right, I hard-modded my Super NES like a true dork.

Associative memory is a funny thing.

We all have random, seemingly insignificant little “things” in our lives that, for whatever reason; remind us of what’s most important to us.

I have a teddy bear that, while not important to me in any way, will always make me think of my Grandpa.

Every time someone mentions the words “scavenger hunt,” I’m reminded of the first time I ever got lost.

Okay, maybe I didn't get "lost" per se, maybe I was just dumb...

Playing old videogames from my youth has always been my way of revisiting old memories.

Whenever I play Turtles in Time, I think of the one time I went to the Fun Factory and got scared of the Dragon’s Lair 2 attract demo with my cousin in Hawaii.

Skip to :45 for the scary part:

Whenever I play Pocky and Rocky, I’m reminded of the time my brother and I beat the game early in the morning and our mom took a picture of us doing a “thumbs-up” in front of the end credits.

And whenever I play Axelay, I’m reminded of my friend Ben.

No, not THAT Ben...

Ben was my friend for only a few years, between 5th and 8th grade, but his influence on me to this is day has been profound.

He introduced me to the concept of self-reliance, and walking to where I wanted to go instead of always getting rides from my parents.

He taught me everything I know about Warhammer 40K and table-top games in general.

...Although maybe I should be CURSING him for this rather than praising him.

He convinced me that PC games could be fun, particularly when trying to play Mechwarrior 2 with the controls split between 2 people.

He introduced me to the wonders of Nutella sandwiches, and Munster cheese.

He showed me that one could play the cello, and do kendo at the same time.

Well, maybe not at the same time, but he was pretty good at both.

Ben also shared my passion for console videogames, though I will confess that his taste in games was somewhat different and, dare I say; “better” than mine.

Ben’s library of Super NES and Playstation games were a mix of the truly great, and what could only be described as “eclectic.”

Neither "great," nor "eclectic," this tattoo is just plain "dumb." Oh yeah, and a little bit "sad."

Rock ‘N Roll Racing and X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse I would consider “great,” however Uniracers and Diablo for the Playstation were just plain odd.

You see this? In order to play Diablo you need THIS WHOLE FUCKING CARD just to save one goddamn file!

Oh yeah, and he had some weird, esoteric game I’ve never seen or heard of anywhere else called Kendo Rage.

Apparently it was a gift from someone, so I couldn’t blame him for owning it, but either way; that game was fucking horrible.

I would say the American cover art is horrible, but the Japanese one isn't all that much better...

By far my favorite game in his collection though, was an early Konami space shooter on the Super NES called Axelay.

Axelay was, and still remains to this day, one of my favorite shoot ’em ups.

Though I tend to place little stock in games’ accomplishments based on their graphical fidelity, I feel it is necessary to point out that Axelay was a very handsome game for it’s time.

With a vast array of lavishly detailed and vibrantly animated sprites populating the games intensely varied backgrounds from stage to stage, Axelay was a stunner from start to finish.

FUCK YEAH.

The gameplay in Axelay was surprisingly varied and polished for a space shooter, to a point in which it was hard to believe the game was an early Super NES title.

The key innovations of Axelay’s gameplay were it’s inclusion of both vertical and horizontal scrolling gameplay styles, as well as a unique weapon select system that had the player outfit their ship prior to each stage as opposed to scrambling for power-ups throughout.

As you can plainly see, Axelay was a game for pacifists.

I’d like to take this moment to preach my love and appreciation for the Round Vulcan, as it was easily one of the slickest and most inventive weapons I’ve ever had the pleasure of wielding in a shoot ’em up.

Good luck with that Straight Laser buddy, you're gonna' die in about 3 seconds.

A neat feature of the weapon load-out system was the fact that, when struck by a “weak” enemy bullet, the player’s ship would lose whatever weapon they had equipped at the time (of the available 3) instead of dieing instantly.

What really happens upon impact of a "weak enemy bullet."

It was little innovations like this that kept me coming back to Axelay.

Even though Ben always had neat PC games like Magic Carpet and Descent II he liked to tool around on, when it was my turn to choose what to do, I almost always wanted to play Axelay.

I wanna' know what the fuck these reviewers were on when they tried this. Magic Carpet sucked balls...

We had an arrangement, where each of  us would play specific stages in accordance with our skill in beating them.

To this day, I still find myself reeling at the prospect of playing certain stages without having Ben there to hand the controller off to.

I still remember some of the goofy shit me and Ben used point out to each other when playing Axelay.

Ben always thought the 2nd stage boss looked eerily like ED-209 from Robocop.

In turn, I would always tell Ben that the 3rd stage bosses’ second form was clearly Leonardo Da Vinci riding in his famous pyramid tank:

Yeah, I was dumb/weird kid.

In addition to being a crazy-fun and graphically impressive game, Axelay also had the distinction of possessing, in my opinion; one of the single greatest soundtracks in all of videogame history.

That’s right, not an RPG, not a franchise game, but a lowly space shooter with no sequels.

That's right, suck a Blackanese cock fan-boys...

To think, an entry in one of the most famously quick to produce and homogenized game genres, get’s my nod for one of the best soundtracks in all of gaming…

I think it goes without saying, that THE BEST TRACK IN AXELAY IS….

EVERY FUCKING TRACK.

Why?:

Axelay’s soundtrack succeeds on so many levels, that it’s tough just remember all of them.

First off, the music is extremely well-produced, with some very powerful and dignified samples being used throughout.

In addition to this, most of the samples used in the game are from the familiar, and stellar, Konami library of the time, giving everything a comfortable air of familiarity to it.

*Sigh* It's like one big happy family.

There’s very little “tinniness” to be heard in Axelay, and sometimes that makes all the difference.

Second, the score is thematic, with a number of familiar cues being used throughout that bring a wonderful sense of crescendo and weight to many of the games’ more intense moments.

On the same note, it should be mentioned that, since Axelay is indeed a scrolling shooter, all of the soundtracks’ major climaxes mesh with the timing of the gameplay dead on.

Axelay's "Oh Shit" Moment #47

And third, the music is varied and appropriate throughout.

Axelay is a game that goes through drastic scenery changes from stage to stage, and at no point does the music ever fail to make the transition with the same gusto and grace as the games’ beautiful graphics.

No better example of this, is during the transition from stage 4, to stage 5, wherein the player jumps from a subterranean, underwater cave filled with all sorts of monstrous creatures, to a violently erupting lava planet filled with magma spewing drones and dragons:

See what I mean?

The two stages are like night and day, and yet the composer, Sotaro Tojima, hits just the right notes on both occasions.

If I was forced to pick a favorite track in Axelay, it would probably be the ending credits theme.

The track is a wonderfully exhilarating and uplifting track that brings to mind images of exactly what a “you just saved the world” track should.

Hope, triumph, and a long journey home are concepts that come to mind when I listen to this track:


The ending track of Axelay is essentially the ultimate version of what one could consider the “theme” of the game.

The melody used throughout it, is a remixed version of the opening stage track, something that I feel adds weight to the player’s accomplishments after beating the game.

It’s like the game is reminding you of how you began the experience, and how far you’ve come since.

Axelay’s soundtrack is so good, that I think I’ll be a nice guy and give everyone a download link for the entire OST:

Axelay OST

You’re welcome.

Axelay was an excellent space shooter of unparalleled balance, as well as a rare feeling of “fairness” to it.

When you got shot, the game gave you the benefit of the doubt and didn’t kill you outright, instead choosing to cripple you progressively until you wanted to die.

And when the time finally came, and you did die, it didn’t bother you, ’cause it was your fault.

YOUR FAULT.

In later years, space shooters would pop up from time to time trying to emulate the success of Axelay’s gameplay.

Philosoma tried, and failed; to mimic Axelay’s multi-directional scrolling gameplay, while modern legends like Einhänder, would borrow the weapon load-out system and take it to new heights.

Never doubt dah' powah' of 'ze Germans.

Axelay is a wonderful game with a long legacy.

A legacy that I feel very fortunate to have been a part from the very beginning.

Thanks Benedict, for all the things you taught me, and all the things you help me to remember.

You are remembered.

Filed under: Games, The Best Track in the Game, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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