The game was released on September 11, 1992 in Japan, later in that month in North America for the Super Nintendo, and the following year in Europe.
Axelay is a science fiction game in the same vein as other Konami titles such as Salamander and Gradius. The game tells the story of the D-117 Axelay, and advanced and powerful starfighter used by a humanoid race to fight an evil massive alien armada.
It features both horizontal and vertically scrolling levels and allows the player to choose 3 different weapon-types, which increase in number as they progress through the game.
Axelay was programmed by Ueda Hideo. Ishida Kazuhiko, credited with "support program" on Axelay, later left Konami to help found Treasure Co. Ltd. Kudo Taro primarily composed the game's soundtrack.
The game was re-released on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console service in Australia and North America in 2007 and in Japan in 2008.