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Posted on Mar 21st 2009 at 08:01:42 AM by (NESman93)
Posted under Gradius, NES, Sega, Nintendo, Saturn, SNES, Sony, Playstation, Playstation 2, Arcade, Life Force, Salamander

 In the world of SHMUPS, some series' stand out from the rest. To me, that series is the Gradius series. In this overview, i will run through, briefly, the Gradius series. I will do the handheld versions at a later time.

Gradius (1985) - Arcade, NES, Famicom, PC Engine, Saturn, PC, C64, Wii VC, PS2, ZX Spectrum, PSX, PSP, DS

This is the original Gradius arcade game, released in 1985 by Konami. In Europe, however, the game was released under the name Nemesis. Like with most games of this genre, there is one objective: shoot everything that moves. In the game, you control the spaceship called the Vic Viper through different environments. When you start the game, the Vic Viper is pretty slow and has a weak gun. When you shoot enemies, some will drop powerups. You can pick these up, and then activate them to power up your ship. These powerups are spare guns, missiles, lasers, shield, speed ups, and upward shots. The only ports that I have seen are the Saturn, NES, and PSP versions. The NES got an actual arcade port in 1986. Just like most Konami games in the early days, the Konami Code is in the game. However, it does not give you 30 lives. Enter the code while the game is paused, and your ship will be instantly equipped with most of the weapons. The Saturn and PSP, however, have compilations that the games appear on. The Saturn has Gradius collection that has Gradius I & Gradius II on one disk. However, there have been reports of slowdown in game. Also, the Gradius Deluxe Pack was not released in North America or Europe. The PSP has Gradius Collection that has Gradius I, II, III, IV, and Gradius Gaiden.

Salamander/Life Force (1986) - Arcade, Famicom, NES (Life Force), PSP, Saturn, MSX, PC Engine, C64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad, PS1, Wii VC

In 1986, Konami released, what was supposed to be the sequel to Gradius. That game was Salamander. However, the game was not released as Salamander in North America. It was released as Life Force. The game is basically the same thing. The ports, however, had some significant differences. When it was released for the Famicom/NES, they changed the powerup system back to the type from Gradius. Also, the Konami code is included with this game. Enter it and receive 30 lives. Just like with Gradius, Salamander got a release on the PS1 and Saturn with the Salamander Deluxe Pack with Salamander, Life Force, and Salamander 2. Again, this disk did not receive a North American or European release.

Gradius II (1988) - Arcade, Famicom, PSX, Saturn, Windows, MSX, PCE Super CD, PSP, Wii VC

Gradius II was the true sequel to Gradius. Released in 1988, while the game played very similar to Gradius, there are certain areeas of the game where the scrolling was not limited to the edges of the screen. However, when the game was released in Europe, it was released as Vulcan Venture. Also, the player's ship had a choice of defense: forcefield or shield. Like with Salamander, Gradius II did not see a North American release until the release of Gradius Deluxe Pack. Another big addition to the game was the "Boss Alley" or "Boss Rush," a level filled entirely with only boss confrontations. This was also the first Gradius game that gave you the chance to choose the set of weapons that you want to use. The first true port of the game was the version on the Nintendo Famicom. Thankfully, the Famicom version has the Konami code included, and actually gives the player 30 lives this time around. Other than the few additions, and new boss, the game plays mainly like Gradius.

Graidus III (1991) - Arcade, SNES, Wii VC, PSP, PS2

The third game in the Gradius series, Gradius III, was originally released in 1989 in Japan, and 1991 in North America. There were some major differences between Gradius II & III. For one, Gradius III is much harder, and is known as one of the most difficult of the series. Just like in Gradius II, Gradius III allows you to select the set of weapons for the Vic Viper. However, Gradius III also contains what is called the "Edit Mode." This edit mode allows the player to choose each individual weapon for the Vic Viper. In the main gameplay, Gradius III plays very much like the original Gradius. There are a total of 10 levels, with stage 4 being in a pseudo-3D environment. In this stage, you get more of a first-person view of the playfield. You also have to shoot objects and avoid numerous walls in order to survive. The game also contains two hidden levels. These 2 hidden levels are throwbacks to Gradius and Salamander. They were designed to look like the early first stage of each game. In the way of ports of the game, the SNES got the first port. The port is very close to the original arcade game, except for the fact that the pseudo-3D level has been omitted. This version is also available on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console. The PS2 also got a port of the game when Konami put Gradius III and Gradius IV Fukkatsu onto one disk in a game simply titled Gradius III and IV. This version is more of a direct arcade port than the SNES version. Gradius III is also available on the Playstation Portable.

Salamander 2 (1996) - Arcade, Sega Saturn, PSX, PSP

Now, Salamander 2, released in 1996 is, of course, a direct sequel to Salamander, and another member in the long-running Gradius series. It plays more like Salamander than Gradius in the way that it abandoned the Gradius-style power up bar and used the simple icon collection power up system. The only real downside to this is the fact that the player's ship cannot speed up without getting a speed up icon. Another big change from Salamander is the fact that Salamander 2 has the ability for any of the weapons to become "Super" weapons for ten seconds. For example, if the player's ship has the ripple shot and the player collects another ripple icon, the weapon becomes the Buster Ripple for about 10 seconds. This game is one of the least ported Gradius series game. It has only been ported to the PS1, Saturn, and PSP. PS1 and Saturn with the Salamander Deluxe Pack, and the PSP with Salamander Portable.

Gradius Gaiden (1997) - PSX, PSP

Gradius Gaiden, released in 1997, was only released on the PS1 in Japan. The game's core gameplay remained unchanged completely. However, the player is given 2 new ships with new weapon systems that had never been seen before. Also, some of the signature weapons, notably the Reduce Size, rechargeable E. Laser, and some of the option types were removed between Gradius III and Gaiden. The new ships in the game are called the Jade Knight and the Falcon B. Other than the original PS1 version of the game, the game has only been ported once. This game was included as part of the PSP's Gradius Collection.

Gradius Solar Assault (1997) - Arcade

Gradius Solar Assault was originally released in July 1997. Compared to the other Gradius games, Gradius Solar Assault is a completely different specimen. This was the first ever, first person, fully 3-D Gradius game. The powerup system, control scheme, and gameplay are basically the same thing. Another big change is the fact that the player's ship has a health bar, instead of being destroyed on impact with an object or after being shot by an enemy. This game comes with a choice of 3 ships this time around, much like Salamander 2. The ships this time around are BP-592A Vic Viper, LS-379G Lord British, and the WC-672H Alpinia. Gradius Solar Assault came in 2 different variations. First, of course, there is the standard stand up arcade unit. Then, there is the SpeedKing Deluxe Simulator. This version is an enclosed pod that tilts along with the gameplay by pneumatic power, much like an original Sega AfterBurner II unit. This is the only Gradius game that was never ported to a home console.

Gradius IV Fukkatsu (1998) - Arcade, PS2, PSP

Released in February 1998, Gradius IV Fukkatsu was the fourth in the arcade series of Gradius games. Just like Gradius III, the core gameplay remained unchanged, but other things were changed, such as some weapon types. Also, the edit mode was removed and had an online score ranking system added in. More of the weapons from Gradius III, including its 7th so-called "!" powerup level were also removed. The game still contained the different powerup categories from Gradius II & III. The total for Gradius IV Fukkatsu was now up to 6 different sets of weapons to choose from. 4 from Gradius II, and 2 new ones for Gradius IV. One of the biggest additions to the game was the online ranking system. When the player's game ends, he/she is presented with a password. This password contained score information, and could be uploaded to a Konami website. However, this was only available in Japan and was discontinued on August 27, 1998, 7 months after the initial release of the game. Gradius IV was another one of the Gradius games that was hardly ported. While there is no direct port of the game, it was included on the Gradius III/IV compilation on the PS2. This version also has a mode that allows you to fight all of the game's bosses in a more time attack fashion. Again, this game made the cut in Gradius Collection for the PSP.

Gradius V (2004) - PS2

Released in 2004, Gradius V is only the 2nd Gradius game to be released straight to a home video game console. In this case, it is the Playstation 2. Gradius V is considered to be one of the greatest of the whole series. This game had a major graphical overhaul from other Gradius games, making one of the most aesthetically pleasing. The game has the same, classic core gameplay as the rest of the series, but has some new and very interesting controls that make the game easy for anyone to pick up and play. Like in some previous games, you have a health bar, and a power up bar, making it easier to take multiple hits without being destroyed on the first hit. One of the more helpful upgrades in the game is the Multiple Control. The multiples (the little spare guns that fly around the Vic Viper) can be set by the player. At the press of a button the player can quickly change the position of the multiples, making hard to shoot areas easy to shoot. Gradius V, while published by Konami, was actually developed by the Treasure team, whom most of you know as the team that created Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun. Because of this, Gradius V is considered one of the best of the whole series.

     Now I realize that I have left out some of the games, most notably the portable Gradius games, such as Nemesis. I will get to those in a separate overview. I hope that this will give some pretty good insight and information of these games. After this, I will be going in to more detail by reviewing the games. 

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Great article. Tons of information. I still need to play quite a few of them and this helped respark my interest.
Whoa! Awesome article dude! Cheesy

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