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Gaming => Community Playthroughs => Topic started by: MetalFRO on June 09, 2018, 06:12:05 PM



Title: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on June 09, 2018, 06:12:05 PM
(https://www.gamasutra.com/db_area/images/news/2015/Apr/242336/630_gradius.png)

The galaxy has been taken over by the Bacterian Empire, and you, a lone star pilot, must take them down using a formidable new craft known as the Vic Viper. With each new area you liberate from Bacterian forces, you also face a larger threat, each with a core defense system that forces you to target their weak points. Along the way, you'll face mechanized enemy forces, strange Moai creatures that can shoot laser rings at you, and enemies that seem to appear from nowhere, all of whom are bent on your destruction. Power up your ship quickly, with bombs, lasers, and optional companions that increase your firepower, lest you fall in battle and allow the Bacterian forces to rule the galaxy. Jump into the cockpit of the Vic Viper, and save the galaxy!

Gradius is an arcade shoot-em-up, released in Japan by Konami in 1985, which came to the West as Nemesis. It was originally developed as a follow-up to the earlier Konami scrolling shooter hit Scramble, but quickly outgrew that inspiration to become its own unique title, spawning a long-running series of successful, and well-loved games. It's unique power-up system became a major attraction for the game, and subsequent titles in the series expanded upon that formula in a number of unique and interesting ways, all while keeping the core functionality that was so ground-breaking upon its release. Gradius also introduced the "core" mechanic, whereby the enemy bosses had a specific weak point, or core, that you had to destroy, in order to take them down. Each of these cores were usually protected by a series of shields, so you had to work to remove those barriers before you could actually damage the bosses. The colorful, detailed graphics, memorable soundtrack, and interesting game play mechanics all combined to make a great game that still inspires today, as seen by the recent release of Super Hydorah, a game that borrows heavily from the formula this game established.  Gradius received a port on the NES, as well as several microcomputer platforms, the PC Engine in Japan, and the Sega Saturn in Japan as well. The US didn't see another release of the original game until the Gradius Collection on PSP, which is a direct arcade port. More recently, the game has been made available on the PS4 under the Arcade Archives line, with the ability to play the JPN, US, and EU specific iterations of the game. Join us in July for the RF Generation Shmup Club's second game, Gradius! Pick your version, and let's get blasting!

Versions:
NES/Famicom
PSP via Gradius Collection
PS4 via Arcade Archives
Sega Saturn & Sony PlayStation via Gradius Deluxe Pack (Japan only!)
PC Engine (Japan only!)
Various Microcomputers

The Gradius Deluxe Pack was also released for Windows in 1997, so presumably, it works with Windows 95 and 98.

Participants:
MetalFRO
douglie007
Pam
Addicted
Kollision
EZ Racer
Golem
zophar53
Nefarious Wes
singlebanana

HIGH SCORES
NES/Famicom: 1,121,600 (Golem)
PSP: 412,400 (MetalFRO)
PS4:
Saturn/PSX: 388,100 (MetalFRO)
PC Engine/TurboGrafx:
PC Engine CD:
Arcade: 427,300 (Golem)


Original game teaser:
(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f0/Ford_Crown_Victoria_LX.jpg/1200px-Ford_Crown_Victoria_LX.jpg)
(https://s13252.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/IMG_1060-1-940x705.jpg)


Title: Re: July Shmup Announcement
Post by: EngineerMike on June 10, 2018, 02:28:59 AM
Vic Viper


Title: Re: July Shmup Announcement
Post by: MetalFRO on June 10, 2018, 10:11:14 AM
Vic Viper

Indeed! Any guesses as to which game we might be playing? ;)


Title: Re: July Shmup Announcement
Post by: Duke.Togo on June 10, 2018, 05:37:46 PM
I'll take any in that series.


Title: Re: July Shmup Announcement
Post by: ReddMcKnight on June 10, 2018, 07:34:02 PM
Otomedius Excellent?! :D


Title: Re: July Shmup Announcement
Post by: MetalFRO on June 11, 2018, 08:31:34 AM
Otomedius Excellent?! :D

Sorry, not this time. I would have used, erm, *other* hints if it were that particular off-shoot of the series.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: douglie007 on June 19, 2018, 08:33:10 PM
I'll sign up


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on June 19, 2018, 09:19:51 PM
Woohoo! Any thoughts on which version(s) you might want to play?


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: douglie007 on June 20, 2018, 01:54:44 AM
I have a famicom, nes and psp. I think I'll go for nes.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Pam on June 20, 2018, 08:41:46 AM
I will play this! Most likely the NES version, though I might give the PC Engine version a shot (on the RetroPi).


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Addicted on June 21, 2018, 10:24:25 AM
I ran a test playthrough last night to make sure everything was working correctly.

(https://i.imgur.com/wpCSDez.jpg)
(https://i.imgur.com/jA7bBbp.jpg)
(https://i.imgur.com/W1mpJP4.jpg)

(https://i.imgur.com/KxRT2gR.jpg)
(https://i.imgur.com/v42HhCV.jpg)

All set!


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on June 21, 2018, 01:55:54 PM
Very cool! Thank you for the participation heads-up, everyone!


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Kollision on June 21, 2018, 04:30:21 PM
I think I might join to play late at night on my PSP :)


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on June 22, 2018, 08:35:12 AM
Welcome aboard, Kollision!


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: EZ Racer on June 30, 2018, 11:35:04 PM
Is it too late to get in on the Gradius action (I'd be playing on the NES)? I'm pretty new to RF Generation, but a certain friend of mine suggested it to me...


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Golem on July 01, 2018, 10:17:16 AM
Excellent writeup/car puns!

I registered to show Gradius love. I've cleared loop 1 of the arcade version, but the second loop is insane. I can't get consistent at the stage 2 cube rush.

I mostly prefer double in this one. Which do folks prefer, double or laser?


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 01, 2018, 10:20:58 AM
Is it too late to get in on the Gradius action (I'd be playing on the NES)? I'm pretty new to RF Generation, but a certain friend of mine suggested it to me...

DUDE! So glad to see you joined the site, after all the time I've been telling you about it ;)

Definitely not too late, and I'll add you to the list. I expect to see some good scores, my friend  ;D


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 01, 2018, 10:22:58 AM
Excellent writeup/car puns!

I registered to show Gradius love. I've cleared loop 1 of the arcade version, but the second loop is insane. I can't get consistent at the stage 2 cube rush.

I mostly prefer double in this one. Which do folks prefer, double or laser?

Thanks for registering, and welcome to the site! Thanks for the kind words - I do try and be as punny as possible ;D

I'm definitely a laser guy, but there are a few spots where double really comes in handy, so I have been known to switch to that in certain times. I haven't managed to reach the second loop yet, in any version, but I've come close on NES, so I'm curious to see where I end up.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: zophar53 on July 01, 2018, 11:26:18 AM
I'm definitely in! I have a Raspberry Pi with the NES ROM on it, but I tried out the PS4 Arcade Archives as well. I was surprised to find out that I had no memory of it being called Nemesis in the US. Also, this game is a lot harder than I remember; I've only managed to make it to stage 2 so far :( Wonder if the old Konami code made it into the original....


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 01, 2018, 11:55:48 AM
I'm definitely in! I have a Raspberry Pi with the NES ROM on it, but I tried out the PS4 Arcade Archives as well. I was surprised to find out that I had no memory of it being called Nemesis in the US. Also, this game is a lot harder than I remember; I've only managed to make it to stage 2 so far :( Wonder if the old Konami code made it into the original....

The Konami Code is in the original NES version.  Per Wikipedia:

Gradius (Famicom/NES) Ė The first use of the code. Pausing the game and entering the code activates all powerups except for Speed Up, Double, and Laser.

So effectively, you get full options and a shield with the code. Great for practicing and learning enemy patterns/waves, and level layouts. Obviously, any scoring while using this cheat code would be null and void. I'll add you to the list!


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 01, 2018, 10:06:04 PM
Okay, first score post for Gradius, via the NES version. Sorry for the ultra zoomed in perspective, but I couldnít seem to get a clear picture without putting my phone really close to the screen. This is me reaching Stage 6, then quickly losing all my lives and getting my butt handed to me. One thing I always forget, when I havenít played this game in a long while, is the near constant hail of bullets from enemies. For a NES game, this has a lot of projectiles! It can get pretty hairy, trying to dodge it all.

(http://i.imgur.com/EmiNZNz.jpg)

Just a heads up, for those that werenít aware, Gradius on the NES was one of the games played during the December 2014 shmup competition, here on RF Generation. I got the high score in the game, having reached Stage 7. I wasnít using turbo then, because it was against the rules, but I am now, and would encourage others to do so, because it makes the game more forgiving. Since I only have this one shmup to concentrate on in July, I am really hoping to see the gameís second loop.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Golem on July 03, 2018, 06:03:24 AM
Nice score, MetalFRO--with that score on stage 6, you must be a lot more aggressive than me! And recovery on stage 6 is tricky, especially in the opening segment.

I gave the NES version a crack to see how rusty I've gotten. My (fourth) credit ended on 1-7 with 332,800 points.

(https://i.imgur.com/OMUouu9.png)

I also agree that turbo is a must. I wish the Virtual Console releases had it like they did for Turbografx.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 03, 2018, 08:46:15 AM
Yeah, I try and get every single enemy in a stage, if at all possible. Naturally, that brings up the score, but since enemies can even shoot at you as they're leaving the screen, it makes sense to try and take them all out so the screen is less full of stuff to dodge. Not a bad score, though, and it looks like you're doing pretty well!


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 03, 2018, 10:14:45 PM
Something EZ Racer brought up is the fact that Gradius is on the NES Classic Mini, which I had forgotten. I assume it goes without saying, but Iíll say it anyway: save states are fine for practice and learning a level, but of course, scores should be submitted for contiguous, single credit runs. I know weíre not competing, per se, but letís at least keep the playing field reasonably level.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Nefarious Wes on July 05, 2018, 03:42:48 PM
So, we're going for top scores then? I streamed a no-death run yesterday, but quit once I beat it.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 05, 2018, 03:50:23 PM
So, we're going for top scores then? I streamed a no-death run yesterday, but quit once I beat it.

Welcome, Wes! Yeah, posting scores is part of the fun, but it's more of a casual thing. I don't have any prizes to give out to winners (yet), so it's mostly just for bragging rights. Congrats on your no-death run! I haven't watched it yet, but I'm wondering if it's just the first loop, or if it's both? I'll have to go check it out :D


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Nefarious Wes on July 05, 2018, 04:48:47 PM
Just the one loop. It's a short game, so I can try and see how high of a score I can get. Don't even worry about prizes, I like to do this stuff simply for fun. I host challenges every now and then and I can't afford to give out prizes.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 05, 2018, 05:00:21 PM
Just the one loop. It's a short game, so I can try and see how high of a score I can get. Don't even worry about prizes, I like to do this stuff simply for fun. I host challenges every now and then and I can't afford to give out prizes.

Cool beans. I just watched your Gradius run, and that was impressive! I was surprised you survived the Stage 6 boss by staying in the back. I usually get killed doing that, so I've switched to flying the Vic Viper up a bit, out of the path of the projectiles, and letting my Options do all the work for that boss fight  :slick:

My biggest issue is the Moai stage, which you conveniently warped past in your no-death run. However, when playing for score, you don't want to skip that, because the rings they shoot out add up quickly for point milking, just like the rocks in Stages 1 and 4 in the volcano sections.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Nefarious Wes on July 05, 2018, 05:25:16 PM
That's how I've always fought that boss. Yeah, if I'm gonna play for score I need to avoid the warps. It's hard for me to NOT warp after the moai head stage.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Golem on July 05, 2018, 08:31:49 PM
The Moai stage is scary, but not because of the Moai (https://imgur.com/JLNTEyM). The giant frisbees (https://imgur.com/N8K09I7) are a menace.

-They take multiple hits.
-They shoot a spread shot.
-Their shots are big.
-Their shots pay your shield no mind. (A bonus for the arcade version: this means their shots will gobble up your entire shield.)
-Their shots block your shots.
-They rush you without concern. Vic Viper is no more than a splattered bug on their windshield.

I think they are the most fearsome ships in the galaxy.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Nefarious Wes on July 06, 2018, 03:01:42 AM
Just got this score. Got to stage six of the 2nd loop, but lost all of my power-ups on the previous stage.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: singlebanana on July 06, 2018, 07:38:06 AM
Sign me up FRO!  As soon as I'm done with DOOM, I'll put some time into this. For those who remember (I know that you do MetalFRO), we actually played this game as part of our shmup competition a few Decembers ago.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 06, 2018, 08:19:05 AM
The Moai stage is scary, but not because of the Moai (https://imgur.com/JLNTEyM). The giant frisbees (https://imgur.com/N8K09I7) are a menace.

-They take multiple hits.
-They shoot a spread shot.
-Their shots are big.
-Their shots pay your shield no mind. (A bonus for the arcade version: this means their shots will gobble up your entire shield.)
-Their shots block your shots.
-They rush you without concern. Vic Viper is no more than a splattered bug on their windshield.

I think they are the most fearsome ships in the galaxy.

Yes, those things are only vulnerable when they're front side is open, their shots block your shots, and for some reason, it seems as if the lasers actually do LESS damage to them than the standard shot does. The strategy I found is to get toward the right side of the screen, and once they appear, whip back slightly so your options are right in its "face" so you can blast it full force when it opens. If you don't destroy it then, back up and weave through their shots, then try and either get on top of them to bomb them, or just keep repeating that pattern. One frustration with those enemies is that, if you try to move past them, they'll back up and try to keep you engaged, so you really have to be careful how you handle them.

@Nefarious Wes - dude, nice score! I haven't hit the second loop yet, though I think I'm close, WHEN I get through the Moai level w/o getting killed. I have found it exceedingly difficult to recover in that level when you lose a life. I was talking with EZ Racer last night, and he remarked that Gradius is very much a "1 life" kind of game. I would tend to agree. If you die and lose your powerups, you're pretty much out of luck, and it's better to quickly dispense with your remaining lives and start over, unless you've reached some Jedi level of skill in the game and can recover to a reasonable level of power.  Otherwise, it's pretty futile.

@singlebanana - I'll put you on the list!


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Nefarious Wes on July 06, 2018, 03:12:32 PM
Yeah, I always say, "The party's over" whenever you die in a Gradius game. I made it to stage five on the 2nd loop without dying, died a really stupid death, had a stock of ten lives, and then had to defeat stage five with NO POWER UPS whatsoever! Took about eight lives. I also captured the run, but I know I can do better.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 06, 2018, 04:01:39 PM
Yeah, I always say, "The party's over" whenever you die in a Gradius game. I made it to stage five on the 2nd loop without dying, died a really stupid death, had a stock of ten lives, and then had to defeat stage five with NO POWER UPS whatsoever! Took about eight lives. I also captured the run, but I know I can do better.

You are a Gradius beast! Awesome progress, and I would love to see a full 2-loop run at some point ;)


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Nefarious Wes on July 06, 2018, 05:54:45 PM
I think that will be the goal to shoot for: no-death 2-loop run.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Duke.Togo on July 07, 2018, 10:07:41 AM
(https://i.imgur.com/1MqQfZY.jpg)

Playing on the PSP. I only had time for a couple runs, and of course stage 3 is my stopper. I need to learn a good path through this stage.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: douglie007 on July 07, 2018, 11:05:43 AM
Man, I think I just need to give up and just admit I suck at and won't ever be good at shumps, I tried this game on nes, tg16 and PSP, the only one I can get past the first stage in is PSP on easy.. nes is the hardest with only 2 options.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 08, 2018, 09:45:04 AM
Man, I think I just need to give up and just admit I suck at and won't ever be good at shumps, I tried this game on nes, tg16 and PSP, the only one I can get past the first stage in is PSP on easy.. nes is the hardest with only 2 options.

Don't give up! I have been in the place you seem to be at right now, and still often find myself there, with shmups that are particularly hard. A little practice can go a long way. Also, Gradius can be somewhat unforgiving, in that, if you die and lose all your power-ups, you're kind of done, and it's better to quickly dispatch the rest of your lives so you can start fresh. That's one of the most frustrating aspects of the game, along with the need for speed power-ups that makes the game a bit harder than it already would have been. Many of the later games we'll be looking at either have a balanced speed, and no need to upgrade it yourself, or many use an adjustable speed option, so you can set it how you like. Also, some of the later games rely much more on twitch reflexes, and are a bit easier to get into. I wanted to cover the original Gradius for historical context, as we move forward with the genre, but it's definitely not for everyone. I would argue that pretty much every Gradius game past the first one surpasses it, but it's important to get a sense of where a series started, and especially at Gradius, because it's such an influential game. Hang in there!


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 08, 2018, 09:47:40 AM
(https://i.imgur.com/1MqQfZY.jpg)

Playing on the PSP. I only had time for a couple runs, and of course stage 3 is my stopper. I need to learn a good path through this stage.

Yeah, the Moai stage is brutal. One thing you can do to help with success is to switch to the Double weapon there, and then try to position your options so they cross into a Moai head underneath you, so you're using Double to get what's above, and the option's own fire directly into the mouth of what's below. It's easier on the NES version, because the hitbox for the Moai is larger. In the arcade version, which you're playing on PSP, I've noticed that you have to have pretty direct hits to the center of their mouth area for it to properly register, so it's definitely more challenging to take them out than on the NES port.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Golem on July 08, 2018, 10:16:16 AM
Keep at it Duke! I found the save states in Gradius Collection particularly useful in practicing for the 1CC. For a while, I'd suicide on stage 3 just to keep the rank on stage 4 down. Plus, when you have a bare Vic Viper, there's much less going on. If you're going for a full guns-blazing run of stage 3, I agree that the double is great.

I just concluded a run of the NES version on 3-3. The second loop is really nice, I wish you could just start there. I also broke 1 million!
(https://i.imgur.com/ubOgWS1.png)
1,121,600

Video of the 2-all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5zGwXWRk28
Stage 3 recovery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zxhjS6BOMk
Stage 6 recovery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKiz3JbFu-g

After my time with Gradius, I have learned to appreciate what is truly important in life: speed-ups.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Duke.Togo on July 08, 2018, 11:12:57 AM
You're killing it Golem. I just need some practice on stage 3 for pathing. It seems like there are always paths that are much more troublesome in the stages that allow vertical scrolling.

I hear you on the speed-ups. Having zero speed-ups make the game crazy difficult, but I also rarely want two speed-ups. If you couldn't crash into terrain I would feel much better about more speed.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Duke.Togo on July 08, 2018, 01:46:24 PM
OK, made it through level 3 and got a new high score.

(https://i.imgur.com/o11ndjV.jpg)

I also save scummed my way through the game just to see the ending and check out what's ahead, and the difficulty is definitely not linear in this game. Also, the blob monsters in stage 4 won't shoot you if you just hang in the upper right corner of the screen. You have to move a little when one comes on screen that can hit you with its arm, but otherwise you can just wait them out, at least on the arcade version for PSP with default settings.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 08, 2018, 04:01:52 PM
Thatís an interesting strategy. Good for survival, naturally, but not for score. I wasnít aware they would ignore you in that scenario. One thing I will say is, donít go up against them with the Double weapon. Youíll struggle (big time) to get out enough shots to take them down.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Duke.Togo on July 08, 2018, 04:38:28 PM
I'm amazed at how situational Double and Laser are, and how you really need to know which to set up with ahead of each stage to stand a chance.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Nefarious Wes on July 08, 2018, 05:55:22 PM
I like to switch to Double on stages with ceilings, though I seem to do better with the Laser on stage six. Double is a MUST for the final stage!


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 09, 2018, 01:32:51 PM
Yeah, I really think Double is necessary for some areas, though I'm finding that I can get through the Moai stage, particularly in the arcade ports, quite well with the laser and a couple options. This might be because of the hitbox. I don't know if it's strictly the PSP port, or if other arcade ports follow suit (i.e. Gradius Deluxe Pack, PS4 Arcade Archives), but it seems like the hit detection is much more forgiving in those versions. I found myself cringing because I thought I was going to die several times through the course of Stages 4-6 in playing on PSP over lunch at work just now, but I found that bullets and enemies can lightly graze the Vic Viper a bit, depending on the proximity, whereas on the NES version, if it's a pixel of overlap, you're done dealing.

I managed to reach Stage 7 on PSP, and racked up my best score on that port so far, with 354,500:
(https://i.imgur.com/dG2xmyl.jpg)

Considering I hadn't managed to make it past Stage 4 prior to this, save for one time, I was pretty pleased with this last run. I neglected to switch to Double, however, and I think that was my downfall. Assuming I make it this far again, I'll have to give that a whirl.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Golem on July 09, 2018, 06:41:27 PM
IIRC, you're right about the hitbox. I've definitely singed Vic's nose more than a few times. Just to be sure, though, see if the hit size is set to normal in the options (ha). I think the PSP port deviously defaults that to small. From my experience in MAME, the normal hit size is arcade-accurate.

Regarding practice: drilling specific parts definitely helped me. At first I would memorize paths, then come to a more general feel of how enemies behaved.

But the thing that improved my performance most was putting in three speed-ups. In the abstract, it makes sense, because speed-ups come without rank. For no extra charge, you can improve your speed, and enemy bullets won't get any faster. This opens up tons of opportunities and makes the game lean more on your reflexes and less on your knowledge--you can zoom around bullets that used to chase you.

It was rough at first, but after a few days' practice, I got used to it. And once you get used to it, this new skill is applicable to every stage in the game, not just to one particular setup.

I went ahead and put the full replay of my NES run on page 3!

Notes on double vs. laser:
-In the arcade version, laser has a hilarious hitbox.
-In stage 5, you can hit the brain monsters' elbow joints to kill their arms. Double can be helpful for pinpoint strikes.
-Laser is preferable for the digging levels. Regular and double shots dissipate on contact with dirt, but laser will pierce dirt. (Mostly stage 6, but kind of applicable to stage 2 as well.)


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 10, 2018, 08:42:15 AM
When I begin my power-up cycle, I always start with 2 speed-ups. 2 feels reasonably good at first, and then a third later (after getting some firepower) is now my go-to. I used to only do a single speed-up, and I don't know why, but unless you have absolutely Jedi-level reflexes, and can predict what bullets will be coming and from where, a minimum of 2 speed-ups is probably a must. Regarding the hitbox of the laser, I have noticed that sometimes it doesn't seem to destroy stuff upon impact, but only after a portion of it passes through the object. I wonder if this was to compensate for the fact that the lasers follow your ship and/or option movement until fully fired, at which point they simply move forward. It would make sense, because, if you made it so that instant contact with the laser would damage or destroy most enemies, a 360 degree roll pattern through open areas of the stage would be plenty enough to ward off most anything, and there'd be little challenge until the stage boxed you in somewhat with landscape and obstacles. Even then, you'd have more of an advantage.

The brain monsters are interesting beasts. In the NES version, either with lasers or standard bullets (not Double), you can destroy them fairly easily with enough shots (or turbo). In the arcade version, you really have to concentrate fire, and even then, sometimes all you can hope for is taking out the arms. It's an odd thing. I also noticed that lasers are far more effective on the metal ball enemies (that spit out smaller metal projectiles at you) in the arcade than NES version. Perhaps this is just the nature of the game's layout, sprite size, and rate of fire, but in the NES version, lasers have zero chance to pass through the projectiles. In the arcade version, because the lasers are longer and thinner, they seem to be a bit less prone to get blocked.

I wanted to give a few tips on scoring that I've picked up. Any area where you can destroy projectiles is a place to milk a lot of points. The best examples are the volcanoes, and also the Moai ring lasers. In both instances, each volcanic rock or ring projectile grants points upon destruction, so powering up to the point where you can take out a lot of them can really help ramp up your score. For example, in the first stage, if you can get 2 options, lasers, and missiles, prior to reaching the volcanoes, then position your ship just right, you can take out the vast majority of the volcanic rocks, and get your score into the 70K range, which works in both the NES and arcade versions. In the Moai stage, while I haven't calculated it, because I'm too busy dodging and taking out rings, if you can fly through areas with Moai that attack you from above and below, you'll trigger more rings, which means more point milking. The same thing goes for the Stage 6 boss, which fires projectiles at you. In the NES version, you get an extra life every 100,000 points, so my earlier score of over 500,000 on the NES version meant that I had earned 5 extra lives. True, once you die, it's difficult to recover, and you may end up burning through those quickly, but more chances means more opportunities to learn the stage, and try to learn how to recover.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Nefarious Wes on July 11, 2018, 03:55:37 AM
I've been busy editing videos lately, so I haven't had time to practice since last week. I streamed a run where I didn't die until stage two of the 2nd loop, and then I just quit, cuz there was no way I was gonna beat my previous top score (NES version). We have till the end of the month to keep trying, right?


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 11, 2018, 08:52:24 AM
I've been busy editing videos lately, so I haven't had time to practice since last week. I streamed a run where I didn't die until stage two of the 2nd loop, and then I just quit, cuz there was no way I was gonna beat my previous top score (NES version). We have till the end of the month to keep trying, right?

Yes, Gradius is the game for all of July, so don't feel like you have to make your best score or play all at once. I'm spreading my play out between multiple versions, and I'm also participating in the DOOM play through, so I put time into Gradius when it makes sense.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Golem on July 11, 2018, 09:22:36 PM
I wanted to give a few tips on scoring that I've picked up. Any area where you can destroy projectiles is a place to milk a lot of points. The best examples are the volcanoes, and also the Moai ring lasers. In both instances, each volcanic rock or ring projectile grants points upon destruction, so powering up to the point where you can take out a lot of them can really help ramp up your score. For example, in the first stage, if you can get 2 options, lasers, and missiles, prior to reaching the volcanoes, then position your ship just right, you can take out the vast majority of the volcanic rocks, and get your score into the 70K range, which works in both the NES and arcade versions. In the Moai stage, while I haven't calculated it, because I'm too busy dodging and taking out rings, if you can fly through areas with Moai that attack you from above and below, you'll trigger more rings, which means more point milking. The same thing goes for the Stage 6 boss, which fires projectiles at you. In the NES version, you get an extra life every 100,000 points, so my earlier score of over 500,000 on the NES version meant that I had earned 5 extra lives. True, once you die, it's difficult to recover, and you may end up burning through those quickly, but more chances means more opportunities to learn the stage, and try to learn how to recover.

The volcano milking is so tricky. I've never gotten the hang of the correct placement! Maybe now's the time to sit down and practice it.

Regarding the Moai milking, I never thought those 100 points-per-ring would add up. I'd like to put some time into practicing that, too.

Took me about a week of practice, but I've gotten back to a 1CC of Gradius arcade. I made it up to 349,700.
(https://i.imgur.com/0k584yT.png)
(My first 1CC took some 30 hours of practice.)

The run was unremarkable, although I never realized how hard laser + options wrecks stage 6:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rrQv9l0G9I
Also a pretty good demo of how overly huge the hitbox on the laser is.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Duke.Togo on July 11, 2018, 10:42:09 PM
Congrats on the 1CC. I don't think there is any shooter that I have gotten that good at.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 11, 2018, 10:54:55 PM
Congrats, Golem! Iím assuming, based on your score, that your 1CC is for only the first loop? Either way, impressive!


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Nefarious Wes on July 12, 2018, 04:47:41 PM
Do you guys consider 1CC a no-death run? To me, one credit clear means finishing the game within one credit or set of lives. Either way, congrats, Golem! Finishing Gradius is a great feeling!


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 12, 2018, 08:32:06 PM
Do you guys consider 1CC a no-death run? To me, one credit clear means finishing the game within one credit or set of lives. Either way, congrats, Golem! Finishing Gradius is a great feeling!

A 1CC is finishing the game on a single credit, whether that's the 3 requisite lives you start with, or 12, if you get that many extends via scoring or drops, during the course of the game. As long as the gameplay is contiguous, with no continues, and a constant score during that period of time, it's a 1CC. A no-death run is far more impressive. I nearly did that with Dragon Spirit on the NES - I think I died once or twice when I did that a few years ago.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Golem on July 15, 2018, 03:42:48 PM
Congrats, Golem! Iím assuming, based on your score, that your 1CC is for only the first loop? Either way, impressive!
Yeah, only the one loop. :b I'm still coming in under your 1-7 score!

Unlike the NES version, the second loop of the arcade Gradius is a merciless leap in difficulty.

I think my strategy going forward will be to master using the laser in loop 1 and see if that works any better on loop 2. I prefer the double in Gradius because you can get up close to enemies and take them out quickly. The trouble with that on loop 2 is that getting close to enemies puts you closer to suicide bullets.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Nefarious Wes on July 15, 2018, 05:19:56 PM
OK, that's what I thought. I hear so many people refer to a 1CC as a no-death run.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Golem on July 15, 2018, 05:59:58 PM
I think that's a 1LC! Although recovery in Gradius is tricky, so there's little difference. :b


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 16, 2018, 08:17:16 AM
I think my strategy going forward will be to master using the laser in loop 1 and see if that works any better on loop 2. I prefer the double in Gradius because you can get up close to enemies and take them out quickly. The trouble with that on loop 2 is that getting close to enemies puts you closer to suicide bullets.

And this is precisely why I'm more of a survival play than a score player, at least with regard to classic shooters. I try to always err on the side of caution, knowing that death is around every corner, or at the edge of every enemy bullet. If I ever truly mastered a game, where I knew the mechanics and patterns well enough to know what the full risk assessment was for that kind of strategy, I might adopt it, to try to achieve a higher score, but I've never spent enough time with any one game to ever get to that point.

Also, yes, I should have mentioned that a no-death run is a 1LC, or 1-Life Clear. It's impressive, no matter how you frame it ;D


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 16, 2018, 01:44:08 PM
So randomly on lunch at work today, I 1CC the 1st loop of Gradius! YAY!
(https://i.imgur.com/n3a0x2kl.jpg)

Here's my score for the 1st loop, as you can see going into the 2nd (365,100):
(https://i.imgur.com/Dvs5UNml.jpg)

I put my PSP into a low power state to go back to this and improve upon the game, but it will be a continuous run, in the sense that I'm not continuing from a save or continue, so when I post my next score, hopefully it will be significantly higher, assuming I don't succumb to Bacterian forces quickly in the 2nd loop.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Golem on July 16, 2018, 04:15:49 PM
Congrats on the 1CC! Impressive you've done it in the arcade version first.

Lunch is a great time for gameplay--not bleary-eyed in the morning or worn out at the end of the day. Claiming some of your productivity back from your employer. Some of my better Dariusburst sessions took advantage of this.

And this is precisely why I'm more of a survival play than a score player, at least with regard to classic shooters. I try to always err on the side of caution, knowing that death is around every corner, or at the edge of every enemy bullet. If I ever truly mastered a game, where I knew the mechanics and patterns well enough to know what the full risk assessment was for that kind of strategy, I might adopt it, to try to achieve a higher score, but I've never spent enough time with any one game to ever get to that point.

I believe they refer to this as Maslow's hierarchy. :b

EDIT: Gave it another run myself tonight and reached 427,300. This is a decent improvement over my previous best despite not getting any farther into the second loop (still stuck at 2-2). Lasers are amazing for points, but you need to really know the levels.
(https://i.imgur.com/6tl5BIi.png)


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 17, 2018, 08:48:46 AM
Nice! Now that I've found more of a rhythm on the arcade version via PSP, I need to boot up my Gradius Deluxe Pack on Sega Saturn, and give that a go. Maybe later this week, or this weekend...


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 17, 2018, 12:44:35 PM
Well, the 2nd loop in the arcade version is quite a bit harder than the 1st loop, so I bombed out quickly, but did manage to break 400K:
(https://i.imgur.com/SXojYjNl.jpg)

Not half bad, considering it's my first time in the 2nd loop, and I managed to reach 2-2, though I didn't quite get to the boss.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Golem on July 17, 2018, 03:59:41 PM
Great work! Is there any chance you witnessed the horror of loop 2 cube rush?

EDIT: Do you guys see stuff like this happen?
(https://i.imgur.com/ESnVaqB.gif)


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 17, 2018, 11:44:32 PM
No, itís simply the insane amount of bullets that enemies shoot out, and I had a hard time navigating through the milieu.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 24, 2018, 08:23:39 AM
Anyone still playing Gradius here toward the end of the month? I'm still rocking the PSP during lunch breaks, but haven't managed to top my score yet. I still get tripped up in the Moai level sometimes, and if I die in, or prior to, the 4th stage, which inverts the 1st, I have a harder time recovering, and usually only make it to Stage 5.

EDIT: One thing I wanted to add that I found interesting, at least in the arcade version, is that the Vic Viper's engine exhaust/flame will damage enemies. I haven't verified this against the NES version, but when you're in the thick of it, trying to weave your way through enemies, that is a strategic element you can employ.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Golem on July 24, 2018, 04:35:58 PM
EDIT: One thing I wanted to add that I found interesting, at least in the arcade version, is that the Vic Viper's engine exhaust/flame will damage enemies. I haven't verified this against the NES version, but when you're in the thick of it, trying to weave your way through enemies, that is a strategic element you can employ.

Holy shit! I kept seeing this, and I had no idea what was up. Part of me worried I had a hack, haha. I associate exhaust kills with Image Fight, a particularly brutal way of saying "eat my dust."

I'd wager it's not in the NES version. The change of the shield to a mere health bar is a significant compromise, so I take that as a sign that they put everything into keeping Vic collision detection as simple as possible.

I haven't had any time for Gradius myself lately :(, but I'd like to put in some sessions practicing without autofire, just to remember what it's like.

The fourth stage is definitely one of the harder ones. When I die, I take this approach:
-Skim the bottom, popping up only to get powerups. You'll take out many turrets and hatches, and the remaining bullets should be few enough that you can dodge on reaction.
-Try to get one speedup and laser (laser being necessary for the enemy rush unless you absolutely demolish the rank by dying right before the boss).
-Remember, duckers will only chase you over to the right third of the screen. If you can occupy the right side of the screen, you're fine; if you're stuck on the left, you'll have to jump over them.

And then the laser usually puts me in a good spot to stick the landing by collecting powerups in the opening of stage 5.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Duke.Togo on July 24, 2018, 10:51:27 PM
I had no clue the engine exhaust killed enemies. That is a great tip.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Square_Air on July 25, 2018, 06:19:19 AM
Sadly I was too busy with life being hectic to participate this month, but hopefully I can join in next round. I did clear this last year, but it would have been nice to bring up that score. I will share this video from Perikles though that showcases the game being played with only speed ups. It's pretty informative for displaying how recovery works at a low power state.

Video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erDXO_7iA9U)


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 25, 2018, 11:56:29 AM
The fourth stage is definitely one of the harder ones. When I die, I take this approach:
-Skim the bottom, popping up only to get powerups. You'll take out many turrets and hatches, and the remaining bullets should be few enough that you can dodge on reaction.
-Try to get one speedup and laser (laser being necessary for the enemy rush unless you absolutely demolish the rank by dying right before the boss).
-Remember, duckers will only chase you over to the right third of the screen. If you can occupy the right side of the screen, you're fine; if you're stuck on the left, you'll have to jump over them.

And then the laser usually puts me in a good spot to stick the landing by collecting powerups in the opening of stage 5.

Interesting strategy here, Golem. To me, since Stage 4 is just a harder version of Stage 1 (though less hard than 2-1), I tend to take a more aggressive approach with it, particularly because, by this point in the game, enemies will almost invariably shoot bullets at you as they fly away, if you've passed them. I find the best approach is to take out any and all oncoming foes before they get the chance to shoot, to minimize the amount of stuff you have to dodge. I have less trouble with 4 than I do with 3, generally speaking, so for me, making sure I'm taking stuff out to keep the screen clear from too many enemies and projectiles is the best way to better ensure my own survival.

Sadly I was too busy with life being hectic to participate this month, but hopefully I can join in next round. I did clear this last year, but it would have been nice to bring up that score. I will share this video from Perikles though that showcases the game being played with only speed ups. It's pretty informative for displaying how recovery works at a low power state.

Video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erDXO_7iA9U)

I totally understand life getting in the way - it has a habit of doing that, sometimes! That 1-ALL is super impressive, despite the multiple deaths in Stage 7, because the maneuvering throughout the run was really precise, or at least appeared that way. It definitely helps having turbo in those situations. Hats off to Perikles for this run, because it must have taken a fair bit of dedication and persistence to achieve this.

Thanks for checking in, Square_Air! Maybe we'll see you for Raiden V next month?


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: Square_Air on July 30, 2018, 05:40:37 AM
Thanks for checking in, Square_Air! Maybe we'll see you for Raiden V next month?
I do own this on steam, I would just have to see if it runs well enough. I think it should work fine, but my PC is starting to get pretty old, so i'm never really 100% sure anymore with new releases.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 30, 2018, 08:47:00 AM
Thanks for checking in, Square_Air! Maybe we'll see you for Raiden V next month?
I do own this on steam, I would just have to see if it runs well enough. I think it should work fine, but my PC is starting to get pretty old, so i'm never really 100% sure anymore with new releases.

I know what you mean. My primary desktop is 8 years old at this point, and my laptop, while newer and has more RAM, isn't exactly a powerhouse. I'm in the process of building a gaming PC, but the graphics card is the most expensive piece nowadays, and since I'm looking at a GTX 1060 6GB, that's a $300+ investment. In any event, this is what I found for the PC requirements for Raiden V:

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz.
OS: Windows 7 / 8 / 10.
VIDEO CARD: Graphic card with 512MB VRAM.
SOUND CARD: Direct Sound.
FREE DISK SPACE: 6 GB.

Seems pretty low, so assuming your PC meets or exceeds those minimum specs, you should be able to join in the fun :)


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on July 30, 2018, 01:19:41 PM
I totally forgot to post this a few days ago, but here's my score from Gradius Deluxe Pack on the Saturn:
(https://i.imgur.com/Zqzfz6T.jpg)

I reached 1-7, and while I didn't get too far into the stage, at least I got that far. Also, I bought the Arcade Archives version of Gradius on PS4, and found out very quickly that the later model PS4 pads have a terrible D-pad for precision movement, and that the game feels a bit too fast in that port. Someone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems as if that version is faster than the Deluxe Pack, and definitely faster than on PSP. Maybe it's my perception, because I'm playing on a bigger screen, though even when I shrunk the display down to approximate the size of my CRT (around 32"), it still felt way too fast. I typically go with 2 speed-ups, but on this port, 2 felt too fast. But then 1 felt too slow, so I was constantly fighting that battle. Stage 2, with all the stuff you have to navigate through, is quite difficult with a ship that moves too quickly and a D-pad that is imprecise. I kept careening into platforms, trying to dodge enemy fire. What fascinated me more, however, is the discovery that the US Nemesis arcade game has some very significant changes to the Japanese Gradius. When you die in the US version, you're given an opportunity to power back up to some extent, as the game throws several ships at you right away that will offer power-up capsules, but to counter-balance that, the game throws a lot more mayhem at you, with enemies being more aggressive, and shooting more bullets at you. It also seems as though the RNG element is more prevalent, as I didn't see a lot of consistency from one run to the next, in terms of enemy behavior. Nemesis (US) is brutal. I can see why the later NES port was based on the original Japanese Gradius, and I think it's better for it. I also found it odd that the European release of the game kept the Nemesis moniker, but moved back toward the Japanese level and enemy placement/behavior structure. I didn't spend too much time with the European version, but it seemed to play very similarly to the Japanese game. It makes me wonder if subsequent entries in the series got retooled for the US market, or if they came over relatively untouched for arcades.

Incidentally, I was told by someone on Twitter than apparently, the earlier PS4 pads w/o the lightbar have a better D-pad. I'm strongly considering either one of those, the Hori fighting pad, OR a Mayflash F500 stick, which works for PS3/4, Xbox 360/One, PC, AND the Switch. That would get me access to a stick to use with a fair number of shmups we'll be looking at. Anyone have a good recommendation for a stick I should also consider?


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on August 03, 2018, 08:24:05 AM
Thanks to everyone who participated this month, and I hope you all enjoyed a trip back in time to the original Gradius! Even after I completed the 1st loop of the game, I still kept going back for more, so this game has an addictive quality to it that shows the staying power, even all these years later, and further demonstrates why the game went on to spawn so many sequels and spin-off games. Despite the state Konami finds itself in, I hope they can eventually find their way back to Gradius for a 6th entry in the series that will continue the tradition of excellence.


Title: Re: July 2018 Shmup - Gradius
Post by: MetalFRO on August 07, 2018, 01:43:19 PM
I thought I'd pen a few final thoughts on Gradius for the thread, now that we're several days out from the end of the month. I hope everyone enjoyed tackling this classic; I certainly have! It's been good to reconnect with this game, after not having put any serious time into it since 2014, with the RF Generation December shmup competition, and to really dig into several iterations of the game. It's interesting to compare and contrast with R-Type, since these 2 games provided much of the template for horizontal scrolling shoot-em-ups, and are still hugely influential on the genre today. In recent years, the game Hydorah was released on PC, which has since been re-released with new features on PC and consoles as Super Hydorah, and that game takes HUGE inspiration from Gradius, with a ship that looks very much like the Vic Viper, as well as graphics and enemies that are heavily inspired by the series as well. The impact Gradius has had has been immeasurable, and to top it all off - the game is still fun! Sure, the later games in the series eclipsed it, in terms of the weapon load-out customization, the improved shield mechanics, and those things, but the original game is still a lot of fun to play, and there are still plenty of things to learn from the original game. Anyone else have any final thoughts about Gradius?