|Gradius for the PC-Engine, NES, and Saturn
The Gradius series originated in the arcades, yet almost all of my experiences with it have been via home ports. For whatever reason, it was never in an arcade that I went to. That's ok, as I can just imagine the amount of money it would have demanded as arcades usually aren't easier that home versions.
|The power up meter that would endure through the series
Power ups are attained through selecting the type of weapon from a meter. The meter changes the type of available weapon based on how many orange capsules you collect; the more capsules, the more powerful the weapon available. The power ups from the first game are: speed up, missles, double shot, laser, options, and shield. These power ups would persist through nearly all subsequent entries in the series, with additions, of course. Speed was essential, as your ship initially moves like its flying through molasses. The missiles are very effective against the pesky ground cannons, as the missiles slide along the ground until they hit something. The double shot fires forward and at a 45˚ angle upward, taking out ceiling dwellers and canons. This was the first time I had ever seen an "option" in a game. The option was the best offensive weapon as each one mimicked your ship's firepower, effectively doubling, tripling, etc. your firepower. If there was a game that had this mechanic, I am not aware of it. The question mark (?) was the shield, which could take a few hits before turning red, which meant that it could only absorb one more shot. After that, it disappears and you are exposed again. Did I mention that in true old-school fashion, one hit and you explode.
|The only stage that people really get good at: stage 1
One thing to be mentioned about the series is the slowdown. Since the game is so challenging, and likes to throw everything at you, there is a ton of bullets and enemy swarms flying your way. The amount of slowdown depends on the system, but the original version on the NES and Gradius III on the SNES are notorious for it. I actually don't mind it, as it buys me time to plot my course on the screen.
Over the years I have scrounged up a decent collection of the series, although I know there are missing entries. I have never been much of a handheld gamer, so those Gameboy versions are out.
|Life Force for the NES and Salamander for the Saturn
When Life Force was released on the NES, I thought it was the sequel to Gradius. In a way it was, but the real sequel was not released stateside. I was able to play it on the Gradius Deluxe Pack, for the Sega Saturn. It's pretty hard. I wonder if the game publishers in Japan realized this and that was the reason for not releasing it here.
|It seems you haven't been flossing...
|What a crazy way to meet the first boss
It's sequel, Salamander 2, was a Japan exclusive. It has a home port on the Sega Saturn on the Salamander Deluxe Pack, and that may be the only home port. It is a fantastic game, and
|Gradius II (PC-Engine) and Gradius III (SNES)
|Gradius Gaiden is just gorgeous
Gradius Gaiden for the Playstation (Japan only, again) is what many consider the pinnacle of the series. Even though it was being released on a system that was part of the 3D revolution, it holds to its roots with its spectacular 2D gameplay. Another notable feature is the ability to choose your ship.
Gradius IV was ported to the Gradius III and IV Collection release on the PS2. Here the graphics are done up in full 3D fashion, and perhaps suffer some for it. The gameplay feels a bit tired, and the series may be losing steam as this entry seems forced.
|Gradius IV utilizes polygons for the first time, and it shows
Gradius V is a masterpiece and worthy of its own post...
So I hope you enjoyed reading me ramble on about the legendary series. Maybe you'll be tempted to pick up a controller and SHOOT THE CORE!