Gradius Review:

Gradius earned high praise back in the mid 80s, did it do the job almost 30 years later?

Gradius earned high praise back in the mid 80s, did it do the job almost 30 years later?

I’m super proud of myself because I finally got ambitious about playing old school video games. I ordered a few things to really make them enjoyable! First off I bought a Nintendo USB controller so I have a proper controller to play with since using the keyboard was next to impossible on these quick trigger games, and I also bought HDMI cord for my laptop so now I can play my emulators on my tv! It really is an awesome set up and I’m pretty proud of myself. After playing Kid Icarus, I decided to switch it up with an old space shooter for the Nintendo. The most common game that was praised by everyone was Gradius. I did a little research and it was made by Konami, one of my favorite developers/publishers so it had my approval already.

If you are too lazy to play it and would just like to watch a long play version of it (a whole whopping 17 minutes to beat the game) I found this video on youtube of this show-off jack ass who beats the game in 17 minutes, never dies and never misses a single enemy. Maybe it’s Vic Viper himself, anyway check it out if you want.

Gradius offers little to no story, and because I didn’t have the original game, I didn’t have a booklet for it.  So after googling the story, I came across what IGN had to say about the story.

“Across the galaxy, there exists a distant planet known as Gradius. Gradius’ peaceful existence has been brought to an end by an intense space invasion by a race known as the Bacterion. To save the planet, the hyperspace fighter Vic Viper has been deployed to fight the Bacterion invasion. Players pilot the Vic Viper through seven stages, shooting and dodging through deadly obstacles, while using various power-ups, including missiles, lasers, options and shields. The Vic Viper’s target is the enemy fortress, Xaerous. The only way to end the war is to plunge deep through the enemy forces and destroy its very core.”

Well there you have it, what an intense story. (Sarcasm)

While I couldn’t find an American commercial for Gradius, I did find a hilarious Japanese commercial. I don’t think it gets much better than 80s and Japan mixed together in a commercial.

But as you’ve read you are Vic Viper, that’s a sweet name for a main character, (not sarcasm) I dig it. There are seven stages with all of them being filled with unique enemies. You might see a squishy blob, or a robot that walks on the ground that shoots you, or the most common enemy would be a spaceship that shoots at you. After almost every level there is a “main boss” but all of them are the same and super easy to defeat. Shoot the core and avoid being shot at, these guys are so easy that Hellen Keller could beat them. One enemy that came out of nowhere, that made me think “the fuck?” was the Eastern Island Statues that are just randomly floating through space and shoot circle shock waves at you. Seriously, what was Japan thinking? 

“Hey boss, I developed a few more unique space ship enemies to insert into level 3, want me to program them in now?

“No, more Eastern Island Heads.”

Because where else would you find Eastern Island Statues blowing spit bubbles at you other than outer space?

Because where else would you find Eastern Island Statues blowing spit bubbles at you other than outer space?

Each boss was protected by a much harder sequence of events. There were volcanoes that erupted that were difficult to maneuver past the flying magma, and hordes of ships that appeared out of nowhere. I really liked the power ups that came throughout the levels, you would run into one, and then you could use it or choose to wait to get the next one and add it to your arsenal. For example there was speed power ups, a shield, double guns, and a little fire ball that followed you and shot when you shot. BUT BE CAREFUL, there is a very good reason there is a phrase that goes “Speed Kills” because it does. I used one too many speed power ups and my ship became almost uncontrollable. It was so fast I could hardly navigate it through the tight corridors or the 40 lasers that were being shot at me.

The overall game play was from medium chaos that was manageable to get through to suicide corridors that took me sometimes ten tries to get past. Get past the main level and the boss was a piece of cake. Especially the final boss, who is a giant brain? You just shoot it once and the game ends into an “epic” cutscene of the base exploding.

A brain led the entire invasion. Yup, knowledge is power.

A brain led the entire invasion. Yup, knowledge is power.

The best part of the game wasn’t the gameplay or story, it was the soundtrack and music! It was a peppy eight-bit symphony that made me feel like the game was encouraging me on my quest. If anyone is really into eight-bit soundtracks, check it out on youtube. Overall, I beat this game in maybe four hours of actual gameplay? Pretty short, but tough to beat throughout the entire game.

Gradius definitely made an impact on the side scrolling shooters. I can see why it was a popular pick among the Nintendo fans back in the day. I like space and I like shooters so this one gets a 7.4/10.

The first game in a popular franchise, Gradius inspired spin-offs too.

The first game in a popular franchise, Gradius inspired spin-offs too.

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