Review by digitalkII
"Shoot the core!"
The planet Gradius, a peaceful Earth-like world is now under attack from an old nemesis, aliens from subspace star cluster of Bacterion! To save your world you must launch the prototype hyper space fighter, the Vic Viper and take out the super fortress Xaerous, To reach this you have to steal enemy power capsules along your route and boost the Vic Vipers weapon powers! (Story is from the European booklet of Gradius).
Your mission is to pilot the Vic Viper into enemy space and destroy Xaerous. You must avoid enemy fire and destroy hoards of alien Bacterion craft that will try to stop you! You are the only one who can bring peace back to the planet Gradius! Gradius for the PC Engine is another conversion of one of Konami's famous shoot 'em up franchises (released in arcades around 1985 and also known as Nemesis and has been released on many gaming formats).
You control the Vic Viper through eight stages (yup eight! the original arcade had seven but the PC Engine has an all new extra stage not featured anywhere except for the MSX version)!! Destroying wave of enemies, the famous Moai heads and end of level boss (Xaerous Big Core Fighters)! Enemy power capsule are dropped by some enemies, usually red. Collecting these capsules allow you to boost certain power ups such as: speed up, missile, double shot, laser, option and shield. You can have multiple power boosters at teh same time however you cannot have double shot and laser together so make sure you select the right one thats fitted to the stage and action!
The blue power capsule is a smart bomb that wipes most enemies on screen. Everything moves and feels just like the arcade original. One difference is that the control of the original arcade you had to use 3 buttons, one for fire, one for missile and the other to select you power up. Thankfully Konami have simplified this so that both fire and missile are controlled by one button. Gradius is simple to pick up but offers a (good but short) challenge to your reflexes
Well the original arcade game is now over twenty years old and although graphically Gradius looks pretty basic today, the PC Engine version is almost identical to the arcade and then some! Graphically the colours have been given a slight lick of paint (although it lacks the vibrancy of the arcade) it looks fresher and I would say the PC Engine version runs at a slightly higher resolution. There's also the MSX intro sequence not found anywhere else, Konami has taken that and given it a brand new update, although its pretty simple it's nice! The PC Engine runs with a border at the bottom of the screen displaying scores etc. so the screen shifts up and down slightly. Also just like the arcade there is slowdown and you will be thank full for this as later stages so many enemy bullets appear from all sides of the screen this slowdown might save your hide. Basically everything looks and moves just like its arcade parent.
MUSIC and SOUND
All the original arcade music has been given a whole new update with typical PC Engine-esque synthesisers and sampled drums (note: Konami have used the same sampled drums in all their PC Engine HuCARD games) and sounds much nicer on the PC Engine. The original arcade music sounds no better than an NES music chip! Yes all the classic Gradius music plus there's an all new music track for the PC Engine exclusive stage (which again is an update on an extra stage that featured only in the MSX version! Plus you will find another bonus music track on the hidden warp stages. The sound effects however are just adequate and offer nothing special.
Overall this classic coin-op adaptation is amazing! Sure it looks and sound old and perhaps offer nothing new or special to todays standards but hey! its a classic and its remained true to its arcade roots. There are a few instances of lowdown (but it's also apparent in the original Arcade). The PC Engine version of Gradius is one of the best (sure its not 100% arcade perfect although playability wise I would say yes it is). This was Konami's first PC Engine game and Konami have given PC Engine fans a fantastic and exclusive version of one of their beloved games in fact the PC Engine version shares more similarities to the MSX version! It won't offer anything in the long term but its great to pick up and play and a worthy piece to add to your PC Engine games collection. Oh and there are hidden levels and warps too in this one so good luck finding them.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/07/06
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