Review by Neon_Knight2

"Another space shooter that can eat up all your time"

Space shooters have always been around in a form or another, they all had the basic structure with a few variance. Every now and then there will be a game that changes the fundamentals of a genre. That game for space shooter is here. Gradius, a horizontal shooter from Konami arrives to our NES with its innovative power up system and addictive action.

Your planet, Gradius, is under attack by the evil race of Bacterions. To save them you're launched in a prototype space ship, the Warp Rattler. To defeat them you need to reach their superfortress, Xaerous, and destroy it. The journey to Xaerous is a difficult one, traveling through Bacterions filled satellite and amoeba-like organism.

It's the same old song for shooters, carefully flying through countless enemies while destroying them and wrecking havoc to their world domination plans. It's nothing you haven't seen and it still has the fast-paced action everyone wants. But the difference in this game is the upgrade system. During the course of each stage, some neutral patrol craft will fly towards you and when they are destroyed a power up will appear. There are a few enemies here and there that will also drop a power-up. These power-up won't do anything to your ship immediately however, you can choose how to use those power ups. For example, if you have 1 power-up you can use it to increase the speed power of your ship; if you have two power-ups you can make your ship shoot missiles. There's a lot more upgrades like the double beam cannon, laser beam, option and a shield. To use the upgrade system efficiently there will be a bit of strategy involved.

The way the boss fights are organized is quite original. Each stage has their own boss battle, plus after the fight a Xaerous big core fighter ambushes you. Even though the Xaerous fighters are identical, they get harder and more aggressive.

One thing that's strange is the shooting button, most shooting games have the B button set to shoot, but in Gradius it's the A button. The B button is used to activate the power-up system. Other than that the controls are as good as the other shooters, there's no real flaw with them. If you use a lot of speed up power-ups, be careful because the ship goes fast with minimal speed ups.

We all know most of the space is empty but, in a game, a space like that gets boring. Most of the time you will only see one background, it's a black background with a few stars. The rest of the graphics are beautifully done. All the different enemy ships look really futuristic and the animations on those ships are incredibly fluid. Each level is designed to look different from each another. There's one stage that is filled with the Moai statues, they act as base for powerful ion guns. The interior of the superfortress looks really like a complex base of operation. Those are a few examples of the stages created with good graphics this game can offer. There is a few times where a surplus of actions is happening on screen that will cause slowdown. The slowdowns are noticeable and quite distracting; thankfully they only happen at one place in specific.

This is one game that does the music right. There's a different theme for each level, you won't get tired of a song because it's playing. Most of the songs have incredible catchy melody, and they are all fasted-paced to match the action on the screen. While most of the music is excellent there are a few themes that aren't up to the same level as the others themes.

The sound effects are mostly a combination of good and bad. The one that really stand out at sounding good is the ship blowing up. It's not fun when it happens but the sound really suggests the message that you lost one of your ships. There is a few other great sounding sound effects, and a few bad ones, but nothing to make this game worse or better.

This is one of the most difficult, challenging and demanding game there is. After you use up all your ships, you need to start back from the first stage, there are no continues to help you through the already challenging game. When you lose your ship, you start the stage without any power-ups you had before. To go far enough, you will need to memorize a lot of the enemies and the locations of the power-ups.

Lasting Value
With the exceptional challenge it offers, it can last quite a long time. In all there are seven stages, each one gets more difficult than the previous. Any shooter fan will be able to play this game over and over without any trouble. Plus there are a few secret warps that can take some time to find.

Gradius is a no-brainer for any shooter fans. It's all you need in a shooter plus a new engaging power-up system. Even though it might turn off some people who aren't familiar with this kind of game, they should play it if they have the chance.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/10/07

Game Release: Gradius (US, 12/31/86)

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