Review by horror_spooky
Unremarkable NES shoot 'em up
Gradius is a side-scrolling shoot 'em up. And that's really all you need to know about it to know exactly what it is from start to finish. Players control a spaceship, they shoot enemies, and try to avoid enemy fire as well as other obstacles in the environment. I wish that there was more to say about the game, but there really, truly isn't.
Because of this, Gradius is about as unremarkable as it gets. If you've played any side-scrolling shoot 'em up, then you basically have played Gradius. The game may fill a void on the NES, as the genre wasn't greatly represented on the machine, but there are shoot 'em ups that are much better designed, most notably 1942 and 1943 from Capcom.
Really the only thing that Gradius does to set itself apart from other shoot 'em ups is the power-up system. Whereas most shoot 'em ups let you collect different icons that add unique add-ons to your ship, Gradius has a single power-up. However, by collecting the power-up, players cycle through different abilities. This does add a bit of strategy to the proceedings, where players may want to actually avoid power-ups to deal with different enemy types.
One of the better aspects of Gradius is the game's boss fights. The game is plenty challenging when it's just the regular enemies, but the boss fights do add an extra layer of difficulty. Conquering the boss battles in Gradius is satisfying, but they are few and far between. It also doesn't help that the game is incredibly short.
For a skilled player, Gradius can be completed in under two hours easily. That's pretty typical for games of the era. It's still disappointing though, and one can help but feel that there just isn't enough content in Gradius to feel like a full-fledged game.
It also doesn't help that its graphics and sound are as unremarkable as its gameplay. It has generic sci-fi graphics and generic sci-fi music. If you've played any sci-fi shooters on the NES, then Gradius will be pretty dull from a presentation standpoint, to be perfectly honest.
At the end of the day, Gradius is a standard shoot 'em up that does very little to differentiate itself from the pack. There are far better shoot 'em ups available on the NES, and it's hard to recommend that players seek out Gradius over them. A fan of the genre is much better off spending time playing one of the other shoot 'em up titles on the NES.
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Product Release: Gradius (US, 12/31/86)
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