Friday, 14 September 2012

Gradius - NES - 1986

My first taste of Gradius was a rather dodgy conversion on the Sinclair Spectrum under the alternative name of NemesisDespite this I have since become a long time fan of the series from the arcade original to Gradius V on the PS2.  Konami have made a good fist of converting the arcade game to the NES, although there is one major issue which I will pick up on later.

Gradius is a horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up.  The game involves you controlling a ship called the Vic Viper and you have destroy the evil Bacterians who have taken over the planet Gradius.  What made the game unique at the time was the Power Meter. Power-ups are dropped when destroying certain formations or certain individual enemies. Each power-up collected highlights the next upgrade on the meter allowing the player to choose which upgrades are fitted to the ship and in what order.  Power-ups range from Speed Up to the mysterious '?' (or shield to you and me).  The power-up most associated with Gradius is the 'Option' which is an orb that follows your ship around replicating its firepower. Up to two 'Options' can be carried in this version of the game.

Gradius is played over several stages, each stage ending in a rather weak boss with a predictable firing pattern.  However, preceding each boss the scrolling stops and you are bombarded by attacks from all sides - projectiles from a couple of volcanoes on the first level and a mass of kamikaze enemies on the second.
The infamous volcanoes.  If there's a safe spot I haven't found it.

The sound is good, as are the graphics though they do flicker slightly in places.  My one major gripe is with the punishing difficulty level.  When you lose a life you lose all your weapon upgrades.  On the original arcade game you are guaranteed to get a few power-ups in front of you to get you started again.  On the NES you are lucky if Speed Up is highlighted on the Power Meter.  With my skill level the next two lives are normally lost in very quick succession and then it's game over.  Overall though, Gradius on the NES is still very good game in it's own right and I am enjoying the challenge.

Moai heads regularly appear throughout the series.


  1. This one was a tough game, and I always liked the follow-up Lifeforce better personally, but Gradius was still a lot of fun

    1. Hi Chalgyr. Life Force is known as Salamander over here. Even though it's a spin-off it never quite grabbed me as much as the Gradius series. It'll be good to reacquaint myself with it later in the blog as I've not played it for years.

  2. Due to the improbability of performing it, I feel obliged to post a link to the TAS

    I hope you enjoy.

    1. Now that's someone who has super human reflexes and too much time on their hands.