Saturday 26 January 2013

Gradius - Sharp X68000 - 1987

Okay, I think I've mentioned on here before that I wasn't going to feature little known systems or machines not released in the UK. So, ahem, here we have the obscure Japan-only Sharp X68000 from 1987.  As it's name suggests it is a computer powered by the then ubiquitous Motorola 68000 16-bit CPU.  I remember it appeared in a magazine article back in the day and it kind of stuck in my mind because of the striking 'twin-tower' styling.  What I didn't remember were it's cracking arcade conversions.  I was reminded of it again last year when it appeared in an issue of Retro Gamer.  Up until now I was in two minds whether or not to feature it, so this game is not in my usual alphabetical order but what the hell.....

As I described Gradius on the NES in my 1986 games I won't go into the plot or gameplay again.  Suffice to say it is a excellent conversion and much closer to the original arcade machine than the NES could manage.

Firstly, the graphics are a big improvement over the NES conversion.  Due to the superior hardware, the overall look of the game is much smoother and more detailed.  The enemies are more numerous and varied in their attack patterns.  It also contains items missing in the NES version (such as the lasers on the 'floating rock' on the first stage) and gone is the limit of just two 'options'. Additionally, the end of level bosses are much smaller and not as impressive on the NES.

Comparing the first level boss for the NES (left) and X68000 (right)
Secondly, the audio is much better on the Sharp.  Although the laser is a bit weedy, on the whole the music and sound effects are of a much higher quality.

Does all this mean the Gradius on the X68000 is the definitive version so far? Not quite. Even though I managed to get through most of the second stage on my second attempt, the overall difficulty level is several notches higher than the NES Gradius.  My main issue also remains - you don't get any power-ups to pick up after you lose a life (the arcade original is much more forgiving in this respect).  After playing this for nearly two weeks, I still can't get past the end of the second stage - after the boss there are enemy ships seemingly appearing at random and shooting off in seemingly random directions making them impossible to avoid (for me at least).  As it stands Gradius on the NES is an excellent game in it's own right and still deserves a place on the blog but, if you can put up with the difficulty, the X68k release beats it in all areas.

As much as I tried I couldn't make it past the second level.


  1. "Motorola 68000 16-bit CPU" isn't that the Genesis' processor as well?

  2. It was also used in the Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, several arcade machines and the Sega Saturn (as a sound processor).

  3. Nice choice! The PC Engine version was the one I spent most time on but this one is splendid as well :)

    1. I haven't played the PC Engine version yet. I would normally lump the same games together, but as it wasn't released until 1991 it'll get it's own entry.

  4. It's a great version too. Suffers from a bit of slowdown but apart from that it rules! It has my favourite version of the music and even has a whole new level! Let me know what you think of it :)

  5. You can use a cheat code (X68000) after losing last life: