After the trials and tribulations of Final Fantasy II it was good to have a bit light relief playing some scrolling shoot 'em ups from my shortlist. Of the four or five I sampled from F-G, Gradius II alone made it on the blog. It was a Japan-only release and came out on the Famicom at the tail end of 1988.
Obviously a sequel to Gradius, it's once again just you and your trusty Vic Viper protecting the planet Gradius from the evil Bacterians.
|One of my rare forays into level 3. It's very reminiscent of level 1 in Gradius.|
I don't recall playing the arcade version of Gradius II (titled Vulcan Venture in Europe) so I'm not able to see how it compares, but it is a good game in its own right. Game play is much the same as Gradius so I won't go into any detail here. The music and sound effects are great for the NES and there is even some speech when selecting a power up. The graphics are impressive with some big sprites, but they can flicker quite badly when the action hots up.
|Big, bold graphics are the order of the day.|
The main difference you'll notice when starting the game is that you now have a choice of power up meters. The original is there along with three others featuring different weapon configurations. All four meters contain the 'speed up', 'option' and 'force field' choices. Additionally, when playing the game you can now have a full compliment of four 'options' rather than the two you were limited to on the NES version of Gradius. If you select 'option' again when you have all four they start rotating around your ship.
|Your choice of power up meters. I stick with the classic one.|
My main criticism of the original game was the harsh difficulty level. Here at has been turned up several notches and for me it's a struggle just to get past the first stage. Despite much gnashing of teeth, Gradius II has enough going for it to get onto the blog. I just need a lot more practice....
|The bosses are quite impressive in this game. I found the first level boss on the left harder to take down than the skull on the second level.|