Friday, February 1, 2008

Retro Review: Gradius

Lets keep it going old school for awhile, the next review is one of my favorite space shooters of all time, Gradius! Introduced around 1985 by Konami, Gradius became one of their most popular franchises in the eighties. The first game had you piloting the Vic Viper in a battle against the evil Bacterions....yeah yeah it sounds really corny but back then you didn't need a script and Hollywood voice actors to make a great game all you needed was great game play a unique soundtrack.
Gradius offered six power ups via red orbs attained by shooting certain enemy vessels or a squadron of Bacterion fighters.
  1. Speed up: Increase the velocity of the Vic Viper
  2. Missile: Vic Viper drops missiles that fall to the ground and travel until they reach a target
  3. Double: Shoots two shots diagonally forward
  4. Laser: Duh
  5. Option: Gives you up to three orbs that follow you and shoot when you shoot
  6. ? : A powerful blast that would clear the screen of all enemies.
You couldn't have all six power ups at the same time so there was a hint of customization. The levels were very unique and each challenged more than the last as squads of Bacterion ships zipped past in formation and ground troops would spray the air with shots, players needed strong hand eye coordination. Gradius had very well drawn and animated sprites and the bosses for each level were large and formidable, defeating them took time and patience as you needed to shoot thru multiple defense barriers to reach it's core, when the core turned red victory was imminent.
Konami's Gradius was so successful in Japan and the US that the series had many sequels over the years and has spawned a cultish fan base. ^ ^ v v < > < > B A

The following score is based on my memory of the game and is compared to games of that period.