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Gradius III (SNES) artwork

Gradius III (SNES) review


"An aspect commonly overlooked in classic gaming is how solitary the experience is. Like lonely teenagers in a basement, the heroes of Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog work in complete isolation. While they may be working to save the world, there is little representation of this in their respective games. Outside of fun, the only reward for playing is rescuing pixelated princesses and fuzzy animals. These games rely solely on the strength of their gameplay to attract ..."



An aspect commonly overlooked in classic gaming is how solitary the experience is. Like lonely teenagers in a basement, the heroes of Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog work in complete isolation. While they may be working to save the world, there is little representation of this in their respective games. Outside of fun, the only reward for playing is rescuing pixelated princesses and fuzzy animals. These games rely solely on the strength of their gameplay to attract potential players, as opposed to later games with rich plots full of intriguing characters.

In a way, you could say these games are the one-night-stands of video gaming. They don't require the long-term emotional or creative investment a role playing game like Final Fantasy craves. Relief comes immediately, and you can whip them out the next night for the same thing, like the drunk sorority sister of the night at the local bar.

However, Gradius III is all sex and no foreplay, dumping you right into combat without any sort of explanation. There is no buildup, no anticipation, no furtive glances across the bar. But Gradius III ain't Super Mario Brothers, and the sex is more akin to desperate groping and grinding with a hooker when your body is flowing with tequila as opposed to blood. Skipping foreplay can be fun, but the more you look solely for thrill the more often you end up with the mechanical VD-infested barmaid as opposed to the and hammered sorority sister.

Gradius III is the barmaid. Oh sure, it has enough of a glossy surface to lure you into the bed; she doesn't have any kids, she's cute enough and that tongue stud has a hidden meaning. You can pick from five varieties of each ship accessory, allowing for customization not seen in most NES-era shooters. Two-way missiles, ripple lasers, and complete ship forcefields are all neat additions that make it different on the surface, like a cute mole on the cheek or a larger cup-size.

But on closer examination, these alluring features are dwarfed by the debilitating viruses coursing throughout the rest of the body. The huge cold sore of Gradius III is the energy laser, which demolishes everything it touches. Charge it for a few seconds, let loose and watch the carnage. It is ridiculously overpowered as compared to the game's other weapons, and completely wrecks the balance of Gradius III. To ensure a challenging playthrough, you have to resign yourself to using other weapons, which defeats the point of being able to chose your arsenal.

On second thought though, you might want to play Gradius III blindfolded or by using the Force to ensure a challenging playthrough. Is it better with the lights on to ensure quality in what you're doing, or with the lights off so you don't have to look at the ugly hag on your bed?

Enemy fighters apparently lack any sort of intelligent thought and fly straight at you in easily destroyed lines, meekly firing little pellets at you if they feel like it; consider them the band geeks of Gradius III. The ground units are also worthless, firing the same small pellets and dying the second a missile hits them. The only consistent threat comes from the environmental enemies in certain stages: enormous screen-filling bubbles, volcanic rocks and overgrown bushy vegetation can appear seemingly from nowhere and often take more than one shot to kill. Even the gigantic enemy ship serving as each stage's boss are easy to fell and attack in methodical, unchanging patterns.

The final strike against Gradius III is the worst sin a shooter can make – slowdown. The entire notion of a shooter is predicated on fast and furious action requiring quick reflexes and a happy trigger finger. But because of poor level design, the combined activity of enemy fighters and your own ship can render Gradius III into super slow motion before jerking you back to full speed as things are destroyed. If you're looking for something hot, steamy and passionate, you don't want the hassle of slowing down for a diaphragm adjustment or an interrupting call from the babysitter. “Herky-jerky” is a phrase that shouldn't apply to a shooter or fine lovemaking.

So, just forget about the other details, such as small but precise graphical models for an early generation Super Nintendo game and lifeless, boring sound effects. If you take a turn with Gradius III, realize you're going to get the same tired barmaid that everyone else has had a taste of too. Only succumb to Gradius III if the desperation (or addiction) to shooters is too hard to fight. Other games such as R-Type III and D-Force are a better bet for a quick fling, and might actually leave you with a smile on your face as opposed to the sigh of Gradius III.

Rating: 3/10

sgreenwell's avatar
Community review by sgreenwell (September 03, 2005)

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