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Gradius (NES) artwork

Gradius (NES) review

"Gradius upped the bar for shooters, past the Space Invaders days. "

Gradius is one of the pioneers of the side scrolling shooting genre. It combines the standard shooting seen in a much simpler game like Galaga with interactive backgrounds, scenery, and interchangable equipment. It upped the bar for shooters, past the Space Invaders days.

In Gradius, you're out to save the world! Hurrah! It's the traditional one pilot against the world type of thing. You know, the kind of thing that happens each and every day to all of us. The story plays absolutely no role in Gradius, therefore, let's never speak of it again.

Action is what Gradius is all about. Enemy ships and aliens fly fast and furious right at you, and it's your job either to shoot them down or dodge them. Your ship is pretty fragile; one hit kills you, and you only get three lives without cheating.

However, what your ship lacks in defense, it makes up with in offense. By using powerups left behind by enemy ships, your ship can be equipped with a wide array of options. An extra cannon, extra speed, missles, lasers, all are different things that may be added on. If you lose a ship, you lose all of your equipment though, so conserving lives is vital.

Most of the challenge in Gradius is derived simply from dodging attacks and various land effects from the backgrounds. The actual enemies go down in one or two shots, excluding bosses. Gradius is a game which requires quick reflexes, and the ability to memorize attack patterns.

If you play Gradius, expect to come down with a series case of arthritis in your thumb. It requires almost constant jamming to shoot down all the enemies that pop on to the screen. A turbo controller helps immensely, as does the infamous ''Konami Code'' cheat which gives you a bunch of extra lives at the beginning of the game. However, Gradius still is beatable, even without using these.

Graphically, Gradius' one main flaw is slowdown. There's often so many objects on the screen flying in so many different directions that the game has a tendency to slow down substantially while the NES' processor works the data. This can throw timing off a little bit.

Excluding this flaw, which is seen in a lot of early Nintendo games, Gradius has excellent graphics, all things considered. They won't impress anyone now, but the enemy design is good, especially on the bosses. Gradius was one of the first games to feature huge bosses that took up roughly half of the screen.

Musically, Gradius has a few catchy little ditties throughout, and they're not about Jack and Diane. *rimshot* They manage to stick in your head, despite their cheerful optimistic sound; kinda weird if you ask me, since you're the only ship on a mission to save the world...

Overall, Gradius is an outstanding precursor to the later shooters seen on the NES and SNES, such as Life Force and Super R-Type. It deserves at least a casual play from every hardcore gamer, and even those who aren't. Despite its age, it still offers a fun shooting romp.

sgreenwell's avatar
Community review by sgreenwell (Date unavailable)

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