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Gradius ReBirth (Wii) artwork

Gradius ReBirth (Wii) review

"Gradius ReBirth, the first game in the ReBirth line that's currently exclusive as WiiWare downloads, also happens to be the console follow-up to Gradius V. However, if you're expecting 3D, flashy graphics like its 2004 predecessor, then you will be disappointed, as the title imposes a retro, 16-bit visual presentation."

Gradius ReBirth, the first game in the ReBirth line that's currently exclusive as WiiWare downloads, also happens to be the console follow-up to Gradius V. However, if you're expecting 3D, flashy graphics like its 2004 predecessor, then you will be disappointed, as the title imposes a retro, 16-bit visual presentation. The nostalgia doesn't end there, as various tunes from past games pop up everywhere, most notables being from Gradius and Gradius II. The play mechanics have stayed virtually the same, as well, so it'll be easy jumping into it like an old pair of shoes: pick from a selection of power-up bars with varying abilities, attack enemy formations for upgrades, destroy turrets galore, watch for baddies walking on ceilings, and curse up a storm when your Vic Viper is destroyed and tossed back to a checkpoint. In short, this is a standard Gradius game.

But now for the 1000 Wii points question: is it a good Gradius game? The best way I can describe Gradius ReBirth is that it's a competent title. With only five main stages to work with, the development team just decided to do the basics, mixed in with some neat ideas and boss encounters. If you've played some Gradius titles before, then I absolutely guarantee you'll recognize these four stages: a cave, an organic tunnel, moai islands, and a fortress. The only thing separating some of these stages from their previous incarnations are a scant few moments that are either new or rarely used. The cave level has one of the better gimmicks, where it inserts generators of differing colors at its entrance. Shoot the white generator, and you'll have to deal with erupting volcanoes throughout, but hit the red one, and the cave freezes, plus an alternative sub-boss. Other stages pit you against moai heads rotating on tiny space rocks, and electric fields that change length and positions while you avoid bullets from bipedal robots.

My favorite stage, though, is the fourth, taking place inside a desert cave littered with dead, skeletal beasts. This is a remake of a stage from one of the Nemesis titles, which were originally released on the MSX and Game Boy. When you enter, everything appears normal... until you start firing your upgraded ship. Bones start flying everywhere, to a point where you can't dodge any and get destroyed. You then realize what's happening: the weapons that fire into the ground and ceiling are breaking pieces off the skeletons! In a nice twist, this level actually punishes you for button mashing with the beefy Vic Viper. Make it out of that section, though, and you'll have to face and dodge monsters diving in and out of the sand in various patterns and locations.

Other than that standout level, the boss fights are the main highlights of Gradius ReBirth. The third and fifth stages house some of my favorites; the one in the third pits you with moai heads that come out of nowhere and whirl around your ship, firing circle projectiles in unison until a set time has passed. Once that's done, you encounter the main boss, which traps your ship inside an area blocked with scary, green-faced statues, another Nemesis nod. The big challenge of this fight is having to attack a giant red orb that bounces around the screen and dispense electric bolts, and you got to dodge and hit this while moai heads materialize. The other boss in stage 5 is a rotating wall with orbs inside, protected by shields. It's difficult, but you must shoot these things as the wall spins rapidly while bullets are tossed around. After every few seconds, however, the wall stops... and rushes you! Hope you're lined up with one encasement, since that's the only way to survive the crunch. It's a good thing there's no timer that restarts the game when it hits zero...

There's one more thing I should mention about the boss encounters: they have unforgiving checkpoints. Get hit by one, and you'll be sent a good ways back, normally before the sub-boss! If this were to happen in certain Gradius titles, it would've been irritating as all hell, but Gradius ReBirth's difficulty curve hits that Gradius 1 sweet spot, making it so that it only heightens the tension. The developers saved the brutality for the second loop, thankfully.

The biggest gripe I have with this release, however, is it feels like the development team didn't make much use of the source material. Gradius ReBirth is basically a Nemesis game, borrowing elements from its predecessors, from the plot taking place before Nemesis 2 to the aforementioned desert stage, with some other aspects making brief appearances elsewhere. And that's the problem... there's only a select few, brief aspects grabbed, when the Nemesis titles had quite a bit of variation that could've been retooled for this "rebirth". These MSX games featured stages where you could destroy pillars to make room, small space islands that had their own gravitational pull, Core ships you had to venture inside to capture orbs, and even a moment where you had to charge up and fire a ginormous laser beam to destroy a dead end! Hell, the second Game Boy release even had chase sequences!

This is why I find it amusing that a certain information website states Gradius ReBirth as being a heavy remake of the MSX titles. You're joking, right? The person in question probably never played or compared. For this to be considered a heavy remake, it'd have to be at least 14 stages long, half which are repeated stages in reverse order and/or forced back to specific levels for items, feature a plethora of structure variation, and an absurd number of silly Core boss designs. I don't hate Gradius ReBirth for what it is, because it really is a competent Gradius Wii title for $10 (there's even an online ranking mode, if you're into that stuff), but I am disappointed in the missed opportunity.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (September 11, 2011)

Total Recall NES was actually a birthday present I got a few weeks back. Yup, this is how I start 2020.


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Masters posted September 12, 2011:

Nice review, dude. The first paragraph is an especially nice opening.

I remember liking the GameBoy Nemesis titles better than the NES Gradius games. What are the other ReBirth games? Castlevania and what else?

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pickhut posted September 12, 2011:

The other is Contra ReBirth, which I wanted to play for some time now. Some clips I've seen make it look much more enjoyable than the recent Hard Corps: Uprising.

And thanks, glad you liked the review, Masters.

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