Unlike the first Game Boy installment, Gradius: The Interstellar Assault is a completely original game. If anything, the developers took things one step further and removed some the aspects that the series is known for. For instance, there are no more navigation segments at the start of each level, and most of the bosses are very different from the usual “shoot the core” enemies, although there are a couple of them.
The first level actually begins with a chase scene, as the Vic Viper is being followed by a gigantic battleship through an asteroid field. You end up losing your pursuer in some caverns, but then you get captured and need to fight your way to freedom through the ship’s interior. Once you escape, you fly down to the surface of a planet and mount a final assault on the bad guys. It’s a short game again, with only five stages, but it’s cool to see some continuity between the areas.
The weapon selection lets you individually pick among different Missile, Double, and Laser selections, with three available in each category. The graphics are a step up from the first Game Boy game, and the music is pretty catchy, too. The controls feel a bit unresponsive, and the ship still doesn’t animate when moving, so it’s still not on the level of the grown-up Gradius games, but it’s still unique enough to warrant a look. This can also be found on the Konami Game Boy Collection Vol. 3 in Japan and Vol. 4 in Europe.