<div class=header> <div class=headerrow> <div class=headercell> <div class=headerlogo> <p class=image><a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net" target="_parent"><img src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/logo/hg101logo.png" alt="Logo by MP83"></a></p> </div> <div class=headerad> <script type="text/javascript"><!-- google_ad_client = "pub-5230184257141993"; /* HG101 */ google_ad_slot = "4961941287"; google_ad_width = 728; google_ad_height = 90; //--> </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> </script> </div> </div> </div> <div class=headerrow> <div class=headercell> <div class=headermenu> <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/alpha.htm" target="_parent">Articles</a> | <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/features.htm" target="_parent">Features</a> | <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/books.htm" target="_parent">Books</a> | <a href="http://blog.hardcoregaming101.net" target="_parent">Blog</a> | <a href="http://hg101.proboards.com/" target="_parent">Forums</a> | <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/about.htm" target="_parent">About</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hardcore-Gaming-101/109837535712670" target="_blank"><img alt=" " src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/facebook.png"></a>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/HG_101" target="_blank"><img alt=" " src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/twitter.png"></a>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://ask.fm/hg_101" target="_blank"><img alt=" " src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/askfm.png"></a>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.patreon.com/hg101" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/supportsmalla.png"></a> </div> <div class=searchbox> <form action="http://www.google.com/cse" id="cse-search-box" target="_parent"> <div> <input type="hidden" name="cx" value="partner-pub-5230184257141993:xfg3mydy24k"> <input type="hidden" name="ie" value="ISO-8859-1"> <input type="text" name="q" size="30"> <input type="submit" name="sa" value="Search"> </div> </form> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.google.com/coop/cse/brand?form=cse-search-box&amp;lang=en"></script> </div> </div> </div> </div>

<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Gradius
Gradius 2 MSX

Page 2:
Gradius II
Gofer no Yabou II

Page 3:
Gradius III
Gradius Gaiden

Page 4:
Gradius IV
Gradius V
Gradius Rebirth

Page 5:
Salamander / Life Force
Salamander 2

Page 6:
Portable Games

Page 7:
Solar Assault
Cosmic Wars
Other

Back to the Index


Gradius IV: Fukkatsu (グラディウスIV復活) - Arcade, PlayStation 2, PSP (1999)

Japanese Gradius 3 & 4 Cover

Japanese Gradius Portable Cover

European Gradius Collection Cover

The subtitle of Gradius IV, Fukkatsu, means "resurrection." It signaled the return of Gradius to the arcades, seeing that ten years had passed since Gradius III. With the enhanced game technology came higher resolution graphics and polygonal environments... but unfortunately, not much else. Gradius IV is barely a new game, to the point where it feels like a "best of" remake of earlier Gradius episodes, just with better graphics. Gradius III suffered from the same issue to an extent, but it's even worse here. The first stage is like the fire sphere level from Gradius II, except the suns and dragons are made of a shiny, metallic substance - it looks pretty cool, but it's a bit too familiar. The second stage is a plant level, like those in in Gradius III and Gaiden. The third stage is a combination of the crystal stage from Gradius II and the bubble stage from Gradius III. The fourth stage is another volcano zone, and one of the few areas where it actually uses the extra horsepower to do something interesting - the lava flows in waves, with small islands bobbing up and down fiercely, creating the kind of claustrophobic terror that Gradius is known for.

The fifth level is yet another moai stage, the sixth is yet another biological stage, and the seventh is yet another speed up zone. The only real catch of the final stage is that, at one point, the whole level rotates ninety degrees, and then scroll scrolls vertically while the Vic Viper is still oriented horizontally. The only real area where Gradius IV shows any innovation are the boss battles, which are just as inventive as the brilliant ones in Gradius Gaiden. However, since this was designed for the arcades, it also heralds the return of the maddening difficulty of the earlier Gradius games. It's not as obnoxious as Gradius III, but it's about the same level as Gradius II.

The two-player mode from Gradius Gaiden is gone. So, too, are any of the weapon edit modes, and most of the configurations from the previous games. There are a few new weapons, like the Armor Piercing Gun, and the Flying Torpedo, but it's still severely lacking. And even though the graphics are technically better, they still lack a lot of the beautiful detail that made Gradius Gaiden so gorgeous. The music is a throwback to the peppy synth from the earlier games, and the result is mixed - there's some good tracks, but again, it's such a downgrade compared to Gaiden. Since it feels like such a redux, with very little added to the formula, Gradius IV just seems redundant, and really only worth investigating for hardcore fans.

Gradius IV was initially released in Japanese arcades, and eventually made it onto the PlayStation 2 with the Gradius III & IV compilation. It lacks the cool checkpoint system from the PS2 Gradius III, which allowed you to restart at any point in any level you had already cleared, although a Boss Rush and Level Select is opened when you beat the game. The version on the PSP Gradius Collection allows you to save the game at any time to restart at the last checkpoint.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Producer:

  • Hiroyasu Machiguchi

Director:

  • Hiroyuki Ashida

Genre:

Themes:


Gradius IV (Arcade)

Gradius IV (Arcade)

Gradius IV (Arcade)


Additional Screenshots


Gradius V (グラディウスV) - PlayStation 2 (2004)

Japanese Cover

American Cover

European Cover

After the slightly disappointing Gradius IV, the series needed a bit of a shake-up. For that, Konami brought in veteran awesome game developers Treasure to design Gradius V. On the surface, it looks and feel like the earlier entries, but there are numerous changes that drastically alter the way the game is played.

The game is still played on a 2D plane, of course, but all of the graphics are 3D, thanks in part to a graphics engine provided by G.Rev, the developer behind Border Down, Under Defeat and Senko no Ronde. Gradius IV used polygonal graphics very sparsely, but they're put to much greater use here, with dizzying backgrounds and fantastically designed bosses. The graphic style is actually a lot like Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga, two of Treasure's previous shooters (and not coincidentally, two of the best shooters ever made). It has a hazy feel to it, consisting mostly of metallic browns and greys. Some of it looks absolutely fantastic, especially the army of pulsing Zelos cores floating above planet Gradius, but many of the stages lack the personality that the Gradius games are known for. For the most part, the "themed" stages are gone. There's a biological level, much like in the previous games, but that's about it. Even the moais are completely missing. Compared to the previous Gradius titles, the stages are actually on the long side. This makes for a pretty long game, with a complete playthrough taking about forty five minutes.

The first level is a space station in orbit around Earth, and the second stage already ends with a boss rush - relatively early for a Gradius game. The fifth level takes place in an asteroid field - usually a cliche in shooters, but the screen is absolutely littered with rocks flying all over the place, tossing them around without even a hint of slowdown. The sixth stage rotates back and forth as you fly forward, with drains spilling green gas all over the landscape. This is definitely the most impressive effect, as well as the coolest level, in the game. The seventh stage is your usual final base level. But what's really cool about Gradius V is the time loop.

The second level begins with the opening of a wormhole. Two vessels fly around - a gigantic battleship, and another ship that appears to be exactly like the Vic Viper. The other Vic Viper pilot instructs you to help him take down his target, so the two of you split up and take different routes through the level - he takes the top and you take the bottom. At the end, you help him open the final door to a huge monstrosity, then escape as the battleship blows up behind you.

The game continues up until the eighth stage, where you encounter something strange - the same battleship that you conquered earlier in the game! However, it requires that to be attacked from two different angles, and your single ship just isn't up to the task. You solve this problem by transporting both yourself and the enemy vessel back in time. It's here that the circle completes and you meet your past self from the second stage - except this time, you fly through the top route. And this time, you get to destroy the boss, finally completing the game.

The music is also a big departure for the series. It's composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, who's usually known for tense orchestral scores like in Final Fantasy Tactics and Radiant Silvergun. Some of this style shows through here, especially with the pounding drums, but most of the music is dark electronica. It tends to lack any strong melody, but it has a catchy beat.

When the game first begins, the weapon selection seems a bit limited - just four configurations, with drastically limited power-ups. Once you beat the game, you unlock a variety of weapons, including the classic Ripple Laser, the Spread Bomb, the E-Laser from Gradius III and the return of the Fire Blaster from the MSX Gradius 2. A new feature of Gradius V is the Option control. By holding down the R1 button, you can command your Options to do different things. The Freeze command will keep them in place, allowing you to focus your firepower. The Spacing command will make them spread vertically, allowing you to widen or tighten your attacks. The Rotate command tells them to spin around ship.

But by far the coolest is the Direction command. When you hold down the R1 button, you'll freeze the movement of your ship, but can aim your weapons in any direction. It's remarkably cool to fire your lasers and whip them around the screen with the analog stocks, creating a huge wave of destruction. As awesome as this is, it kind of ruins one of the fundamental principles of Gradius - the game has always challenged you to balance power and versatility, and the limited range of your ship's firepower is largely what has always given the series such a claustrophobic feeling. In Gradius V, there's no need for a Double and barely any need for missiles - all you need to do is aim your options and shoot. You can fire around any corner and hit practically anything on the screen. It makes for a remarkably different game - but it's certainly not bad. If anything, it keeps the experience from getting too stale.

Despite this power, Gradius V is still far from easy. The hitbox of the Vic Viper has been reduced, but Treasure sticks a lot more projectiles on the screen at once, especially in the aforementioned asteroid stage. To compensate for this, it nabs a few aspects from Salamander - most notably, the auto-resurrection option is turned on by default. You can enable the checkpoint system if you want, but the difficulty is so brutal - even on the easiest mode - that it's not really balanced for it unless you're really a Gradius pro. It also allows you to regain options after you've been killed. There's also the return of the two-player mode, although both players have to share the Options between them. You also only have three credits at the beginning of the game. With each hour of play, you'll get an extra credit, so if you keep at it long enough, eventually you'll be able to get through it.

The changes in Gradius V mark a positive evolution for the series. Gradius Gaiden is perhaps the better title when it comes to stage design, but the Option controls make this one notably unique, and definitely one of the best shooters on the PS2.

The Japanese version came with a booklet detailing the evolution of the Vic Viper, complete with notes and drawings. Certain editions also came with a bonus DVD with videos and various other promo stuff. This was included in extremely limited quantities in the US as a pre-order bonus, dubbed the "Gradius Breakdown" DVD.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Director:

  • Hiroshi Iuchi
    Atsutomo Nakagawa

Genre:

Themes:


Gradius V (PlayStation 2)

Gradius V (PlayStation 2)

Gradius V (PlayStation 2)

Gradius V (PlayStation 2)

Gradius V (PlayStation 2)

Gradius V (PlayStation 2)


Additional Screenshots


Gradius Rebirth - Wii (2009)

Title Screen

Gradius Rebirth - released as a WiiWare title in 2008 - is somewhat of an inappropriate name. One might be tempted to call it "Gradius Rehash," since much of it is based off of recycled elements from previous games, even moreso than is usual for the Rebirth line. Plus, Gradius IV was already subtitled "Fukkatsu", which basically means the same thing.

At least that had the updated graphics going for it. Gradius Rebirth is designed to look and sound like a late 80s or early 90s Konami arcade title, circa Gradius II. This sort of retro styled design worked for Mega Man 9, since most classic fans agree the series peaked around the second or third NES game. On the other hand, most people consider Gradius Gaiden the pinnacle of the series (at least, in the classical sense, not considering the direction that Gradius V took). The opportunity to make an "old" game might come off as a bit cheap.

And yes, on some stages it feels a bit uninspired, although it occasionally puts some twists on them. There's another replica of the first level of Gradius, except you can destroy a control panel which either turns the scenery snow white or sets it ablaze with fire. It's not nearly as cool as the black hole from Gradius Gaiden, but it's neat. There's another biological level a la Life Force, a Moai stage, a desert level (with black platforms seemingly ripped from the HR Giger-inspired level of Gradius II), and the requisite final mechanical base stage. These are all loosely based on the levels from the first Game Boy game. Its biggest flaw is that it's only five stages long - the game ends right as it's picking up its groove, although perhaps one can't expect too much for a low-priced downloadable game. At least there are a handful of brief hidden stages, as well as multiple endings, and the levels actually change after each loop.

But for all of the complaints regarding its lack of innovation, Gradius Rebirth is still an extremely well designed game. It manages to provide a better difficulty balance than any of the original arcade games, especially on the lower difficulty levels, where extra power orbs are provided after respawning. In the regular arcade mode, you're allowed infinite credits and can restart the game any time at any checkpoint, much like the PS2 ports of Gradius III and IV and Gradius Galaxies. There's also a Score Attack mode which challenges you to beat the whole game in one sitting.

There are a few clever areas too, particularly the area before the second level boss. You need to shoot your way through some vines, but at the same time, you're chased by little pink blobs. If you weave through the vines properly, they'll get stuck, protecting you from harm. The kicker is, each one of these blobs will give you a power orb - and you're being chased by over a dozen of them at any time. If you're fast enough to dive through the vines, wait until they catch the orbs, then double back to destroy them, you can get yourself fully powered up in no time.

But perhaps best of all, Gradius Rebirth is a huge love letter to fans of the MSX games. It makes the return of pilot James Burton and the green-faced Bacterion emperor, which were only seen in the computer titles. The Vic Viper's computer even looks a bit like the old Metal Gear Mk.2 from Snatcher, as an extra bit of Konami fan service. Nearly all of the music is taken from the MSX games, rearranged to use the same instrumentation as Gradius II and III. A few other songs are taken from the Famicom version of Gradius II and even the second Game Boy game. All of the music is composed by Manabu Namiki, the composer of many Cave games and essential go-to guy for old school-style shooter music. Although there are only three weapon configurations in the beginning, you can unlock more as you beat the game, including the return of long forgotten weapons like the Up Laser.

Gradius Rebirth was not designed inhouse, but was instead handled by M2, the same company who handles much of the Wii Virtual Console emulation, and also developed Fantasy Zone II DX for the Sega Ages PS2 collection. It feels a bit incomplete, but they've still done a damn fine job of replicating Gradius while providing enough morsels for long time fans.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • M2

Publisher:

Director:

  • Masato Misaki

Genre:

Themes:


Gradius Rebirth (Wii)

Gradius Rebirth (Wii)

Gradius Rebirth (Wii)

Gradius Rebirth (Wii)

Gradius Rebirth (Wii)


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Gradius
Gradius 2 MSX

Page 2:
Gradius II
Gofer no Yabou II

Page 3:
Gradius III
Gradius Gaiden

Page 4:
Gradius IV
Gradius V
Gradius Rebirth

Page 5:
Salamander / Life Force
Salamander 2

Page 6:
Portable Games

Page 7:
Solar Assault
Cosmic Wars
Other

Back to the Index