GAME OF THE MONTH
COLLECTION! GRADIUS III & IV
(Konami, November, 2000)
I'm naming my first ever PS2 game Gradius III and IV the Game of the
Month, simply because the classic shooter here will never die especially one
as good as Gradius. If you're a hardcore shooting nut like me then you should
know what I'm talking about.
"At long last, we finally get another Gradius game (actually two Gradius
games in one) after all these years". I was worried this PS2game wouldn't
make it over here from Japan< especially since Gradius II and Gradius
Gaiden (despite there rave reviews) stayed overseas but Konami proved us
wrong. "Now before you dive in, I should warn you" both these old
school shooters are tough as nails with loads of enemies on screen at one time,
so the challenge level is high no matter what difficulty you're set at. Be prepared
for two challenging games here.
CAN YOU SURVIVE A SCREEN FULL OF BULLETS?
First off is Gradius III is a direct port of the extremely difficult arcade
original from 1989. This game can also be found on the Super Nintendo but the
game two games are actually quite different areas like the PS2 version is missing
some the weapons in the Edit mode like the Mega Crush, R. Options, and the useful
Twin Back missiles and some of those levels have been edited exclusively for
the SNES as well to address some of the complaints of the arcade game. This
is a minor problem but it would have been nice to have everything packed in
especially with the massive power of the PS2.
That's not to say that this version is bad though, it still has all of the 10
levels and bonus stages form the arcade game and no longer has the annoying
slowdown found in the Super
Nintendo version (however, it does include this slowdown feature
in the Option mode if you like). Konami was kind enough to include a level select
feature after you manage to beat the stages and it's a great way to practice
a difficult area for later especially since this is one of the toughest games
ever made. Gradius III comes with 4 custom set ups of weapons or you can edit
the types of power ups you want to use before you fly into battle. There are
loads of cool weapons to pick from and it's hard to get bored because you make
a different set up each time. The controls are great as most shooters should
be but the speed power ups that you have to collect in the later levels can
really cause you to crash easily and only one can kill you if make contract
with a wall even if you have a shield.
The graphics for Gradius III are sure not fitting for the all powerful PS2 and
it's easily one of the worst looking games on the machine. The reason this game
looks so dated is because it is, this game originally came out in 1989 and there
are no graphical upgrades at all in this release. It's not to say that everything
looks bad though because each stage has a unique style to it like the enclosed
Dunes of level 1 to the Crystal cube stage of level 8. Wait till you see the
spectacular CG cinema here at the beginning. It comes on after the Gradius IV
cinema and the title screen.
Sadly, like the graphics, the sound has it problems. I liked the music in some
of the stages like the Bubble level and the Fire Scramble level but they are
still not as good as the sound bites from the remixed Super Nintendo version. Gradius III is not as fun as the snes game overall because of the outrageous high difficulty and
the lack of added features of one of my favourite Super Nintendo games. A lot
of the enemies in the later levels can't even be killed which is really cheap
and if you die you start again with nothing and that pretty much makes you a
sitting duck, but despite all it's problems Gradius III is still recommend to
shooting fans out there especially for those looking for a true challenge.
Here is a drawing I did of Gradius III
Gradius IV doesn't even have an edit mode like part III does. Just select from
one of six different custom set ups and your ready to go, which is somewhat
of a disappointment in the game play department especially compared to the innovative
set up of Gradius III but I guess the simpler game play will appeal to some.
Although this is the fourth game of the series the game is still basically the
same after all these years. Help your star fighter defeat the aliens that have
captured the planet of Gradius, you can collect the Red cell items left by enemies
to pick from the classic standard Gradius 6 power ups Speed, Missiles, Double,
Laser, Option, and Shield. Sadly the seventh power up bar is gone from Gradius
III and it feels a little empty without it there especially after you collected
all the power ups you wanted. The controls are great and it helps that your
star ship is small and hard to hit but it's still only takes one hit to kill
you still and the shields are fairly weak too as only a few hits will remove
The graphics in IV are liquid smooth and actually use the PS2 real capabilities
like morphmation and sharp detail that put part III to shame. Ok, Gradius IV
is definitely not as impressive as the other newer 3D PS2 titles on the market
but this is a true 2D shooter so it doesn't have to be. The opening CG looks
amazing and it makes me want to play a 3D version of Gradius. The bosses in
this game especially look great, and are a real pain in the neck by the way.
Gradius IV's music was enjoyable for the most part but a lot of the tracks then
to repeat too much. Some stages even feature multiple sound tracks to give some
levels like the Volcano world an added sense of danger. The sound effects were
realistic with many of the weapons and enemies giving off something.
The game is not as difficult as Gradius III but it's no cakewalk either with
9 vicious levels ranging from an active organic pit with live tentacles (an
Anime girl's worst nightmare) to a fast paced technology zone where mere seconds
count. Although the game play is fairly simple like the original Gradius II
(I'm still waiting Konami for a Canadian release you know!) it's still very
playable and this game is the better of the two games on the disc in my opinion.
It's only 2D! But it's still impressive looking on some levels.
"As long as men exist, so will I, Ahhhhhh!"
The real joy in both these games is passing that really difficult level that
just seems absolutely impossible to your friends or seeing your ship fully powered
up with all four options. It would have been nice to have Gradius 1 and 2 on
the disc too but at least we get the most recent ones here. Gradius III &
IV is recommend to all old school shoot them up fans who are begging for
a real challenge from their PS2. Gradius has returned!
GRADIUS III & IV
overall rating: 80/100
For 1 or 2 players (alternate)
Rated (E) for Everyone