(Konami, September 1991)

Gradius III for the SNES is a near direct port of the extremely difficult arcade shooter from 1989 and this game was one of Konami's first Super Nintendo games and in my opinion it's still one of there best to. This game can also be found on the PS2 but the game two games are actually quite because the PS2 version is missing some the weapons in the Edit mode like the Mega Crush, R. Options, and the useful Twin Back missiles plus 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 for PS2 owners but it would have been nice to have everything packed in especially with the massive power of the PS2 but the PS2's lost is the SNES's gain.

The story in Gradius III is about the evil Bacterian army's quest to conquer the planet of Gradius once and for all. The Gradius's defense forces were overwhelmed by Bacterians warships but in a last ditch effort the United World Forces have sent out the prototype MAX Vic Viper star ship to destroy the heart of Bacterian planet. If you fail, then the peaceful planet of Gradius is lost. This game is an old school horizontal shooter similar to a R * Type or a Thunder Force that features 11 huge stages (plus several secret bonus levels too) and each level is filled with tons of hazards and big bosses for gamers looking for a serious challenge.

The Gradius series works on the innovative choose your own power ups system, you collect red energy items from fallen enemies and that will high lights one of the seven bars on the bottom of the screen and if you want that respective power ups then hit the action button to pick from Speed, Missiles, Double, Lasers, Options, ?, and !. It's all up to you to pick what you want first and that's Gradius III's edge over most other shooters.

Gradius III starts out with 4 custom set ups of weapons already available but if you don't like those ones, you can even edit the types of power ups you want to use before you fly into battle. There are loads of cool weapons in each category to pick from like you can get missiles that fire upwards, downwards, 2 way shots, backwards, and more so it's hard to get bored because you make a different set up each time. "The possibilities are almost endless!" The controls are great as most shooters should be but the speed power ups that you have to collect in the later levels (you need at least two speeds to survive the stage 6 boss and all of level 7 and their dangerous high speed corridors) can really cause you to crash easily and only one hit can kill you if make contract with a wall, even if you have a shield.

I have mixed feelings about the graphics in Gradius III because they sure put the original NES Gradius game to shame but it's still nowhere near Axelay's level of excellence (one of Konami's other shooters on SNES). There are tons of huge bosses and enemies literally cover the entire screen and that's bound impress any gamer out there but the backgrounds are a little dull at times. The game's main problems lies in awful slowdown and flickers when there is just too much on screen at once and believe me this happens a lot.

I really liked the music in the game, there is a huge list of over 15 tracks here to fit in each level. Even the sound effects are impressive thanks to the various laser shots and the game also has some voices too. All of the in-game sounds and music have been remixed exclusively for the SNES game so they sound even better than the arcade game believe it or not. The Bubble, Alien, and the Fire Scramble levels are some of my favourite background tracks here because they fit the mood of their particular stage.

The only real big problem with Gradius III on the Super Nintendo is the huge amount of screen Slowdown when there is too much going on at once but it can also act like a blessing in disguised because this is not an easy shoot em up here by any means and a little slowdown may just save your life. Gradius III is easily one of the most fully loaded shooters ever made thanks to its 11 exciting levels, over 50 different weapons, and nearly unlimited custom features too. Don't forget you also get decent graphics, awesome soundtracks and I'm sure this is going cheap for about 1 to 3 bucks so if that isn't a good reason to pick it up then I don't know what is? "Gradius III for the SNES simply rules!"


overall rating 93/100

For 1 or 2 players
graphics: 7/10
sound: 9/10
gameplay: 9/10
replay: 9/10

(Ryan Genno) 2007

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