(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.


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 them.

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!



overall rating: 80/100

For 1 or 2 players (alternate)
Rated (E) for Everyone

graphics: 5/10
sound: 7/10
gameplay: 8/10
replay: 8/10

(Ryan Genno) 2001

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