Review by KasketDarkfyre

Reviewed: 01/02/02 | Updated: 01/02/02

One of the most celebrated shooters on the NES.

Possibly on of the most celebrated side scrolling shooters available on the {keep reading before you freak out RuninRuder} Nintendo Entertainment System, Gradius as two distinguishing honors that doesn’t come all that easily with most shooters from its ancient era. The first of these two honors comes with the fact that it represented the very first time that an actual story and ending had been implemented into a shooting game, and the fact that the challenge as well as the speed and overall fun of a side scrolling shooter had been introduced to the NES! Even though by today’s standards, there are other games out there on the market that allow you to experience a much more involved and overly difficult challenge, there is nearly nothing on the NES that touches this game for the time that it was release, other than Life Force. Piloting a ship, Vic Viper must defend against a seemingly endless army of alien enemies and huge bosses that plan on taking over. While the plot is used up, and the game play doesn’t match what we have on other systems {such as the Thunderforce series} Gradius is a good place to start if you’re looking for an exceptional side scrolling shooter for your old NES system!

The game play is pretty much what you’ve been accustomed to in other horizontal space shooters, in which you pilot a fighter craft through several different stages of enemy annihilating madness and mayhem in an attempt to save the galaxy from the clutches of evil aliens. Through your adventures, you’ll find weapon power ups that will allow you to add onto your little flying ship of death with the likes of lasers and whatnot, but the true focus of the game doesn’t just revolve around blowing enemies up as it does making sure that your ship is a true power house! Defeating groups of enemies allows you to gain small power ups that will effect different aspects of your ships performance. Through this performance, you’ll be able to work with a ship that is drastically different than the one you started out with, therefore changing the game play ever so slightly as you progress through the stages. While this doesn’t seem to be too much of a change from the normal, everyday space shooters that you may play, the innovation with a working attribute system is something that was relatively unheard of back in the mid-eighties! Challenge throughout the game, and the replay value that you may find with this title is also extremely high, in which you have to have the right reflexes, and the right power ups in place before you go speeding into certain stages. Without these power ups, you may find that the game becomes relatively impossible to surpass, so be prepared for some frustration unless you know the infamous Konami Code.

The control in Gradius is yet another piece of the puzzle in which it changes constantly. While the game doesn’t necessary have anything too advanced attached to it, you’ll find that with the gain of other power ups, your ship will change in the way that it speeds along! This will constantly test your ability to keep an eye on your ship, in which it can be rather difficult to speed through the waves of enemy fighters if your ship is moving faster than you can compensate for. Again, this another instance of something that had not been introduced yet into the genre, and during its time, this was about as good as it got for the way that the game played. The level of skill that is required to control the game is nothing however, and anyone of any skill level can learn just how to move and control the game without having to resort to some sort of advanced schooling on how to play games of this type!

Visually, the game lacks one thing, and that is the variety in the backgrounds of what you fly through. Most of the time, you really are looking at little to nothing in the background but a black screen, but there are instances where you have some environmental changes that seem to flow together nicely. The biggest part of the game however, are the boss characters, all of which seem to take up a good portion of the screen, and are extremely well detailed! The enemies that you face off against, while not the most detailed things in the world, are also well designed, and you really can’t ask for much better out of an old NES game. To a degree, you could say that everything that you see here is honestly what started the formula for the future, and it’s been pretty much a success ever since.

Audio wise, the game music has it’s high points {such as the first stage} and it’s low points {third stage} but all of the stage music comes together nicely and really applies the feeling of urgency and adrenaline throughout the entire game. You’ll find that the lack of repeating goes a long way in saying something about the way that the game sounds, although some of the sound effects are lack luster in the way that they are presented! Some of the shining moments in the sound effects though, come through in the most interesting ways, with the main point being when you’ve been shot down. There is nothing more impressive {although aggravating because of it} then hearing the explosion of your ship go down after taking a barrage of damage.

Gradius is one of the grandfathers of side scrolling space shooters and it is relatively respected game on the NES that any shooting game fans should play at least once in their career. While not the most visually appealing game known to man, it is one of the first to start out the genre, and without many of the problems that later shooters have! Although most shooting fans will agree that later shooting games were presented in a much better fashion, this is one of those titles that should be a part of any die-hard NES gamers library!

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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