Gradius III & IV


Review by Greg Wilcox



Graphics: 7

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 7

Who'd have ever thought that the 80's would be considered retro someday? Playing Gradius III and IV on the Playstation 2 actually made me feel really old for about an hour or so until I got some of my old skills back. These two games are HARD, and if you haven't played them at all or its been a while since you've done so, these two games will break you like a tornado does a toothpick bridge. The games are presented just as they were originally (III came out in 1985, and IV in 2000), although, I've read elsewhere that a few extra special effects were added here and there. Sure, the visuals aren't so impressive when compared to the rest of the PS2 lineup, but it's the gameplay that's the grabber here. If you've got kids old enough to hold a controller, plop them down in front of the TV with this one and bet them the dishes, laundry and lawn duty for a month if they beat it on the highest setting. You'll finally get some rest after dinner and on the weekends.

The disc has a brand new intro that is absolutely mind-blowing. About five or so minutes of amazing movie-quality CG that would make George Lucas' eyes pop. I hope that Konami is working on a Gradius game that looks like this, if only to see if they could actually DO it in 3D (Yeah, you 2D purists are howling, but it's nice to dream of a good 3D shooter once in a while!). After that, it's strictly old-school arcade gameplay with a few modern extras added, like analog control, pause and save functions. There's also an easy mode added (which is helpful for newcomers to the series), a stage select that opens after the game is played for a level or more, and the Continue feature has been improved somewhat. Of course, the proper way to play any Gradius game is to do it with the alloted lives and not continue at all but, "some of us are old", as that Brian Eno song goes...

Compared to "modern" shooters like Ray Crisis or Einhander, Gradius moves kind of... slow. But that "slowness" is a mere deception to those unskilled in the ways of shooters. It ain't the's the motion, as they say. Only careful placement of your ship and shots will enable you to sucessfully vanquish the huge amounts of aliens out to blast you into so much space dust. Of course, you have to pick up (and keep) speed power-ups as well as additional weapons in order to survive, but such is the life of a universe-saving shooter pilot. The import version also has an Internet feature that allows players to post their scores based on a unversal setting for all players (no cheating allowed!). It's too bad it got chopped from the U.S. version, as it would have been cool to see people finally put their money where their mouths have been for ages.

Gradius IV is the more visually impressive of the two games, with its morphing bosses and superior special effects. You'll most likely die dozens of times because of some cool effect you haven't seen before, so it's good to have another person either playing against you or watching to help you along through some of the tougher stretches. Both games have that "One more game" feeling about them, and even after you've finished both of them, you'll want to keep this one around whenever you need a shooter fix. Trust me, play these games once, and you'll want to play them all the time...

As good as the games on the disc are, and all the extras, Konami SHOULD have fit all the Gradius, Parodius, and Twinbee shooting games on a DVD and released them instead. It would have been especially cool to see the Japan-only Gradius Gaiden, as it's probably the best game in the series, I think. This would have been a much more impressive collection than what's here, but I suppose I really shouldn't complain. Sales figures will determine what other classics show up, but I'm hoping for all the old Contra and Castlevania games on the next two discs. Or perhaps the complete Metal Gear series and hopefully Snatcher and an English version of Policenauts. I'd write more, but my trigger finger is getting itchy. If you're like me, and remember the "old" stuff (or are among the curious), pick up a copy of Gradius III & IV, and save your quarters for the snacks you'll buy for when you're camped out in front of the TV.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:25 PM