Gradius (series)

Gradius (series)

The "Gradius" games, first introduced in 1985, is a series of scrolling shooter video games published by Konami for a variety of portable, console and arcade platforms, and has since its inception become synonymous with the phrase "Shoot the Core!" Fact|date=February 2007. In many games in the series the player controls a ship known as the Vic Viper.

Recurring gameplay elements

There are several gameplay elements that are common to almost all the "Gradius" games. These include, but are not limited to:

Power meter

One of the defining characteristics of the "Gradius" series is the use of a "power meter". The power meter is powered by a power-up item, whose purpose, when collected, is to move a highlight to the next power-up on the power meter. When a power-up that the player wants becomes highlighted, they may activate it, causing the highlight to move back to the beginning again.

Thus, when the player collects a power-up item for the first time, the first power-up (usually a speed increase) becomes highlighted.

The player may now activate this power-up to increase their speed, in which case the meter will revert to its original unhighlighted state. If, however, the player does not activate the power-up, and collects another power-up item, the highlight moves to the next item; in the original game this was a missile.

The player may now activate this to receive a missile weapon, again causing the bar to revert to its unhighlighted state, or choose to hold out for the next item, a double gun. Traditionally, the power-ups with greater effects are placed toward the end of the bar, so that the player must do more work to obtain them, although in some titles like "Gradius III" a harmful power-up exists at the end which will restore the default (weak) weapon configuration.

Other games using a similar power-up method include "Contra Force" by Konami, "Slap Fight" by Toaplan, and Rare's "Cobra Triangle".

Weapon edit

"Weapon edit", first introduced in "Gradius III", allows players to construct a custom weapon route from the basic categories, such as missile and laser, and replace these accordingly with a variation of a weapon of their choice.

Core warships

The concept of the "Core" is a central part of "Gradius". Cores are usually blue, glowing masses of energy hidden within large warships and protected by a series of barriers. All cores must be targeted in order to defeat a warship, which normally comprises several phases and often uses the terrain to its advantage. Additionally, the announcer will normally urge the player to "Destroy the core!" or "Shoot the core!" prior to an encounter. For other types of bosses, like large beasts, the announcer may command the player to "Destroy the eye!" or "Destroy the mouth!", depending on the boss.


For reasons unknown, the famous Moai statues appear as enemies in several "Gradius" games. They are mounted on either side of the ground (which are flat free-floating platforms) and fire a series of colorful rings at the Vic Viper. The weak point is at the mouth, when open. Because they face at an angle or lie flat on the ground, the up-facing Moai are best destroyed with missiles. Since then they have become so intertwined with the series it is not uncommon for them to cameo in other Konami games. There have even been four games where the Moai have even been a playable character. The first being in an action platform game with Konami characters called "Konami Wai Wai World" and a platform/puzzle named "Moai-kun", both for the Famicom. After turning up in the PlayStation battle game "Poy Poy", they later appeared in a racing game titled "Konami Krazy Racers" for the Game Boy Advance and in the fighting game "DreamMix TV World Fighters" for the Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2. In the PS2 game , a player can collect a Moai item behind the castle, provided they have a save on the memory card. They make brief showings in the video game "Tyrian" by Epic Games. And a Moai mask also can be found on Hideo Kojima's Snatcher.

Easy final bosses

Unlike other scrolling shooters, as well as many video games in general, the final boss of most "Gradius" games (including its spin-offs) is surprisingly easy given the difficulty of the final stage and previous bosses (although one could say that the defenses immediately before the boss are so strong precisely because the boss is so weak--it desperately needs the protection). The final boss is usually brain-like in appearance and occasionally taunts the player in a brief "this is only the beginning"-type speech prior to destruction. They can usually be vanquished by shooting once at a number of cores without any retaliation from the boss.

Multiple loops

After the credits roll at the end of the game, the game restarts at the first stage with the Vic Viper stripped of all power-ups. Each loop becomes progressively harder as enemies gain greater speed and projectile capabilities. This cycle normally continues up to the limit specified within the settings for arcade based titles and indefinitely for certain console versions until the player exhausts all reserve ships and chooses not to continue.

Boss Rush

First introduced in "Gradius II", and in some instances referred to as 'Boss on Parade', the Boss Rush is a sequence of boss encounters where the player must fend off four or more Core Warships and in some cases biological entities, some of which are recreations of preceding games.

Option Hunter

The Option Hunter (also called "Option Eater" and "Option Thief") appears from the left side of the screen at regular intervals if the player carries four Options. Before launching from the left, it briefly makes its presence known with a loud siren and temporarily mimics the player movement to better its chances of capturing Options. Unless the player takes evasive action, any or all Options may be removed. The Option Hunter has never appeared in any of the Salamander series.


;"Gradius" (1985): Originally released as an arcade game, and later ported to other platforms. It is known to exist on the following platforms: NES/Famicom, MSX, PC Engine, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, certain mobile phones, and computer (Saturn, Playstation and computer version are all packaged with Gradius 2 as Gradius Deluxe Pack), as well as a re-release of the NES version for Virtual Console). In some territories, "Gradius" was released under the name "Nemesis".

;"Salamander" (1986): Set in the same universe as "Gradius". The game is noteworthy for a number of reasons. Most prominently, the game switches between horizontal and vertical stages, one of the first games of its kind. Also, "Salamander" was one of the first shoot'em ups to include cooperative gameplay.

:The first player ship is "Gradius"'s own Vic Viper ship, while the second ship is the Lord British space destroyer (sometimes called the "RoadBritish").

:Unlike "Gradius", "Salamander" uses a more conventional weapons system, with enemies leaving a wide-variety of distinct power-ups. The NES version of "Salamander", called "Life Force" in North America (and marketed in that region as the "sequel" to the first Gradius), and the MSX port, used the more traditional power-up bar used in the Gradius series. There also exists an arcade game named "Life Force" that is identical to "Salamander" released in Japanese arcades the same year, except that a Gradius-style power-up bar is used instead of conventional power-up items, and the stages were recolored slightly and given some voiceovers to make the mission about travelling inside someone's body, rather than through space; stages took on names such as 'Kidney Zone' and 'Stomach'. An American release was also made, but it retained the original power-up system of "Salamander", though it was renamed, rather confusingly, as "Life Force".

;"Gradius 2" (1987): The MSX "Gradius 2" is unrelated to "Gofer no Yabō" (which used the Roman numeral 'II'). Instead of controlling Vic Viper, the available ship is called "Metalion" (code name N322). This game also has some semblance of a storyline, which is told by cut-scenes. The gameplay is mostly unchanged from the rest of the series, though there are some power-ups that temporarily gives the ship some enhancements. In addition, when the bosses are being defeated, if the Metalion flies where they are, a mini-level can be accessed in order to obtain new permanent upgrades, assured that the mini levels are successfully cleared. This version was ported to the Sharp X68000 computer under the name "Nemesis '90 Kai", with a number of graphical and aural enhancements.

;"Gofer no Yabou Episode II" (1988):The second game of the series to be released for the MSX platform.

;"Gradius II" (1988):Bearing no relation to the MSX game titled "Gradius 2", "Gradius II" is the sequel to "Gradius" in terms of chronology. The game was never released in North America in any form, until recently with its inclusion in the PlayStation Portable title "Gradius Collection".

;"Gradius III" (1989): This title introduced the "edit mode" method of selecting weapons, which allowed players to create their own weapon array by choosing power-ups from a limited pool of available weapon types (some weapons in the preset weapon types are not selectable in Edit Mode, although it includes weapons not in any presets). The SNES/SFC version is not a very accurate port; levels, enemies, and weapons were altered. For example, two entire stages were cut from the Super NES version: a 3D stage which involved avoiding hitting cave walls from a unique first-person perspective behind the Vic Viper, and a crystal stage in which the Vic Viper was challenged by crystal blocks blocking off areas like a maze. Also, the order of stages was changed. The final stage in the SNES version was based on an early stage in the arcade version. The original arcade version's ending had the main boss in a mechanical setting, then going through a speed-up zone to escape the enemy base, where the SNES version had the player simply avoiding the final enemy's laughably simple and slow-moving attack patterns with no challenge afterward. However, the SNES version introduced the Rotate and Formation Option types, both of which were reused in "Gradius V". The difficulty and major boss tactics were toned down to make it easier. The original arcade version is available for PlayStation 2 bundled with "Gradius IV" ("Gradius III and IV"), although the port has some slight differences from the original.

;"Nemesis" (1990):The first "Gradius" for a portable system, in this case Nintendo's Game Boy. The name "Nemesis" was kept for the game's worldwide release. It combined elements from "Gradius" and "Gradius 2" (the MSX versions), as well as some all-new features.

;"" (1991):Another "Gradius" game exclusively for the Game Boy. It was one of the larger Game Boy carts in existence at the time (2-Megabits), and was completely different from the rest of the series - most of them used music, enemies, bosses and even levels from previous games in the series, but this one did not, except for the boss music from the first "Gradius" game with the addition of a small original part to the piece. A little bit of the "between levels" music from "Gradius III" can also be found at the very first part of the game. It was released as "Nemesis II" in Japan and as "Nemesis II: Return of the Hero" in Europe.

;"Salamander 2" (1996):The follow-up to "Salamander". Had several interesting features, such as the Option Shot, the ability to launch the Options as homing projectiles. After firing, an Option would revert to a smaller, less powerful unit called an Option Seed, which revolves around the ship firing the default shot. Weaponry includes Twin Laser, Ripple Laser, and standard Laser. Like its predecessor, Salamander 2 uses a power-up system, rather than the Life Meter. Upon acquiring a second power-up of the same type, your weapons are twice as powerful for a short duration (~10 seconds). The game features variations of previous Salamander bosses, such as the Golem and Tetran.

;"Gradius Gaiden" (1997):The first "Gradius" produced exclusively for a home console. This is also the only Gradius game (other than "GOFER no Yabou Episode II" on the MSX) where players can select which ship they wish to use. "Gradius Gaiden" includes the Lord British Space Destroyer from Salamander and two (relative) newcomers -- the Jade Knight and the Falchion β (a variation of the ship from the Famicom Disk System game "Falsion"). It was originally released for the "PlayStation" console and ported in 2006 as part of "Gradius Collection" for the PlayStation Portable.

;"Solar Assault" (1997):"Solar Assault" is an arcade 3D rail shooter in the lines of "Star Fox" or "Panzer Dragoon", with "Gradius"'s settings. As usual, Vic Viper makes an appearance here. This game was very obscure and was never ported to any console system.

;"Gradius IV Fukkatsu" (1999):Released in Japanese arcades as "Gradius IV Fukkatsu" ("Fukkatsu" being Japanese for "revival", since it was the first arcade Gradius game in 10 years, following 1989's "Gradius III"). IV lacked the Weapon Edit function of its predecessor, but it had a bigger array of weaponry than the original Gradius games. Weapons exclusive to this game included the Vertical Mine missile (which detonates in a vertical line shortly after deployment) and the Armor Piercing laser (a shorter, more powerful laser). Released on the PS2 as a compilation pack together with the arcade version of Gradius III ("Gradius III & IV").

;"Gradius Galaxies" (2001):The first "Gradius" to be created by a development team other than Konami's own internal teams (by Mobile 21 Studios, to be exact). It exists for the Game Boy Advance. It is known as "Gradius Advance" in Europe, and as "Gradius Generation" in Japan. The Japanese version, being the last to be released, has a number of exclusive challenge modes added that the other versions did not, and includes an additional invisible 5000 point bonus in one of the levels.

;"Gradius V" (2004):"Gradius V" was released in September 2004 for the PlayStation 2. Graphics are rendered in full 3D, although gameplay is still mostly 2D; some areas change the position and perspective of the camera to emphasize the 3D environment. Treasure Co. Ltd (developers of the classic games "Gunstar Heroes", "Guardian Heroes", "Radiant Silvergun" and "Ikaruga", among others) were primarily responsible for "Gradius V" development. In Japanese first press limited edition, the game included a book indicating inner design, the background, and the roadmap of Vic Viper series (i.e. Vic Viper is the name of a ship series, rather than a single ship), and pre-ordered North American copies included a DVD detailing the history of the series (including Scramble) and replays of "Gradius V".

;"Gradius ReBirth" (2008): A "Gradius" title for WiiWare.


;"Parodius" series (1988-1997):The "Parodius" series, started in 1988, is similar to "Gradius", but with more cartoony settings. The name is a portmanteau of "parody" and "Gradius". Many of the mainstays of the "Gradius" series are included, albeit in a parodied format; this includes neon-colored core warships, effeminate moai, and large dancing women as bosses. Early games focused mainly on parodying "Gradius" games, but more recent games have poked fun at other Konami franchises, including "Castlevania" and "Ganbare Goemon". The games offer a large number of different characters to use, each with different weapons. The characters consist of ones created for the series, such as Takosuke, and popular Konami characters like Pentarou and Upa. Vic Viper also appears in all titles.

;"Otomedius" (2007):The game features magical-anime girl versions of Vic Viper and Lord British. "Otomedius" spoofs "Gradius", but in a mecha musume-style approach. The name is a portmanteau of "otome" (a Japanese word meaning "maiden") and "Gradius".

External links

* [ Gradius Home World]
* [ Gradius Base]
* [ Gradius Army]

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