Gradius Collection

Konami shows the love to Gradius fans with a portable shoot 'em up collection that's simply out of this world.


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By Joseph Jackson

It's been 21 years since the Vic Viper first fired up its thrusters and took off throughout the cosmos on a mission to destroy the evil Bacterion in the original Gradius. Since that time the series has seen its fair share of sequels, side story updates (Salamander series), as well as parodied offshoots (Parodius series) on the home and arcade fronts.

With Gradius Collection, or Gradius Portable as it's known in Japan, Konami offers up a 2D shooting extravaganza with not just one or two, but 5 shoot 'em up offerings from their long-running Gradius series. While Gradius Portable isn't the first Gradius collection released by Konami, it is by far the most comprehensive, covering all 4 Gradius arcade games -- Gradius, Gradius II: Gofer no Yabou, Gradius III, and Gradius IV: Fukkatsu -- along with a port of the PlayStation-exclusive, Gradius Gaiden - an excellent inclusion I must say.

With the exception of Gradius Gaiden and a few other miscellaneous offerings, the Gradius series, for the most part, has always centered around the long-standing wars between planet Gradius and the evil Bacterion. With each passing generation the war heats up and players find themselves piloting the latest model of the Vic Viper starfighter through Bacterion space territory, engaging in interstellar battles against a variety of enemies while on their way to destroying the Bacterion homeworld

Released in 1985, the original Gradius remains one of the all-time classic shoot 'em ups, and throughout the years has seen a number of updates that not only provided the series with enhanced graphics and sounds, but also improved on some gameplay ideas. One of the most significant improvements has always been the series' well-established power-up system. The power-up system, which has been a mainstay of the series since the original Gradius, but in a more simplified form, has evolved nicely with each iteration leading up to Gradius 3, allowing players to equip the Vic Viper with a variety of power-ups that not only gives their ship a necessary speed boost for better maneuvering, and shields for protection, but also arms it with an array of weapons.

While the power-up selection process happens before the start of the games (and with each Continue), players aren't provided with any of their selected power-ups when starting out. The series' standard single-fire Vulcan cannon serves as your main weapon when starting out, and as players blast their way through swarms of enemy crafts as well as destroy some of the more odd colored objects they encounter they'll be able to obtain power-up capsules that can be used to activate the different items highlighted on the power-up meter located at the bottom of the screen. Each collected power-up capsule highlights a different selection on the meter allowing players to cycle through the various types of power-ups they'll want to activate.

With that, players can upgrade their ship's basic assault weapon with various types of lasers, doubled shots, missiles, bombs, torpedoes, as well as Option units which are best described as 'free floating weapons pods' that mimic both the movements and fire power of your ship, and can be very helpful in various types of situations as they greatly increase your attack capability. In addition to the standard orange power-up capsules the games also feature a screen-clearing Mega Crush bomb weapon that's activated whenever blue capsules are obtained, and is great for wiping out large swarms of enemies.

With all that said, the gameplay of the Gradius games all share the same basic, fundamental gameplay formula that originated in the first game. Players basically maneuver their ship through a variety of different world settings while battling a barrage of enemies. The level designs for the most part are well-designed and with the types of worlds spanning all five games, players will find themselves navigating their ship through familiar settings such as cosmic plant worlds come to life, constantly dodging hazardous objects throughout crazy fire and ice worlds, as well as surviving levels featuring the infamous moai who have appeared throughout the series, and even putting their maneuvering skills to the test by successfully navigating mechanical maze-like bases at a high rate of speed during the later portions of the games. In addition, players will enjoy some new settings by traveling through a beautiful Snowfield planet, maneuver their way through a Crystal world where their lasers ricochet off of giant crystals destroying enemies in their path, and surviving a Gravity Bend in which a world slowly gets torn apart by the gravitational effects of a black hole in Gradius Gaiden.

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