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Gradius Collection Review

Developer: Konami Publisher: Konami
Release Date: June 6, 2006 Also On: None

Let’s flash back for one moment to 1986. Nintendo had just pulled video gaming out of the great depression, and no kid’s life was complete without an NES. That year, Konami released a port of what would soon be their flagship shooter series: Gradius. I was sold immediately on the premise of a shooter in which you could upgrade your ship as you saw fit, and as a bit of a masochistic gamer I loved the difficulty. Gradius spawned a great many sequels, two of which unavailable to gamers in the States until now. Konami has squeezed 5 complete Gradius titles into a single UMD and dubbed it Gradius Collection.

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And it was good.

Before I continue with this review though, I want to make sure my credentials are in order. I still have my NES carts of both Gradius and Life Force. I can beat both Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga by Treasure. With all this in mind, as to not create a biased review, I’ve spent the vast majority of my Gradius Collection time looking for flaws. While they do exist, most are barely worth mentioning.

While normally I’m not big on compilations, Konami went out of their way to produce a collection worthy of the Gradius name. The game selection screen itself speaks volumes of the goodies contained within. Alongside each game’s title a slideshow of screenshots is displayed, and in addition to the games there is a gallery mode, in which you can watch Gradius opening and ending movies and listen to each game’s soundtrack with a fully functional music player.

If you’ve never been behind the controls of the Vic Viper, Gradius is played in typical side-scrolling shooter style, but with the addition of a power meter at the bottom of the screen. With each power-up you collect, the meter increases to the next level, and a different power-up for your ship. The power-ups include increasing your ship’s speed, adding missiles to your attacks, a two (or sometimes three) way shot, a laser which penetrates enemies to also hit whatever is behind them, and a shield. As typical of side scrolling shooters, you’ll have to maneuver your way through barrages of enemy fire, the occasional flaming dragon, and of course the Moai heads.

The games themselves are arcade perfect, the only real issue comes not from the game, but from the PSP itself. The D-Pad on the PSP doesn’t do diagonals very well, and in a game like Gradius where flying delicately through oceans of bullets is required, you can be in for some trouble. The analog nub does the diagonals better, but it’s harder to quickly change directions with it. It’s not game breaking by any means, but it will add to the level of frustration.

If you’ve only experienced Gradius I on the NES, the arcade version is a whole new ball game. You can have up to four options instead of two, and stage two scrolls vertically as well as horizontally. The highlights of this collection are Gradius III and Gradius Gaiden. Gradius III on the SNES was a cakewalk compared to the arcade version; the game is absolutely vicious. It boasts the best soundtrack, however. Gradius Gaiden was released on the PlayStation, but never hit U.S. shores. This is a fine addition to the series, as you now have 4 ships to choose from and can customize the power-up order as you see fit. Graphically, Gaiden is the best on the UMD.

All in all, Gradius Collection is a solid compilation of some of the best side-scrolling shooters ever made. While the earlier games aren’t much to look at, the fun factor is still quite high, and there’s always Gradius Gaiden if you want your shooter to look pretty.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 8
Written by Joey Review Guide