Today is the 30th anniversary of one of the hardest yet awesome videogames ever made

Hayama Akito

Member
Oct 25, 2017
808


First of all, I'm sorry if my english sounds like shit.

Released in december 11, 1989. The third title in the legendary Gradius series, on the golden years of Konami in the arcade field.

I'm not from the US but as far as I know, the Gradius franchise was never really too popular there (probably with the exception of the Gradius 1 port on the NES). Gradius II was never officially released in the US and was only available in Japan and Europe as Vulcan Venture. The game had an excellent version on Famicom but it was never released outside Japan because of the VRC4 chip. In my country (Chile) and the rest of the world the Gradius original trilogy was also kinda hard to find, mostly because the PCBs didn't have bootlegs and was a very expensive game, all of them.

Yet the SNES version was released here, as one of the launch games of the console. As a port is pretty mediocre, with a lot of flickering, some stages were completely removed and the slowdown are everywhere (the original game has a lot of slowdown too though) yet is still a playable and definitely much easier experience than the Arcade version...

...because the Arcade game is one of the most frustrating yet awesome experiences in my life: the first stage will destroy you even if you are an experienced Gradius II player. The second stage, the "bubbles" stage is defined by the Gradius III fans as "the stage that divides those who really loves the game and those who don't" because of the brutal difficulty. The third stage is extremely long (almost 10 minutes!) and almost part of the bullet hell genre.

I mean, look at this shit



And its just stage 3 of 10.

And then, this motherfucker



Believe me, it took me tons of credits in order to understand its patterns. Remember that this is Gradius: when you died, you lost everything, so losing a life is practically losing the whole credit. Also the Arcade version of Gradius III doesn't have continues. You could be rich... and you will probably never pass the second stage anyway.



IF HE DIES, HE DIES

The fire stage is also pretty infamous. Imagine try to survive this with an enemy that tries to steal all your "options" at the same time.



And holy shit... the crystals...

THE FUCKING CRYSTALS



...yet I still love this game so much, every minute of it. It took me like two years to beat it and I just cried that day. Sadly my experience was mostly on MAME and the PlayStation 2 version, but I played the shit out of it in Japan in 2013, 2017 and 2019 in Game Center Mikado and VGM Museum Robot. There are still a hardcore fanbase playing this game on Japan every week. The community is so cool there's a guy who is trying to convert this game to X68000.

When the game was released, japanese players complained the game wasn't really good, that the visuals were in fact worse than Gradius II in some stages and the music wasn't as catchy, so only the hardcore Gradius group in Japan played it constantly until this day. The Gradius team tried to hear their fans and fix all that with Xexex, one of the most beautiful and ambitious games ever created by Konami... that was completely crushed because it was released at the same time with Street Fighter II. It was the beginning of the end of the STG genre as a mainstream taste.

Even if the soundtrack is not as "classic" as Gradius II in Japan, Gradius III has this gem that I enjoy so much.


Konami is pretty much dead now, so the love I have for that era of Konami grows every year. The SNES version sucks ass for the more experienced players, but I recommend it for newbies (there is a SA-1 hack now, yet I don't know if disabling the slowdown is the best way to learn this game).

Thanks for this 30 years of frustration and love, Konami.
 
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Punished Dan

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,722
Wow those GIF’s.
I Bet these machines gobbled money through the frustration of players alone, ‘just one more try’ kind of thing.
 

SturokBGD

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,068
Ontario
From Legend to Myth... from Myth to Laughter. ;)

Not my favorite Gradius but as always a killer soundtrack. How can you say no to these bangers?


 

Giga Man

Member
Oct 27, 2017
6,914
I have this for SNES. It is a fucking nightmare. I could never get past the super fast auto-scroller and always hit the walls, but I doubt I could handle the boss rush at the end.

And don't get me started on the Konami Code. It's actually a fucking TROLL. When you do it, you just die. Gone. Instantly. What you actually have to input is instead of "left, right, left, right", it's "L button, R button, L button, R button". What you get is all your power-ups maxed out, but you can only do it once per game (I think), so if you die once, that's it.
 

OmegaDL50

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,443
Philadelphia, PA
I own the Gradius III & IV double pack on the PS2. I didn't put much time into Gradius IV, but I played the hell out of III.

Been a member of a prominent Gradius fan community since about 2002, The forums no longer exist but a Discord is available.

I'd say the hardest two segments in Gradius III were the Crystals (Even at the highest speed some of them are extremely hard to dodge) and the High Speed Dimension. So many dead ends you can't see ahead of time and the fact if you die and start back at Speed 1 means clearing this becomes almost impossible.
 

Futaleufu

Member
Jan 12, 2018
1,702
I'm not from the US but as far as I know, the Gradius franchise was never really too popular there (probably with the exception of the Gradius 1 port on the NES). Gradius II was never officially released in the US and was only available in Japan and Europe as Vulcan Venture. The game had an excellent version on Famicom but it was never released outside Japan because of the VRC4 chip. In my country (Chile) and the rest of the world the Gradius original trilogy was also kinda hard to find, mostly because the PCBs didn't have bootlegs and was a very expensive game, all of them.
I dont remember seeing Gradius III in arcades, but I do remember both Thunder Cross games, Xexex and Trigon being available here so PCB/bootleg/genre wasnt an issue here. The truth is, compared to other games of the era like Truxton, R-Type II and UN Squadron, Gradius III relies too much on gimmicks and being too hard for its own good. It is still decent but too much of an acquired taste so casuals would never retry after failing once.
 

Bumrush

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,619
I'm pretty bad at videogames, and especially shmups. Seeing these gifs makes me uncomfortable.
 

Sanctuary

Member
Oct 27, 2017
6,260
Never got to play the game, but I did play and beat Life Force (Salamander) at the arcade, and played the first two Gradius games on the NES. My favorite shmups from that era though were the original R-Type, Thunder Force 3 and Gaiares.

That game was hard as shit.

Question? I thought Life Force/Salamander on NES was Gradius II, is that incorrect?
Nope. Different games, even though Salamander played similarly enough that one could easily mistake it for a Gradius sequel.
 

NeoZeedeater

Member
Oct 27, 2017
4,013
I frequented arcades 30 years ago and never came across Gradius III. I did buy the SNES version and enjoyed it despite the slowdown.
 

SturokBGD

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,068
Ontario
Question? I thought Life Force/Salamander on NES was Gradius II, is that incorrect?
The interesting thing about this game (besides the Life Force/Salamander shenanigans) is that different ports implement different features from the main Gradius series - for example the PC Engine version of Salamander uses checkpoints when you die, and Life Force on the NES has the upgrade bar.

You should track down the real Gradius II: Gofer no Yabou (arcade or PC Engine version) if you haven't played it, it's a real treat. It's on the recent Konami Arcade Anniversary collection (as Vulcan Venture in the West). There's an MSX/X68000 Gradius 2 too (known as Nemesis 2/Nemesis 90) but it's a completely different game and off the top of my head I don't think it was ever re-released outside of Japan.
 

OmegaDL50

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,443
Philadelphia, PA
I'm pretty bad at videogames, and especially shmups. Seeing these gifs makes me uncomfortable.
Gradius unlike danmaku / bullet hell style shmups focuses more on memorization of enemy patterns. Much like R-Type and Darius to a degree.

Every time you play the game the enemies will spawn from the same entry points every single time. The difference mind you is higher loops (subsequent plays on the same run like new game+) enemies have more aggressive firing patterns and spawn more and more revenge bullets when they die. There is almost no randomization (The Crystal dodge pattern might be iffy on this but that is towards the end game)
 

Bumrush

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,619
Gradius unlike danmaku / bullet hell style shmups focuses more on memorization of enemy patterns. Much like R-Type and Darius to a degree.

Every time you play the game the enemies will spawn from the same entry points every single time. The difference mind you is higher loops (subsequent plays on the same run like new game+) enemies have more aggressive firing patterns and spawn more and more revenge bullets when they die. There is almost no randomization (The Crystal dodge pattern might be iffy on this but that is towards the end game)
Oh cool, thanks! I didn't know that