- Oct 25, 2017
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.