The Gradius (pronounced: Grah-dee-us) games, first introduced in 1985, make up a series of scrolling shootervideo games published by Konami for a variety of portable, console and arcade platforms. In many games in the series, the player controls a ship known as the Vic Viper. In other games of the series, ships the player controls include the Lord British Space Destroyer, Metalion, Sabel Tiger, Thrasher, Vixen, Alpinia, Super Cobra, Jade Knight, and the Falchion β.
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, he or she may activate it, also causing the highlight to reset. For example, when the player collects a power-up item for the first time, the first power-up (usually a speed increase) becomes highlighted.
Gradius power meter with first power-up 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.
Gradius power meter with second power-up highlighted
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, Rare's Cobra Triangle and Ocean's Wizball.
Weapon Edit, first introduced in Gradius III (For Super Famicom/Super NES), allows players to construct a custom weapon route (the content of the power meter) from the basic categories, such as missile and laser, instead of using one of the predefined weapon routes.
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 moai statues of Easter Island (Chile) appear as enemies in several Gradius games. They are mounted on either side of flat, free-floating platforms and fire a series of colorful rings at the Vic Viper. Their weak point is traditionally their open mouth. Because they face at an angle or lie flat on the ground, the upward-facing moai are best destroyed with missiles. Since their debut in the first Gradius game, they have become so intertwined with the series that it is not uncommon for them to cameo in other Konami games. There have even been four games where the moai has been a playable character, the first being an action platform game with Konami characters called Konami Wai Wai World and a platform/puzzle game 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 gameDreamMix TV World Fighters for the Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2. In the PS2 game Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, a player can collect a moai item behind the castle, provided he or she has a Lament of Innocence game save on the memory card. A moai mask also can be found in Hideo Kojima's Snatcher. In the Salamander OVA, the antagonist Paola deceived one of the protagonists (Eddie) into destroying a moai obelisk in the deserts of northern Gradius. Unknown to Eddie, the moai statue was actually repelling the Bacterians from planet Gradius, whereas Paola had lied that it was drawing the Dark Forces to the planet.
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. Sometimes, you don't need to shoot at all as some final bosses will die while the player waits (or if boss does attack, simply dodge).
After the credits roll at the end of the game, the game restarts at the first stage with the Vic Viper retaining any upgrades from the previous loop. 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 titles and indefinitely for certain console versions until the player exhausts all reserve ships and chooses not to continue.
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 from preceding games.
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, with the exception of the MSX version.
An early horizontal-scrolling shooter from which gameplay elements of the Gradius series were inspired. Although there is no canonical relationship between Scramble and the Gradius series, Scramble is implied to be a spiritual predecessor to the series, evident by its appearance in flashbacks during Gradius introduction sequences. (Gradius Galaxies) Scramble has been ported to other platforms; including MSX and Commodore 64. In 2002, Scramble appeared on GBA as one of the titles featured in Konami Collector's Series: Arcade Advanced.
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 version used the power meter from 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 meter 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.
The MSXGradius 2 is unrelated to the second arcade Gradius game (which used the Roman numeral "II"). Instead of controlling Vic Viper, the available ship is called "Metalion" (code name N322). Like the MSX version of Salamander, this game also has 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 give the ship some enhancements. In addition, when the bosses are defeated, the Metalion can fly inside them before they explode, and a mini-level will start that awards weapon upgrades when finished without dying, depending on the speed at which the boss was defeated. This version was ported to the Sharp X68000 computer under the name Nemesis '90 Kai, with a number of graphical and aural enhancements. The game also appeared in the Japan exclusive PSP Salamander Portable collection.
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. It was known as Vulcan Venture in Europe.
This title introduced the Weapon Edit 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 Weapon 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 out in 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 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.
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. It was later remade as one of the four games in the Konami GB Collection Vol. 1 for Game Boy Color entitled "Gradius".
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.
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 conventional power-up system, rather than the Gradius power 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.
The first Gradius produced exclusively for a home console. This is also the only Gradius game (other than Gofer no Yabō 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 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.
Released in Japanese arcades as Gradius IV Fukkatsu ("fukkatsu" (復活) 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-ranged, more powerful laser). Released on the PS2 in a compilation pack together with the arcade version of Gradius III (Gradius III and IV).
The first Gradius to be created by a development team other than Konami's own internal teams (by Mobile21, to be exact). A Game Boy Advance title, 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 and includes an additional invisible 5000 point bonus in one of the levels.
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 (developers of Gunstar Heroes, Guardian Heroes, Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga, among others) were primarily responsible for Gradius V development. In the Japanese first-press limited edition, the game included a book detailing internal design, background, and a roadmap of the 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.
A Gradius compilation for Playstation Portable. This compilation contains the classic versions of Gradius I-IV with a few bonus features thrown in as well as the first North American release of Gradius Gaiden.
In March 2010, a Japanese trademark database update revealed a filing for this name, submitted by Konami. The "Arc" portion of the name coincided with a pre-release name of the PlayStation Move. This was only coincidence, however, as Gradius Arc —Ginyoku no Densetsu— (Gradius Arc —Legend of the Silvery Wings—) was revealed on September 30, 2010, to be a tactical RPG for cell phones.
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 (from Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa). Vic Viper also appears in all titles. The Parodius games also distinguish themselves from the Gradius series in their music. Unlike the Gradius games, whose music are either unique to each game or refer to earlier games in the series, the music in the Parodius games parodies a diverse pool of public domain sources, including a large contingent of classical music.
A newer take from Konami on Gradius spoof, this game features anime girl representations, designed by Mine Yoshizaki, of Vic Viper and Lord British, in a mecha musume-style approach. The name is a portmanteau of "otome" (乙女, a Japanese word meaning "maiden") and "Gradius."
Though characters are rarely seen or mentioned, there are several characters from the MSX titles and the anime, as well as the recent Gradius ReBirth.
Born in the year 6641, James Burton was the pilot of the Vic Viper in the first war with the Bacterians at age 17 in 6658 (Gradius). In the year 6666 at age 25, he piloted Metalion to defeat Dr. Venom and became LARS XVIII (emperor) of Gradius/Nemesis. In Salamander, in the year 6709 he sends Iggy Rock and Zowie Scott to save planet Latis from the Zelos Force. He later dies in the year 6718. He reappears in the MSX title Nemesis 3 and Gradius ReBirth on the Wii. James and Dr. Venom are thus far the only recurring characters in the Gradius series (not to mention with detailed background information).
Previously the Director General of Gradius' Space Science Agency, Dr. Venom was banished to planet Sard by LARS XVII for an attempted coup d'état in the year 6664. One year later he escapes and attacks planet Gradius and the seven colony planets it controls, forming an unholy alliance with the Bacterians. He is apparently killed by James Burton at the end of Gradius 2 (MSX) but returns in Salamander in the year 6709, revived in the core of Zelos' warplanet Salamander. He appears again in Gofer no Yabō Episode II/Nemesis 3. He attempts to kill an infant James Burton by joining forces with Gofer and traveling to the past but is ultimately stopped by James' descendant David Burton. Dr. Venom is mentioned again by the Bacterian in Gradius V and appears in Gradius ReBirth. Even more interesting, it is revealed that Dr. Venom himself developed both the Vic Viper and the Metalion space fighters.
Bacterians are biological alien creatures that can take assimilate any life form much like The Thing. They have the ability to take over planets and turn them into living creatures. They also have the ability to take over machines, computers and weapons such as military vehicles. No one knows for sure what happens to humans at the hands of Bacterians. They do not have an original form of their own.
Bacterion was the original leader of the Bacterians and started the first Bacterian War. He was defeated by James Burton at the end of Gradius, but he survived. He joined forces with another evil entity called Dark Force and evolved into a different form and returned in Gradius III but was defeated again. The villain returned a third time in Gradius Galaxies but was destroyed again.
Van Landroth Frehley
Though never seen in the game, Frehley is the head of the Imperial Space Archaeology Institute of planet Gradius. He is mentioned in the MSX Salamander's manual, describing the approaching crisis of the Zelos Force and planet Latis.
One of the pilots sent to save planet Latis from the Zelos Force in Salamander. He pilots the craft Sabel Tiger.
A second pilot sent to save planet Latis from the Zelos Force alongside Iggy Rock. She pilots the craft Thrasher.
A descendant of James Burton in Nemesis 3. In-game texts says he has as much pilot experience as James. He pilots the craft Vixen with his AI Gaudie and sets out to repel Bacterion and save an infant James Burton.
David Burton's ship AI. She gives David information throughout the course of the game's story. She also helps David's ancestor James Burton, providing him with information inside the Vic Viper in Gradius ReBirth.
The 17th ruler of Gradius who exiled Dr. Venom to planet Sard and was assassinated prior to the beginning of the game. He is never seen in the game.
A non-canon character from the Salamander anime. He pilots one of the three Vic Vipers along with Eddie and Stephanie. He finds their circumstances strange, between Gradius ships mysteriously vanishing and Paola seeming so calm about the looming threat of the Bacterians. Dan is a lieutenant in the Gradius army.
A non-canon character from the Salamander anime based on the games. He pilots one of the three Vic Viper craft. He is said to have had top honors in Gradius' military academy. His family was exiled from planet Latis but warmly welcomed by planet Gradius/Nemesis. In "Meditating Paola" (based on Gradius), Eddie has a sharp tongue and grumpy attitude but seems to soften when he meets Paola, a green-haired girl with telekinetic abilities whom he, Dan, and Stephanie rescued off a damaged ship orbiting not far from Gradius. Later after being demoted for disobeying orders not to engage the Bacterians to reveal a weakness, he sneaks Paola from observation so she can lead him to what is attracting the Bacterians. Taking a Vic Viper craft to the deserts of northern Gradius, they find there a moai obelisk that Paola tells him is attracting the dark forces and destroy it. However, it is revealed that the moai statue was actually repelling the Bacterians and that Paola had tricked him, revealing herself to be a Bacterian, transforming into a massive dragon and fleeing, thanking Eddie for his help, as well as taunting him that he, his friends, and the rest of Gradius will be eradicated by them. Heartbroken, he screams that he never trusted her to begin with, just like Dan. He even tries to convince her that he is not from planet Gradius/Nemesis but from another planet. He eventually gives up and admits that racism exists on every planet, regarding his family's exile form Latis and Paola's hatred for Gradians. In the episode "Salamander" (based on Salamander), he travels with his friends to planet Latis to destroy planet Salamander, a planetoid deformed by the Bacterians (compared to the story in the MSX Salamander or the third level's background music title, this may have been planet Odysseus or planet Ratis). He soon gets into a poor relationship with Latis' ruler Ike Lord British. After snooping around for clues about his father's origins on the planet, he leaves, claiming that he would rather give his life to protect planet Gradius than a planet who exiled his family to protect its selfish and overconfident ruler. When the others later engage the fire dragon at the core of Salamander, he returns with his Vic Viper and sacrifices himself to kill the apparently invincible dragon by flying his craft inside its body to buy his friends (claiming he wasn't dying for Ike Lord British or Latis but his father's homeworld) enough time to destroy Salamander's core. When Dan, Stephanie, and Lord British return to planet Latis, Ike Lord British decides to erase the incident of the Evans Family and tells his advisors to record Eddie Evans' name in Latis history and to make sure he is never forgotten as the hero who saved planet Latis. Dan reveals to Lord British that despite Eddie having a sharp tongue, he did indeed die to save Lord British's planet and Gradius.
Lord British's chief advisor who predicts the coming of the fire dragon and the insane force calling itself Salamander. Out of desperation he calls for the aid of Gradius who had defeated the Bacterians before, much to his lord's annoyance.
Zelos is the massive space dragon on the cover of the games Salamander and Life Force. Life Force's game manual says that Zelos was born from others of his kind (Mom & Pa Zelos) and given the name Zelos for his unexplainable hostility towards other beings (his name meaning in their language "One mean son of a gun!"). After growing up, Zelos traveled the universe and started feasting on planets and stars. Eventually he even started devouring whole galaxies and was said to have killed over 2,000,000,000,000 lifeforms as his dinner. At some point he turned to one of Gradius' colony planets, Latis, as a dessert course and planet Gradius itself as a side dish. In the MSX Salamander, he surrounded planet Latis with his armada (the Zelos Force) and set up a stronghold on planet Odysseus, apparently changing its name to Salamander. Latis soon sent a distress signal to planet Gradius/Nemesis and LARS XVIII (James Burton) sent Iggy Rock (Sabel Tiger pilot) and Zowie Scott (Thrasher pilot) to assist them and destroy the Zelos Force in operation Crush Blow. In Life Force's manual, planet Latis sent its best fighter, the Lord British Space Destroyer, to assist them while Gradius also sent Vic Viper. In the MSX Salamander's ending, after the pilots reach the core of planet Salamander (Odysseus), Dr. Venom is reincarnated in the planet's core (the Zelos Sphere) and revealed to be the true mastermind of the invasion. Depending on the players' actions in-game, Dr. Vemon kills the pilots and the entire operation (Crush Blow) becomes a complete failure. But, it's a success if the player tries again and collects all the pieces of prophecy. In the Salamander OVA, Zelos is the planetoid green warship that was referred to as the super fortress XEAROUS in the European game manual of Nemesis.
The main antagonist of Salamander 2. Unlike most final bosses in the series, instead of being brain-like in appearance, Giga has a humanoid torso and three heads mounted atop his shoulders facing in opposite directions, which he uses to spin around and fire numerous projectiles. He is also the only final boss to actually give the player a challenge after giving the usual "this is only the beginning"-type speech. Plot-wise, Giga seems to have somehow revived the Zelos Force and a Salamander for his invasion, as seen in the game's intro.
Pilot of Vic Viper T-301
Though little is known about this male character, he is the current pilot of Vic Viper in Gradius V. He repels Bacterian forces from an orbital military station near planet Gradius/Nemesis and encounters his future self requesting aid in destroying Bacterion's fortress. He eventually travels through time and manages to obliterate Bacterion with the help of his future self. Though his name is not directly revealed, he seems to call himself "Vic Viper," such as when he says, "Can you read me? This is Vic Viper." His catchphrase seems to be, "Let's Roll!" The Pilot's voice is provided by Eric Kelso, and the Vic Viper's CPU voice is provided by Buster Winters.
Hideki Kamiya stated in an interview that Gradius is one of the top three key inspirational games from his past. The Vic Viper ship outline is a selectable arrow graphic on the arcade version of Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA 2. Video in the background about Vic Viper ship is being shown during game play when the song "SABER WING (AKIRA ISHIHARA Headshot mix)" or "SABER WING" is selected by the player in the arcade edition of Dance Dance Revolution X. The Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game features many cards based on the series. This includes the cards of "Gradius", "Boss Rush", "Option Hunter", and several of the bosses known in the card game as B.E.S type machines. Though in the series Gradius is a planet, in the card game Gradius takes the form of a fighter jet. The Japanese name of the card is "Super Dimension Fighter: Vic Viper". More cards featured in the card game based on the Gradius series are "Victory Viper XX03", "Jade Knight", "Falchionβ", "DUCKER Mobile Cannon", and "Lord British Space Fighter". In addition, the cards based on the series have made appearances in the Yu-Gi-Oh!anime and manga. In the original Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, the fighter jet Gradius (Vic Viper) first appears in episode 47, being used by Duke Devlin in a duel against Joey Wheeler. It later appears again in episode 116 when Noah Kaiba duels Seto Kaiba. In both appearances, the player using Gradius won their respective duels. The final appearance of Gradius related cards in Yu-Gi-Oh! anime was in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX episode 71. In this episode the character Lorenzo, who notably is a champion of shooting arcade games, uses the B.E.S. monster cards (based on the bosses in the game) along with "Boss Rush" against Jaden Yuki. These cards also make appearances in many of the Yu-Gi-Oh! video games.
The NES/Famicom port of Gradius represents the first ever use of the Konami Code. If the player pauses the game and enters the Konami Code (Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A), they will be given most of the power-ups except Laser, Double and Speed Up. Later console versions of the games sometimes include two variations of the Code (one that gives the Double weapon and one that gives the Laser weapon), and some include a "fake" version of the Code that causes the Vic Viper to self-destruct instead.