Sunday, November 9, 2014

Gradius 3 (Super NES, 1991)

One of the Super NES's coolest launch titles, and one of Konami's many fine moments. That said, it's not without problems. Shooter Week rolls on!

Vic Viper!

"The Viper!"

Who's ready to save Earth? I know I'm pumped up.

You get a bunch of weapon lineup selections in this game. However, unlike every other game in the series, you don't have to choose from a pre-selected lineup. Press to the right and you'll arrive at...

...Edit Mode, which lets you choose any lineup you want. There are a few things on this screen that aren't available in the pre-set lineups at all, like Mega Crush. This awesome screen sets this game above and beyond all other Gradius titles, in my view, and gives it a lot of replayability. I went with the Rotating Options and Rotating Shield for lots of spinny fun. I also went with the Ripple Laser, as I like it from Gradius Galaxies. A better choice would have been the Twin Laser, though. Go for that one.

Sand dragon! I remember seeing screenshots of this game in Nintendo Power back when I was a kid. I didn't have any game systems yet, but it was fun to read about them.

The first boss is a gigantic antlion...and he isn't tame.


These bubbles were really impressive at the time of the SNES launch. Transparent objects like this were really novel and newfangled.

Second boss... the space amoeba. Again, these transparent graphics were the rage in 1991.

At this point I've got four Options and two Shields spinning around me at any given time, creating a hailstorm of ring lasers.

Boss #3 is a Big Core with sweet laser beams. At this point I'm running into the same issue I had when I did a post on the original Gradius... I'm sorta out of things to say about the game.

Ah, here we go. Stage four gives us the legendary Moai statues. As usual, they spit energy rings at you.

My God! Spinning pillars of Moais!

Egad! Two giant Moais! It's Moaimania!

The fifth stage is my favorite. It's an INFERNO MATCH.

The boss is this very memorable two-headed fire serpent. It flies and coils all around the screen while the awesome and chaotic boss theme plays.

Things can get very claustrophobic very fast once it starts coiling. The worst part of this fight is that it shatters outward when you win, and if you're not expecting this (and aren't in the center of it), you almost inevitably die. It's a real cheap shot.

Stage six is full of these gropy, plant-like hands that try to get at our hero as I fly through. ...It's like being a woman walking down the street in NYC.

The plant boss here is the world's most profane pirahna plant. Seriously, this thing... I don't wanna talk about it.

The requisite machine stage with lots of diagonals and autoscroll speed-surges that happen without warning... I'm starting to think that these Gradius titles are all just remakes of each other.

Stage seven boss is yet another Big Core. These things are so much fun to fight, since you can see how much damage you're doing based on how many of their shields or "eyes" have winked out. It's much cooler than a bland ol' life meter.

Stage eight - yeah, this game is long - is just a boss gauntlet. First up, not-so-big core!

Next is a crystalline Big Core. That's a cool idea for a boss...

Next up... a Big Core with a couple dozen laser cannons on it! These fights are harder than they needed to be since I went with rotating Options... if I had them set to trail or at least be spread out, I wouldn't need to risk being in front of this thing just to fire at it.

NEXT BOSS... a giant sphere that launches a flurry of homing missiles! Well, at least it's a break from all the Big Cores...

....and here's another Big Core type deal! It's equipped with a wall of cannons, so there's literally no safe spot. You just need to weave between the shots.

Stage nine is a short mechanized level, ending with this SUPER cheap insta-death trap. The walls close before you can get through, and you're trapped or dead unless you A) Know it's happening ahead of time or B) Happen to be on the far right of the screen which is almost never the case.

The cheapness doesn't stop there, nope. The boss of stage nine is this bastardly crab-thing. You can't actually damage it, so you need to just avoid it until it goes away. It's not unlike the giant wheel at the end of Gradius Galaxies, but it isn't quite as awful.

A SECOND CRAB joins the fray as things get really ridiculous. I HATE fights like this. You can't actually win, so you just try to avoid them and it's impossible unless you know exactly where to be and when to be there. Just lame-ass game design, and the hardest moment of both games. Get through it, and you're rewarded with an easy final stage.

More groping hands emerge from the bizarre organic walls of stage ten. This stage is pretty much a gimme, though, after the appallingly cheap previous stage.

The final boss is... uh... I'm not sure what this thing is, or why it has a giant conehead, or why it has a body made out of melted faces. It's an extremely easy battle, whatever it is. It's noteworthy that it goes on a verbal rant before the fight begins about how as long as humans exist, so will it, because it's the evil in their hearts. It's difficult to make out what the voiceover is saying, due to the SNES sound chip.

That does it for this game. It's a fun game, for sure, with a great soundtrack. It also has some significant problems, especially later on. The best thing about it is the weapon select mode, which lets you tailor your own arsenal.

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  1. A few things:
    I've noticed that so far, all the final stages you've covered in this series are really, really easy. Is this a pattern in Gradius in general?
    How do you manage to take snapshots under such heavy fire? Some of these shots seem pretty tame, but others seem heated and I'd probably die if I tried to take a shot. Like with the crab. Same goes for blink and you'll miss it moments, like the cheap instadeath trap.
    Fun fact: That last boss doesn't even need to be shot. He just dies on his own.

    1. Gradius games are surprisingly formulaic, yes. The second-to-last stage tends to be a really difficult/cheap mechanical stage, while the final stage tends to be a short, easy, organic-themed stage. This doesn't apply to the Game Boy installments since they have half the stages and don't follow the usual tropes.

      Snapshots under fire are always taken with the game paused. Luckily for me, these games don't have any kind of screen-change when paused. I was expecting the cheap instadeath trap so I flew up past it, then took a shot.

  2. "It's like being a woman walking down the street in NYC"

    What a great line. You might have run out of stuff to say in this post, but I couldn't tell.

  3. I like how the title screen has gameplay information.

    I'm an E. Laser man myself.

    This game was a pretty big deal at the time. I can still hear the music and sound effects as I see the images here.

  4. How to download