Saturday, November 8, 2014

Gradius Galaxies (Game Boy Advance, 2001)

I've come to the conclusion that Konami shooters are the Final Fantasy of shooters, while Compile shooters like Zanac, Gun Nac, and Aleste are the Dragon Quest of shooters.

Time for a portable (and late-era) entry in the Final Fantasy of shooter serieses. Spoiler Alert: There will be shooting.



This one gives us a number of options for weapon lineups. The select screen doesn't have a whole lot of information aside from tiny graphics, meaning one needs to do some trial-and-error to figure out which one they like. I went with the one that has a ring laser. As for barrier, I chose the standard shield. Wonder what Forcefield is like.

Wait a minute... I know that font from somewhere... but where?

First of all, the graphics are pretty good for a portable. They aren't as crisp as SNES graphics, though, despite clearly going for that level of visual fidelity.

The usual powerups are obtained and utilized in the usual way. There's nothing new here. Though the speed difference between zero powerups and one powerup is massive in this game; if you die and return with no powerups, you're barely mobile until you find at least one speedup. It's odd.

The first boss... is a giant meteorite? What's inside?

Blow off all the pieces, and you find... this thing. Not sure if it's a Big Core or not, but it's creepy. It's also easily defeated by firing away at the center core, as is Gradius first boss tradition.

The first tricky part of the game. The vertical glass walls can be broken, but doing so causes the larger horizontal glass walls to fall down. One can easily end up in a situation where they're trapped, and the tiny spaces you have to maneuver through don't help matters. Also, at max speedup, you move too much to really "edge" through tight spaces. That's right, this game has you way too slow at 0 speedup and way too fast at max speedup. Weird.

Next boss is... a wall. This is the first of several super-cheap points in the game where instant-death attacks come at you without warning; in this case, the boss fires glass walls at you VERY quickly with no warning at all. Worse, they fire in an X, so moving to avoid one usually puts you right in the path of the other. Unless you're expecting it ahead of time, you're probably dead. This happens a number of times during the fight, too.

Between levels, we get a generic space section full of powerups. This is a good way to restock between levels. But hey, there's little point in explaining this stuff since it's been the same since the original Gradius.

This next stage is pretty snazzy, full of novas and solar gusts. Beware of massive instant-death fire spikes, though.

Haw! With all these Options, I can cover the entire screen in ring lasers. The ring laser is generally a lot more fun than the straight regular laser.

This series loves to throw levels at you where the autoscrolling kicks into FAST and suddenly you have to negotiate weird-angled, claustrophobic tunnels.

The next boss is new, at least. It has two cores, and taking out either results in a win.

The requisite Moai level transpires high above an undetermined planet.

THEY'RE ALIVE! BY GAWD THEY'RE ALIVE!

Things take a turn for the organic as I have to deal with violent tentacles. These things are indestructible and move completely erratically. Protip: Don't shoot them to begin with and they stay still.

The level design is fairly uninspired; Gradius 3 was better in that department. This game tends to be pretty easy for the most part, until it comes at you with insta-death sections (usually in the form of walls closing in on you in some way) that can get very frustrating. Here we see one example of that, as you need to fire through a bunch of regenerating wall-sections that can very easily close in on you.

The weird eye-bot from Return of the Jedi shows up and sprouts tentacles. It was awful. Actually, with four options and the Ring Laser, a lot of the bosses in this game can be beaten in seconds if you go on really aggressive offense right away, before they can get set up and start their attack pattern.

In one of the better visuals of the game, this next area has you chasing a comet.

I take out yet another Big Core with some LEET STRATEGY. Check out the pro option positioning there. Get something like this lined up and you can take out some bosses in a matter of seconds.

Close to the end, so I'm going to sum up with the last few boss fights. Yet another Big Core is first up... and this time it's gold and fires homing lasers. This is another one that you can defeat in seconds if you go right after the core with lined-up options.

Very difficult boss here, with five cores. However...

...go up top with options lined up in front of the cores and blast away. It can't do anything back to you. Yeah, it's practically cheating, but this fight is obnoxiously hard if you try to take it on normally.

The second-to-last boss is the worst thing in the game. This wheel is indestructible, and all you can do is hide out in the notches as it rolls back and forth. It's incredibly lame, and if you have maxed speed-up it might even be impossible to get past without dying.

At the end of the "fight" it gets even bigger, and from there you have to do one very specific motion to survive. Lamest thing in the game, right here.

After that, you fight a GIANT IMMOBILE BRAIN. It's...an insanely easy fight, especially after that horrible wheel event.

After the final battle is won, the very Death Star like base of the bad guys explodes. George Lucas should sue!

That does it for this game. It was good, but underwhelming. Actually, it reminded me of Mario Kart Super Circuit... it's a game that looks like it's trying to be a Super NES game, but just can't pull it off. In the end, it just made me want to replay Gradius 3 for the SNES instead. Matter of fact, I think I'll do that next.


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5 comments:

  1. Instant death attacks are no fun...except when it's a one-hit kill game and lives are your hit points, in which case they're normal. I'm kind of used to stuff like that. :P
    I've been wondering, what do those boxes at the bottom of the screen mean?

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    1. True, I suppose everything in this game is "insta-death" in that regard. However, things that trap you or otherwise unavoidably-kill you past a certain point are what I consider "insta-death". If something can't be blocked by your shields/weapons and you're effectively doomed, that isn't fun. This game and Gradius III (coming tomorrow) both throw in a stage/boss like that right before the final stage. As for the boxes, those are your powerups. Every time you get a powerup sphere, it lights up a box. You can either claim that item, or collect another sphere to light up the next box, and so on. All of the Gradius games do that and I'm not sure if I prefer it to the Aleste series way of doing things.

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  2. Great post! Takes me back to middle school, when this game and Pokemon Silver were my bread and butter. You're right about the cheapness of that wheel boss.

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  3. Well... they're as much alive as robot moai heads can be.

    GBA games generally don't look as good as SNES just because of the resolution. They can surprise you sometimes though.

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  4. "Wait a minute... I know that font from somewhere... but where?"
    This is the Terminator font. You know that though and were just testing us, right?

    I really liked the comet chasing background too.
    I can honestly say this is the first time a wheel was the hardest boss of a game.

    ReplyDelete