Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Gradius II (Famicom, 1988)


I somehow forgot about this game entirely when I covered the series on here a while back, and was reminded by its presence on the big list. I went from Gradius to Life Force to Gradius III and thought nothing of it because I figured Life Force was the second game. Well, it's more of a spinoff that became the second game in the U.S. by default.

Meanwhile there was an actual second game that wasn't released outside of Japan. To make things even more confusing, both this and Life Force were both released in 1988. Also, Nemesis II on Game Boy was called Gradius II in Japan, so there were two different Gradius II games. And there's also an arcade version of this game... that closely resembles the SNES Gradius III. My head is spinning like a kitten on a fast-moving record player.

We get a nice shot of the Vic Viper. Just realized how many Konami games I've played up to now. How many? All of them, I think. Definitely my favorite retro developer at this point. I'm pretty much in love with the Castlevania series now and I'm probably gonna take another swing at the early Contra and Ninja Gaiden games eventually too. Have a ton of new appreciation for all of Konami's NES and SNES output.

All the games in this series are fundamentally the same thing with slight differences. Maybe I should see them more as improvements/updates on a formula rather than sequels. In any case, the choice of powerup sets gives it some variety and replayability. I went with the first set, which is usually the easiest/default set.

THIS...is Gradius intensity!

Well, the first few seconds where you don't even have a speedup...actually are pretty intense.

First stage is different, with fire dragons. I think this was stage 3 of Gradius 3.

Quick shot of the arcade version. The colors are real nice here.

Solar flares! This is impressive for an NES game, they did well with this one. It's good that the first level is so cool, because chances are people would have had to play this level about a hundred times back in the day.

First boss is a firebird. Okay, this is very different. And impressive for the NES, again. Wonder if this is one of those more advanced Famicom carts that developers generally didn't want to leave Japan back then, like Castlevania III.

We get a bit of Giger-fluence in this next level. Uh oh, time for the customary Konami Xenomorphs.

Yeah, those are Xenomorph eggs alright. GET OUTTA THAR!

Too late, now we've got facehuggers everywhere.

Next boss is this skull. This game took a turn into unsettling-ville. Somewhere, Dan Aykroyd got a great idea though.

Crystal cavern, with falling shards and breakaway walls. Another impressive level for 1988.

This boss has appeared in pretty much all of the Gradiuses (Gradii?) and I can't stand it. The swinging tentacles unleash lasers at odd angles and random intervals and it messes with my brain.

Get past that and we get the ever-present Moai level. I really like the Moai theme. Not sure why it popped up in so many games of this era but I'm glad it did.

Next boss is a bunch of giant Moai. What are they and why are they here? What have they been doing all this time waiting for an enemy ship to appear?

Next level is just a straight-up boss rush. We get the Big Core, which was weirdly absent from the early levels, then...

...a giant brain? I think this escaped from Contra.

Then we get another tentacled mech, this time with spinning arms. All of these bosses are tough, but at least there's no real stage before them.

Last boss is this giant eyeball thing, and again, impressive visuals for 1988.

Er... LAST BOSS is this ridiculous sphere that absolutely dumps homing missiles into the air. How many damn bosses are they gonna put in this boss rush? I think they went one boss too far, because this last one is annoying especially after going through all the others. Well, every game in this series has a ridiculous boss rush and this is no different.

Course the boss rush isn't the end. Now it's time for the ubiquitous "fast-scrolling level with closed-in walls" that this series always does. Hope you have max speed because otherwise you're dead meat. Also if you die and lose speed, you're probably losing all of your lives. And this is where the series' cheapness comes into focus a bit.

Not crazy about the boss of the level either, this crab-walker mech where you have to fly under the "feet" as they step up. Every Gradii has this too. I liked it more when it was a giant woman in Parodius.

Get through all of those debacles and the last level is pretty much fine in comparison. Just a regular level made out of McDonalds pink slime meat.

Wait, there's one more cheap thing it throws at you: The closing wall. Every Gradii has this, too. A wall that closes right before the final boss, and if you're expecting it to open again, well, it doesn't. So enjoy watching it slowly close in on your trapped fighter.

Yeah, remembering why this series isn't my favorite when it comes to shooters. The cheap things in the first couple games get repeated over the entire series and I don't get it. Of all the things to bring back in game after game, why the cheap parts?

Final boss is...uh...this guy. Gotta say though, it's a seriously detailed visual. Again, for 1988, they really pushed the hardware with this game, or at least the art-rendering capabilities of the system.

The dastardly alien ship blows up as our hero flies off. Didn't have too much to say about this game, but it's the one game that I forgot about / missed covering already, so I had to do something for it.


Life Force

Gradius 3

Nemesis 1+2

Gradius Galaxies

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