Gradius (グラディウス, Guradiusu) is a horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up video game developed and published by Konami. The first game in the Gradius series, it was originally released as a coin-operated arcade game in 1985. The player maneuvers a spacecraft known as the Vic Viper that must defend itself from the various alien enemies. The game uses a power-up system called the "power meter", based upon collecting capsules to purchase additional weapons.
The arcade version of Gradius was released internationally outside Japan under the title of Nemesis, although subsequent home releases have the original title. Home versions were released for various platforms, such as the NES, the MSX home computer, and the PC Engine.
The player controls the trans-dimensional spaceship Vic Viper, and must battle waves of enemies through various environments. The game became synonymous with the phrase, "Destroy the core!", as the standard of boss battles in the Gradius series involved combat with a giant craft, in the center of which would be situated one to several blue colored spheres. These bosses would be designed in such a way that there would be a straight passage from the exterior of the giant craft which leads directly to one of these cores. The player must fire shots into this passage while avoiding attack patterns from weapon emplacements on the body of the boss. However, small but destructible walls are situated in this passage, impeding the bullet shots from damaging the core, and must be whittled away by repeated well-placed shots. In a way, these tiny walls represent the boss' shielding gauge until its core is finally vulnerable to attack. Some bosses have the ability to regenerate these walls. When the core has sustained enough hits, it usually changes color from blue to red, indicating that it is in critical condition and its destruction is imminent. Upon the destruction of a core, a piece of the boss may be put out of commission, seeing that it is no longer powered by a core, or if all of the cores are destroyed, the entire boss is defeated and explodes satisfyingly. Note that these cores are not present on the more organic bosses of Gradius. Such bosses have weak spots in places such as a mouth, head or eye.
When gameplay begins, the Vic Viper is relatively slow and has only a weak gun. This level of capability is generally insufficient for engaging enemies, but the Vic Viper can gain greater capabilities by collecting and using power-up items. While most arcade games utilize distinct power up-items that each correspond to a specific effect on the player character, Gradius has a single power-up item. The effect of this power-up item is to advance the currently selected item in a power-up menu that appears at the bottom of the screen. When the desired power-up is highlighted, the player can obtain it by pressing the power-up button, returning the menu to its initial state in which no power-up is highlighted.
Development of Gradius began when series creator Hiroyasu Machiguchi was given a team to work with and asked them what kind of game they wanted to develop. The response was a shoot 'em up, with the intent of surpassing Namco's Xevious. They made it a horizontal shooting game because they wanted to reuse material from Scramble as much as possible, originally naming the game Scramble 2. The development lasted for a year after refining and experimenting with the gameplay. The team originally tried twenty different movement patterns for the Options and used a process of elimination when something did not work. For the story, Hiroyasu's team was inspired by science fiction movies, with the popular sci-fi films at the time being Star Wars and the anime adaptations of Lensman. The team saw Lensman together and it influenced the game's story. Its plasma laser impressed them and is why Gradius features a laser weapon. The Moai were included to add a mysterious element to the game like Xevious and its Nazca Lines.
Gradius was first released in Japan for Konami's Bubble System, an arcade board which allows operators to change the software through the used of a proprietary magnetic-based media called "Bubble Software". The game was distributed as a standard printed circuit board in North America and Europe under the title of Nemesis. The North American version of Nemesis features a considerably increased difficulty compared to the Japanese and European version. To balance this, the game spawns a fleet of orange enemies when the player loses a life in order to provide as many power-up capsules as possible in order to recover as many upgrades as possible. The title screen was also updated, showing an in-game reproduction of the promotional artwork behind the logo.
The first home conversion of Gradius was released for Nintendo's Famicom console on April 25, 1986 in Japan. Due to the hardware limitations of the Famicom, many of the level designs were simplified (the Moai stage for example, lacks the vertical scrolling present in the arcade game) and the maximum amount of options that the player can upgrade to was reduced from four to two. This version added a cheat code that can be entered while the game is paused that grants the player's ship almost all the power-ups. This code would appear again in many later Konami on the NES and other consoles (such as Contraand Life Force), becoming known as the Konami Code.
The NES version of Gradius was released in North America on December 1986. It is the first NES game to have been released by Konami in the region and unlike the original arcade game, the title was kept unchanged between regions. The NES version was produced for the arcades on the Nintendo Vs. System board (under the title of VS. Gradius), as well on the PlayChoice 10 cabinet.
The MSX version of Gradius was released on July 25, 1986 in Japan, a few months after the Famicom version. It was also released in Europe under the Nemesis title. This version underwent changes similar to the Famicom version, but adds its slew of exclusive content to make up for the downgrade. A new stage, the bone planet was added between the Inverted Volcano stage and the Antennoid stage, featuring exclusive enemy types. There also four hidden warp zones and the ability to play as the titular ship from TwinBee if the MSX version of that game is played alongside Nemesis.
PC Engine Edit
The PC Engine version of Gradius was released on November 15, 1991 exclusively in Japan. Released on a 2-Megabit HuCard, it had relatively few omissions compared to the NES and MSX versions and added a Desert Planet stage similar to the Bone Planet stage from the MSX version. Because of the lower resolution of the PC Engine compared to the original arcade hardware, the PC Engine features some slight vertical-scrolling.
Other platforms Edit
In addition to the MSX, Gradius was also ported to other microcomputers shortly after its release, such as the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 in Europe (as Nemesis: The Final Challenge), as well as the NEC PC-8801 and Sharp X1 in Japan. They also as LCD Game was released by Konami on 1989. A port for the X68000 computer was also included in the early models of the computer. The original Gradius is also included in collection such as Gradius Deluxe Pack for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn and Gradius Collection for the PlayStation Portable and it was released for Mobile Phones. The arcade version was digitally released on the PlayStation 4 as part of the Arcade Archives series, with the option to play all four regional variants of the game, and NES Version is re-released for Nintendo Switch Online.
Stages and Bosses Edit
|1||Volcano||Volcano||Big Core MK I||Challenger 1985|
|2||Stonehenge||Zub Rush||Big Core MK I||Beat Back|
|3||Moai||Mother and Child||Big Core MK I||Blank Mask|
|EX||Plant||Zub Rush||Plant Core (Mobile)||(?)|
|4||Reverse Volcano||Iron Maiden||Big Core MK I||Free Flyer|
Tyran Pace (MSX)
|Big Core MK I||Stage 5 BGM|
|5||Tentacle||Tentacle||Big Core MK I||Mazed Music|
|7||Base||Electronic Cage||Xaerous Brain||Final Attack|