With the dawn of another glorious Friday comes the dawn of an even more glorious trip to the world of retro. This particular Retro Gaming Friday will be special as it marks the very first RGF to appear on VGHC’s new Raptr page. As long as it’s a special occasion, let’s go ahead and pull a game out of the special occasion file, shall we? It is high time that the classic side scrolling arcade shooter Gradius III on the Super Nintendo was immortalized in Retro Gaming Friday history.
Visually, this game game was nicely done. It had a very cool opening sequence that looked great and the in game visuals were done well also. Your ship would occasionally tilt and show you the underside of the space craft to simulate movement, affording you the opportunity to see more than just a long triangle shooting what appeared to be lasers at what appeared to be flying discs. There was a good variation of enemies, including a sand lion/dragon that was especially pretty to look at, with some impressive detail for the SNES.
No complaints in the sound department. Gradius III had a very catchy soundtrack and decent in game sound effects. The immersion factor could have been vastly improved if there had been more in-depth and realistic sound effects. The sounds are what you would expect for an arcade shooter. This game is not trying to be anything more than it is and you have to respect that.
The basic gameplay concept is you are side scrolling your way through space and shooting everything in your sight. You can move your ship all around the screen to try to avoid enemy fire, enemy ships, and terrain hazards. You have, by default, a single laser cannon that can be upgraded through in-game pickups. There are two kinds of pickups that enemies will drop, a red one and a blue one. The blue one is highly desirable because it instantly vaporizes everything on screen. Each red one you collect will advance the ship upgrade you can select when you decide to cash in. The more you collect, the better the ship upgrade so there was an element of planning and strategy. There were weapons like twin lasers, proton torpedoes, and a multi directional laser that would shoot forward and behind you at the same time. The weapon I found myself myself using most often was the F-Bomb. No, that isn’t some hidden weapon, it is good old, down home, colorful language because this game gets difficult. It gets difficult because the controls are not very responsive and the collision detection is horrible. You are in a ship that can fly through space yet it moves around the screen like a man trying to run underwater. I frequently found myself getting shot because I presumed that a tiny space fighter would be nimble and quick. Instead I watched in horror as my little space plane was disintegrated as time after time I pressed the directional pad to move away and my ship asked if it could pencil the movement in for a week from Tuesday. I also found myself dying numerous times as my ship collided with something it hadn’t quite touched yet as if it had a self destruct mechanism that was detonated by proximity sensors. You do eventually get a feel for compensating for these quirks, but it is a frustrating ride until you do to say the least. The weirdest part of this game though comes after you burn through your continues and finally get the game over. If you make it to the high score screen, you are prompted to add in your initials. Standard. No one minds that. You then are asked your gender. Weird, but ok, I guess. Then the game wants you to enter in your zodiac sign but it just shows you the symbols without telling you what each one is for. I suppose we are all supposed to recognize those. This does not by any means ruin the game or make it less fun, but it is just extremely weird and bears mentioning. What benefit could this information have on the high score screen? Does Konami want to date me so they need my gender and sign?
If you can overlook or get used to the more frustrating “features” of the gameplay, Gradius III is actually a lot of fun. I am not really a high score kind of player (read- I am not very good at these games) but I found myself coming back for another run, confident I could do better than the last game. It has great replay value and as long as you are at my skill level, each playthrough is completed quickly. You can pick up a copy of Gradius III for $5-$7 and I would recommend doing so. It was also packaged with Gradius IV and ported the Playstation 2 which you can snag a copy of for under $10.