Thursday, 9 January 2014

Gradius



Keeping on the theme of the scrolling shooter space-em-up, I'm taking a pickaxe to the next game and mining my way through the craft of game design. Yep, I'm talking about Gradius (Nemesis in some locations). A game which was splurged out in 1985 and brought to the fore, a series of games that would later become parodies of itself in games like Parodius. Which is basically this game with a cheeky look in its eye.

But before a take enough tangents to the curve to come back around on myself, I'll remain focus upon this game for now. You fly ship, ship shooty things, kill things to get power ups, use power-ups, avoid dying, shooty time for big bosses, beat level and prepare to play it again in a different setting. I'm not exactly selling this thing but then again, there's no real plot to this one. (in the game at least, but who really reads manuals? I stopped bothering around the time of Duke Nukem 3D wherein the plot was "aliens invaded, go kick ass". Kind of pointless and not an acceptable medium of delivering a storyline. Do you go to watch a film but have someone tell you the story just before watching it? If so I feel very sorry for you, incidentally do NOT come to the movies with me you oddball)

But what is it about Gradius that makes it particularly poignant that I would write a review about it? Quite a lot to be honest. The graphics are crisp and colourful without being over the top; the music is optimistically upbeat to the point that if it got any more cheerful people's legs would be falling off. It's cute and lively, largely inoffensive and the difficulty ramps up rather naughtily in the background while you're left to admire the cute game for what it is. A rather challenging little number from Konami that does require your dexterity and reflexes if you want to survive it.

The game play was fairly unique at the time. You've 3 buttons of control here, shooting, power up deployment and bombs (most ports of the game decided to amalgamate the shot and bomb button into one, making for a slightly easier game.) No charging of shots here (See R-Type review), just tap it to shoot and tap it quickly to shoot quickly.

Every time you kill a red-ish enemy, or the whole set of type of enemies, you'll be granted a power-up (if you fly into it) where you'll be able to incrementally move across the power-up list at the bottom of the screen. Once you've got the power-up highlighted that you want, you can active it and hey-presto! You’ve got the power-up. The power-ups come arranged in order of Speed Up (too many and you'll just crash into something because your feeble mind cannot comprehend the pixels and speed) Missiles (runs along the ground fucking shit up) Double Shot (your ability to shoot up and forwards to fuck shit up) Laser (fucks a lot of shit up) Option (give you an orb that does EXACTLY what your ship can do in order to fuck shit up by the multiple) and Shield (Which lets you survive having your shit fucked up).

There are some drawbacks, for a start, each power-up you select, resets your power-up count. So collect 2 and opt for missiles, and you're back to having zero in stock. Lasers and Doubles cannot be used together, one or the other only here. The shield will only take 3 or so hits before it fades and that's assuming you're not hit by something that will completely disregard you have a shield and just blast you into nothingness with a rather disappointing sound effect. This of course means, back to square one with no power-ups and no speed.

The first boss, of the first level (naturally, but bear with me here) is a large spaceship that requires you to shoot out the core to kill it. The second boss is a large spaceship that requires you to shoot out the core to kill it. The third boss is a large spaceship that requires you to shoot out the core to kill it... Noticing a pattern? No, I'm not messing about; the first 5 bosses in the game are the same large spaceship! Now the differences before the battle are the sub-bosses which can be active volcanoes, rushed by hundreds of small enemies, tentacle monsters and such. It's not until you get to level 6 and 7 that the bosses change into something more synonymous with the level itself and of course, the 7th boss is the final boss.

It does make you wonder why they didn't have different bosses? When they manage it on the Gameboy version!

It's worth a play however, if only to see what the game series was spawned from with regards to such mechanics in game play. Aside from that you might fair a lot better if you went with the games ported to other formats and sequels where Konami began to up their game.

Or you could fight the same boss five times.