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Portable Games

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Solar Assault
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Nemesis (ネメシス) - Game Boy (1990)

Japanese Cover

American Cover

Like most Game Boy conversions, Nemesis isn't really a completely new game, but it isn't a just a port either. Although the levels themselves are technically different from the console/arcade versions, most are familiar variations, like the cave level from the original Gradius, a Moai level, an alien-type biological level, and a graveyard similar to the bonus stage in the MSX and PC Engine versions of Gradius.

There are a handful of brand new bosses, which at least sets it apart from the original Gradius. Most of the music is snagged from Gradius and Gradius II. The game controls just fine, but for some reason, your ship doesn't animate when it moves up and down, so it looks a little bit weird. There's no weapon selection, but you can choose to have up to 99 lives without having to bring up a cheat menu, which is a bit odd. Like most of Konami's Game Boy games at the time, it's a fine downscaling of the series, but there's nothing really special about it, especially with the monochrome graphics and tiny resolution.

In Japan and Europe, Konami released a line of Konami Game Boy Collection games, featuring four Game Boy titles compiled onto a single cartridge. The Japanese version had Super Game Boy support while the European versions had Gameboy Color support. Nemesis - renamed to Gradius in all regions - is found on Vol. 1 in both regions.

Quick Info:

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Publisher:

Director:

  • N. Matsui

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Nemesis (Game Boy)


Additional Screenshots


Nemesis II (ネメシスII) / Nemesis II: The Return of the Hero / Gradius: The Interstellar Assault - Game Boy (1991)

Japanese Cover

American Cover

Unlike the first Game Boy installment, Gradius: The Interstellar Assault is a completely original game. If anything, the developers took things one step further and removed some the aspects that the series is known for - for instance, there are no more navigation segments at the start of each level, and most of the bosses are very different from the usual "shoot the core" enemies (although there are a couple of them). The first level actually begins with a chase scene, as the Vic Viper is being followed by a gigantic battleship through an asteroid field. You end up losing your pursurer in some caverns, but then you get captured and need to fight your way to freedom through the ship's interior. Once you escape, you fly down to the surface of a planet and mount a final assault on the bad guys. It's relatively short, but it's cool to see some continuity between the stages.

Your weapon selection lets you individually pick among different Missile, Double and Laser selections, with three available in each category. The graphics are a step up from the first Game Boy game, and the music is pretty catchy, too. The controls feel a bit unresponsive, and the ship still doesn't animate when moving, so it's still not on the level of the grown-up Gradius games, but it's still unique enough to warrant a look. This can also be found on the Konami Gameboy Collection Vol. 3 in Japan and Vol 4. in Europe.

Quick Info:

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Director:

  • Hiroyuki Fukui

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Nemesis II (Game Boy)

Gradius II (Game Boy Color)

Gradius II (Game Boy Color)


Additional Screenshots


Gradius Galaxies / Gradius Advance / Gradius Generation (グラディウス ジェネレーション) - Game Boy Advance (2001)

Japanese Cover

Gradius Galaxies was developed by Mobile 21, a joint venture between Nintendo and Konami which focused on portable games. It's not exactly innovative, but as a miniature version of Gradius, it's quite good. For starters, it's obviously not nearly as compromised as the previous Game Boy titles, so despite the low resolution, it's still quite playable. The graphics are better than Gradius III but not quite up to the level of Gradius Gaiden. Some of backgrounds, like the bright red moon in the cavern stage and the comet in the warp level look pretty impressive. There's also some occasional use of rotation and scaling effects, like huge, slowly rotating asteroids with narrow openings in the middle. In many previous Gradius games, there's an invincible boss that will slowly make its way back and forth across the screen, forcing you to hide in small nooks to avoid getting crushed. Here it's a buzzsaw-like machine that inflates to take up a huge portion of the screen - it's similar to the one in Gradius Gaiden, but much more menacing. While the graphics are quality, the same can't be said about the music. Much like Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, the music quality is severely compromised, featuring obnixously shrieking bleeps and bloops that sound significantly worse than your average NES game.

The levels aren't too interesting, with only a few cool innovations here and there. The second level is reminiscent of one of the stages in Gradius 2 on MSX - it consists of glass platforms, which can be shattered by shooting at them. If you're not careful, you can destroy the foundations of these platforms, causing the ceilings to collapse down on you. The underground level contains waterfalls that hover in mid-air, which is similar to a stage in XEXEX, another Konami shooter. There's an outer space level, an underground level, a fire level, a moai level (featuring a cybernetic moai boss), and a mechanical base level. The final boss is essentially just a huge brain in a tank. For some reason, the famous Gradius cores look more like eyeballs than orbs, and actually shudder when you hit them. There are only four weapon configurations, which is barely any different from the setup in Gradius III. Each configuration gives the Vic Viper a different color.

Gradius Galaxies is a pretty solid game, even though it doesn't bring anything new to the table. It's not nearly as frustrating as its arcade counterparts, and the ability to pick off at any checkpoint - without worrying about limited continues - make it an easy pick up and play game. But it also lacks any real identity, and so it feels a bit unfulfilling. Still, it was the best way to get a portable Gradius fix, at least until the Gradius Collection came out on PSP.

Strangely, Gradius Galaxies was released in America and Europe before it came to Japan. The Japanese version has some extra bonus challenge missions added in.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Mobile 21

Publisher:

Director:

  • Hideaki Fukutome

Genre:

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Gradius Galaxies (Game Boy Advance)

Gradius Galaxies (Game Boy Advance)

Gradius Galaxies (Game Boy Advance)

Gradius Galaxies (Game Boy Advance)


Additional Screenshots


Mobile Games

Gradius Neo

Gradius Neo

Gradius Neo

Gradius Neo

A number of Gradius titles - including the original and even some of the MSX games - have gotten cell phone ports. One of the few mobile exclusive games is Gradius Neo from 2004 - and unlike most mobile games, it's actually kinda relatively good. The auto-fire is turned on by default, and the pacing is much faster than most Gradius games. The playing field is also much more wide open, and outside of the Moai level, there are not many obstacles to dodge. You auto resurrect right where you die - even when you continue - and always have at least two options.

In addition to the standard power bar, you also have a secondary power bar that's controlled by green colored orbs. By selecting from this bar and pressing the numeric keys, you can change your option formation. It's similar to the same idea found in Gradius III, except you can switch them in-game. There are also a few cool new formations, like the Advance mode, where the Options will fling themselves forward and retreat back to the ship, a bit like a boomerang. There are only five stages, and the whole thing can be beaten in about five minutes or so. The final level is kinda cool, because it has a little maze you can navigate through. You're encased in a small room and need to fend off enemy fire for a few seconds, then you can pick which direction to go to reach the next room. There's even some new catchy music to go along with it.

This also has gotten a sequel called Gradius Neo Imperial, which unfortunately has not been released outside of Japan. In this version, you play as one of the Big Core enemy spaceships, and the levels scroll right-to-left rather than left-to-right. There's also some other mobile game called Gradius Wide which seems to have fallen off the charts, and a now discontinued Japan-only online strategy game called Gradius Arc.

Gradius (Mobile, 2001 version)


Gradius Neo

Gradius Neo Imperial



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Page 1:
Intro
Gradius
Gradius 2 MSX

Page 2:
Gradius II
Gofer no Yabou II

Page 3:
Gradius III
Gradius Gaiden

Page 4:
Gradius IV
Gradius V
Gradius Rebirth

Page 5:
Salamander / Life Force
Salamander 2

Page 6:
Portable Games

Page 7:
Solar Assault
Cosmic Wars
Other

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