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Gradius 2 MSX

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Gradius II
Gofer no Yabou II

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Gradius III
Gradius Gaiden

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Gradius IV
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Salamander / Life Force
Salamander 2

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Portable Games

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Solar Assault
Cosmic Wars
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Cosmic Wars (コズミックウォーズ) - Famicom (1989)

Cover

Cosmic Wars is a super obtuse strategy game that's meant to take place in the same universe as Gradius. Some of the units include the Vic Viper, the Big Core ship, and the Zelos battleship. During the game, you'll also see super deformed versions of the Moai and Golem (from Life Force) running back and forth at the top of the screen. The second player controls the Bacterion Army commander, who looks like Venom from Gradius 2 MSX. However, for the most part, this really just amounts to tiny little cameos - otherwise, the game has very little to do with Gradius. It has some peppy music, but it's so unlike other strategy games that it's very hard to play without knowing the language. The computer AI in single player mode is also maddeningly slow.

Cosmic Wars (Famicom)

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Cosmic Wars (Famicom)

Cosmic Wars (Famicom)

Cosmic Wars (Famicom)


Solar Assault / Solar Assault Revised - Arcade (1997)

American Arcade Flyer

Back in 1997, the idea of Gradius in 3D seemed beyond awesome. So Konami created Solar Assault, an arcade only Gradius spin-off that plays more like Star Fox or Galaxy Force II. Even though the viewpoint was changed to an over-the-shoulder view, the concept is pretty much like Gradius - kill enemies, get power orbs, strengthen your weapons, and shoot more bad guys. It has all the standard Gradius levels like an asteroid field, a sea of flames and a moai stage.

There are three ships - the trusty Vic Viper and Lord British, along with a new ship, the Alpina. Each of them got its own set of weapon upgrades. The graphics look relatively fantastic - better than any PlayStation or N64 game from back then - but a bit aged today. As to be expected, you restart at the beginning of the stage whenever you die. This ends up being frustrating - 3D gameplay is way too imprecise and unforgiving, especially when you still die from a single hit. It's great for the novelty factor, especially when you fly through tunnels sitting a huge arcade-style cockpit, but as a game, it's only alright. This is undoubtedly one of the main reasons it never got ported - it just wouldn't be as flashy on a home system, plus it's quite short. The Revised version adds an extra level near the beginning of the game. It's partially emulated as of this writing, but the graphics and sound are a bit glitchy, the controls are weird, and it's incredibly slow.

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Solar Assault (Arcade)

Solar Assault (Arcade)


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Vic Viper - Arcade (unreleased)

Vic Viper was a 3D arcade racing game in development in 1995. It was shown in an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, but apparently Konami cancelled the game quietly. It looked to be a bit like F-Zero or Wipeout, as you pilot hovering ships over a race track. It's widely believed that this was meant to be a variation on one of Konami's other racing game, Speed King, which was ported to the PlayStation in Japan.

Vic Viper


Salamander - Anime (1988)

Video Cover

The plot of the Gradius and Salamander games - only detailed in the game manuals and the cutscenes of the MSX games - is pretty sparse, but that didn't stop Konami from producing three OVAs back in the eighties, in conjunction with Studio Pierrot. Each are forty-five minutes long - the first one details the story of Salamander, the second is a prequel based on the original Gradius, and the third vaguely details the plot of Gradius II.

The first anime begins with the planet of Latis coming under attack from the planet Salamander. We soon learn that this is an organic lifeform created by the Bacterion Empire, sent to destroy and transform other planets into similar monstrosities. The emperor, Lord British (yes, he's a character here, not the name of a ship) enlists three heroes from the Planet Gradius - Eddy, Stephanie and Dan - to destroy the foes. Together, they hop into their star fighters, infiltrate the demonic planet and kill some bad guys. They end up fighting the big skull boss from the fourth level of the NES version of Salamander. In the meantime, Eddy sacrifices himself by flying into the body of a big space dragon, allowing his compatriots to destroy the core and save the day.

The second episode - subtitled "Paola's Meditation" - details the Bacterion menace and their first strike on planet Gradius. Although little is known about the Bacterion empire, they appear to spread through a black fog, which turns inorganic objects into nightmarish organic mass, complete with pulsing muscles and veins. After the initial attack, three space pilots - once again, Eddy, Stephanie and Dan - discover an abandoned vessel floating out in the middle of space. The only survivor is a woman named Paola, who seems to have some kind of psychic ability to predict the onslaught of the Bacterions. During a recon mission, Eddy ends up disobeying orders and gets demoted. He teams with Paola to hunt down a mysterious obelisk (shaped like a Moai head) which is apparently attracting the Bacterions. Paola tricks him into destroying it, where she reveals that she's actually a Bacterion secret agent, and the obelisk was actually protecting the planet from invasion. In the meantime, Stephanie and Dan launch an assault on Zelos, one of the main crafts of the Bacterion fleet (this is the same battleship shown on the title screen and on the cover of the games). After fighting some big core ships, they come upon the central brain, which is actually Stephanie's father (apparently, the Bacterions use the brains of captured humans to take control of their fleet). Stephanie destroys her father's brain, saving the planet of Gradius. The credits sequence features a side view scroll through the final stage of Gradius, mimicking the video game.

The third episode - subtitled "Gofer's Ambition" - begins with a signing of a friendship treaty between the planets of Gradius and Latis. Just as Lord British is about to put the moves on Stephanie, she's captured by the Bacterions. The scheming Paola returns, this time threatening to put Stephanie's brain into Gofer, a huge, groaning monstrosity that controls another one of their battleships. Dan and Lord British set off to save her, eventually flying through solar flares, defeating flaming dragons, and killing the second level boss. We also learn that the Bacterion are apparently a crystalline life form.

The animation looks like a typical late-80s/early 90s anime. The character designs aren't anything special, and the mechanical designers took too many liberties with the Vic Viper, so it doesn't quite look like it does in the game. Overall, the anime is really at its best when it's reliving moments from the game, with the Vic Vipers fighting against various bosses, while the familiar video game music - slightly enhanced - plays in the background. In certain episodes, there's a bit too much exposition and not enough meat to go along with it. This is especially true in the first episode, where the characters sit around for half an hour, talking about destroying the bad guys, instead of actually doing it. The second and third episodes are much better in this regard, with more interesting plotlines and a greater focus on action.

It's cool that the anime provides some context to the games - we've heard about planet Gradius and Latis, but this time we can actually see their culture and civilization. Other than that, though, it's a pretty standard sci-fi action anime with mostly uninteresting characters.

The episodes were released on VHS and Laserdisc only in Japan. However, you can find DVD bootlegs if you look around. They have English subtitles, although they tend to skip over certain lines.

Salamander (Anime)

Salamander (Anime)

Salamander (Anime)

Salamander (Anime)

Salamander (Anime)


Additional Screenshots


Cameos

The Moai head, prominent in the Gradius series, has since become an unofficial mascot, showing up in dozens upon dozens of Konami games, sometimes hiding in the backgrounds. He even starred in his own Famicom game called Moai-kun, which is an interesting little arcade-style puzzle/action title. Some of the weapons show up in different games - the Gradius Shield orbs can be summoned in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance. The Ripple Laser can also be used in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, and shows up in Neo Contra as well.

The Vic Viper has also shown up in a handful of Konami games, a number of which feature Gradius (or Gradius-inspired) mini-games. The NES hockey game Blades of Steel has a small intermission where you play as a tiny Vic Viper against a Big Core boss. Legend of the Mystical Ninja for the SNES features a carnival where you can play the first level from the first Gradius. Other than being a bit squished, it's a pretty decent rendition. (The second Goemon SFC game, released in Japan, has a similar demo level for XEXEX, another Konami shooter.) Ganbare Goemon: Uchuu Kaizoku Akogingu for the PlayStation also has a Gradius-style level called "Kamedius" where you ride a flying turtle ("kame" means turtle in Japanese). There also is a mini Gradius boss that you fight in Ganbare Goemon 2 for the Famicom.

Ganbare Goemon: Uchuu Kaizoku Akogingu

Konami's all-star platformer Wai Wai World features an overhead shooter level where you can control either the Twinbee or the Vic Viper - the stage itself is vaguely reminiscent of the Salamander games. Wai Wai World 2 features a side-scrolling level where you play as a chibi Vic Viper. The stage has the decor of a Japanese house, and the boss is a crab with a core in the middle. It's very similar to Parodius. There's also a side scrolling level in Rocket Knight Adventures for the Genesis that feature Gradius-style enemy patterns and an enemy that looks like a Big Core with legs. The Moai head and Vic Viper show up as racers in the GBA kart racing game Konami's Krazy Racers.

A few other games feature Gradius levels. The Hudson arena fighter (i.e. Smash Bros ripoff) Dream Mix TV Fighters Megamix for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube feature a number of Konami characters, including Simon Belmont and Solid Snake. One of the hidden games is a Gradius-style level starring the Moai head. Additionally, the Vic Viper shows up in Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. It's piloted by Leon, the hero of the first ZOE, and can transform from a spaceship into a mech. There's a hidden bonus missions called Zoradius. It's a 3D minigame in the style of the Gradius games, vaguely similar to Solar Assault. It's just one big long boring tunnel filled with enemy ships and Moai heads - very dull looking, but it's a cool homage. It even uses music and sound effects from the original arcade game.

Pani Poni Dash

The Vic Viper even has a few cameos animes. The mecha-loli Sky Girls features the Vic Viper in a few episodes - this makes sense, considering it was produced by Konami. Gradius is also parodied in Pani Poni Dash, which even makes reference to the Konami code. The show Hayate the Combat Butler has a pixellated portrait of the Vic Viper hanging on their walls. Gradius the game is also played in the infamous hentai La Blue Girl. The Vic Viper has a card in Yu-Gi-Oh - and appearnace in the anime - also created by Konami. Various Gradius and Salamander tunes are remixed for a number of Konami rhythm games, including Dance Dance Revolution, Pop'n Music, and Beatmania.

Hayate the Combat Butler

Moai-kun (Famicom)

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (GBA)

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA)

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (PS2)

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (PS2)

La Blue Girl


Related Articles


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

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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