Nintendo has once again given gifted us with some retro goodness this week, but the question is: Does Gradius live up to its retro legacy, or should it be abandoned to the depths of time? Better yet, is it worth your hard earned cash? Find out after the break.
Original Release Date: May 1985
Price: $4.99 (eShop)
Full disclosure: I have always been intrigued by shoot-em-up games, fascinated, but I’ve never actually had the actual time to commit to finally beating one, regardless of my terrible performance in them. Gradius is the first shmup I’ve actually completed; this review is 12 hours in the making.
While playing this game, I was reminded of a certain Kacho, who motivated me to complete what I deem to be my first retro game challenge. Gradius is punishingly hard: 3 lives and 1 continue accessed through a code entered at the game over screen. no more, no less. Now this wouldn’t be a challenge with level skipping, no. I decided to experience the quarter eating, Nintendo hard rage as if this was my only game for months, and I could not be any happier that I chose to do it that way.
Gradius is a side scrolling bullet hell for those of you playing from home. You scroll and scroll and shoot, maybe shoot some more, pickup amazingly awesome power-ups like helper ships, missiles, the whole sci-fi nine yards. Your controls are how you would expect a simple game to be: move & shoot. Did I mention you’re going to die?
I feared playing more and more that the sounds effects of explonding enemy starships would grow grating over time, and much to my chagrin, they do grow a irritating after the 15th run through a segment. Not to fault the game however, it did not only start to bother me after an intense amount of frustration and anger. Even greater is the happiest little death march I ever did hear. The soundtrack is phenomenal, and certainly brings me back to a time where I could enter an arcade (a sad fact these days).
The graphics are colorful and bright, even if fairly average for a game of its time, not to say bad, just nothing that screams eye candy. The stages are varied in their appearances and have their own charm, but to be honest, the game is incredibly subject to slowdown. We’re talking 10 frames a second that can really ruin the mood for the game. All the more motivation to shoot those enemies down the fastest you can.
Gradius is a fun, challenging shooter. I was delightfully surprised and it lives up to its “classic” status. If you’re looking for something that is going to make you want to throw your device into a wall (seriously, NERF case) cry in anguish at dying again and having to start all over, this is for you. If you’re looking for something a little less hardcore, may I recommend picking up a nice book, and a cup of tea, while I cry myself to sleep over trying for that new high score.