Gradius Deluxe Pack
|Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata||Media: CD||Released by: Konami||Status: out of print
||Platform: Sony PlayStation||Number of games: 2
||Year released: 1996||Players: 1-2 (alternating)
|Gradius||Gradius II: Gofer no Yabou|
|At the start of the Playstation's life in Japan, Konami decided to release several deluxe packs containing quite a few of their old arcade games. Gradius Deluxe Pack, to my knowledge, was one of the first ones (later followed by Parodius, Twinbee and Salamander). You can find arcade perfect versions of Gradius 1 and 2 (the first one was known as Nemesis in some arcades, and the second was released in Europe as Vulcan Venture). But as appetizing as it may sound, it doesn't quite meet the expectations a shooter fan may have. For those unfamiliar with this seminal series, lemme just give a quick
breakdown: you must pilot the Vic Viper through a variety of side-scrolling
level to destroy the evil Bacterion Empire. The power-up system revoles
around picking up little orbs that advance your power bar and lets you
pick you own weapons, based on how many orbs you've collected. The original
Gradius only has one set-up, but Gradius 2 allows you to pick and choose
(selecting the type of laser, missile, shield, etc.)
|The title screen of the game that started it all.
||The original Gradius was also released for the NES way back when and it
was a fairly decent translation of the arcade title. So you'd expect
a monumental leap forward for the 32-bit Playstation compared to the 8-bit
NES? Well, not quite. The graphics obviously look nicer, but not too
much better than a Genesis or SNES game. But the music is horrible.
I understand this was made in 1986 and it's a step up from the NES version...
but not a large step at all. It's all very blippy and rather annoying.
It's too bad, because the tunes themselves are rather decent. The sound
effects are pretty rotten too. The gameplay is pretty much the same,
only now you can actually scroll vertically in certain levels. But as fun as the game is, IT'S OLD. Yes, it's a classic title, but
the weapon selection is horribly limited (the useless gun, the even more
useless Double gun, and the only decent weapon, the Laser.) And the
boss is the same on almost every level (save one of the last ones.)
The only real thing setting this apart from the old NES version, which
can be had for a measly $5, is the graphics, and they really aren't worth
buying it again for.
|Gradius: After all these years I'm still wondering just what the hell that thing is.
| And then there's the real reason most people would want this CD: Gradius 2. The graphics have gotten somewhat better since the original Gradius, with
the first level being a trip through a bunch of flaming stars (being
chased by rather angry dragons.) You'll also find more
interesting levels as whole, ranging from an trip to an H.R. Giger like
lair, a field of flying crystalline asteroids, and another Moai stage. The music has also gotten
using plenty of percussion to spice up the tunes (which, for the most
part are great, save the utterly annoying boss tune.) So, what's the problem,
you ask? The unfair difficulty, that's what. When the Vic Viper is fully power-uped,
the game is almost too easy. But if you're not, the game becomes well
nigh impossible. All too often, you'll blast through the game, having
a grand ol' time, screw up somewhere along the way, and get plopped into
a situation where it's impossible to get out without cheating. Don't believe
me? One occasion in the last level places you where the ceiling and floor
crumbles apart and the debris all runs toward the Vic Viper. Now, if you
have the Ripple laser and a few Options, it's not too hard. But if you're
armed with your pitiful, two-shot-at-a-time normal weapon, there's no way
you can do anything useful. You'll just die. And get tossed back
right before this section with no way to power-up. Designing a game
that's difficult and requiring many replays to get the patterns down
right is one thing...that's acceptable. But putting the player in areas
that simply cannot be beaten is not good game design at all. Gradius 2 would've been an awesome
had it not been for this horrible, horrible mistake. This works
in the arcade, where you want to kill the player as often as possible
to get money. But it doesn't work at home.
|The Vic Viper in action on a Gradius title screen for the first time.
||This is the primary gripe I have with the Gradius Deluxe Pack... it's like they
just shoveled the ROMs of these old arcade games onto a CD, whipped up
some emulators, and that was it. The only thing they really seemed
to put effort into was the incredible opening (actually better than Gradius
Gaiden) and the beautiful piano version of the Navigation tune at the
end of Gradius 1. Why couldn't the difficulty of Gradius 2 been changed
so that the screen wasn't totally littered with deadly projectiles leading
to unavoidable deaths? This would've made the game much more enjoyable.
Why is it that the PC Engine versions of Gradius
and Gradius 2 have extra levels (and the PC Engine Gradius has much better
graphics and sound to boot.)? On a whole, Gradius fanatics and connoseuirs of classic shooters will
probably want to pick this up. Honestly, if you're curious about
Gradius 2, I'd actually have to recommend the Famicom version over this
one...the sprite limit of the old system keeps the number of projectiles
(and the difficulty) down to a much more tolerable level. And my final gripe? They left out Gradius
who's played the SNES version knows that it's a great title, just hampered
by so much slowdown. Now, how sweet would it have been to play this
game on the Playstation sans slowdown? But it's mysteriously AWOL, and wouldn't surface on a home console until the release of Gradius III & IV for the PS2. Yes, they're decent games, and they can be a source of much fun (if you
can put up with the ridiculous areas in Gradius 2) but they don't have the lasting appeal of
today's shooters. There are
better blasters on the Playstation worthy of your attention (Gradius Gaiden,
|Gradius II: Now that is one huge boss.
Worth the purchase: If you love Gradius and want to play it on your TV, yes. If you're just a casual fan, why not pick up the Gradius Collection for the PSP?
Diversity: Just two entries in the series. Konami could have done better. A lot better.
Playability: As near as can be told, the controls are spot on. If you die it's liable to be from pilot error or the crushing Bacterion onslaught, not bad controls.
Hidden gems: N/A