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Gradius Collection

Reviewed by: DualMedia: UMD
Released by: KonamiStatus: Common (used/discounted)
Platform: Sony PSPNumber of games: 5
Year released: 2006Players: 1

Games included:
GradiusGradius IIGradius IIIGradius IVGradius Gaiden

The Gradius Collection, probably the "must-own" compilation on the PSP, packs an impressive line-up. Although it only has five games, it is definitely worth any PSP-owning shmup fan's dollar. It runs the arcade versions of each game, aside from Gradius Gaiden, which was only released on the PS1. Each of the games emulate excellently, but there is a notable ďmotion blurĒ that can cause projectiles to be slightly difficult to notice against one of Gradiusís many black backgrounds. This isnít abnormal or an emulation error, however, itís something every PSP game does that is simply more noticeable on this collection. It doesnít detract from the experience, but is worth mentioning. Some of the games do suffer from a bit of slowdown, but itís nothing worse than their arcade counterparts, as far as I can tell.

< One of the biggest things worth mentioning on this compilation that Iím sure any Gradius fan will be pleased to hear is that the soundtrack to each game is immediately available for your listening pleasure. Just pop some headphones in, put your PSP on hold and slide it into your pocket, and youíve got a portable MP3 player packed with some good listeniní. In addition to the soundtracks being easily accessible, you can also watch the opening videos for the Gradius Deluxe Pack (PS1/Saturn), Gradius III and IV (PS2) and Gradius Gaiden. Each of the games come with adjustable screen-sizes and options to modify things like the difficulty. Multiplayer is absent, but considering alternating Gradius multiplayer was never very too much fun, this isnít a big loss. The buttons arenít mappable for several of the titles, but this isnít a big deal, considering theyíre already fairly conveniently placed, anyway, and there is an auto-fire. Each game also comes with a useful save and load option, allowing you to save any time during the game. Saving will remember what power-ups you were using at the time of the last checkpoint you hit, which will allow you to load from that checkpoint with those power-ups whenever you want. Originally, I thought this feature was just for high scores.
Gradius II: The first Moai boss to appear in the series isn't that tough.

The games can be somewhat difficult to play on the PSP, considering that the d-pad is nothing to speak positively of and the slim model PSPís d-pad doesnít improve things drastically. I found myself using the analog nub on both the slim and original model, and it does artificially inflate the difficulty a bit. However, itís definitely far from ďgame-ruining,Ē and each of the games are still a great amount of fun to play on the handheld. Just be warned that if youíre a bit new to shmups, the difficulty might be a little overbearing, at first. If youíre a Gradius fan, you already know what to expect from, likely, each of these gamesÖ at least as far as the core gameplay goes. If youíre not, then youíre in for a real treat. Gradius is essentially ďtheĒ horizontal shmup series, and this collection comes packed with my personal favorite of them, Gradius Gaiden. While other recent compilations might offer more quantity than the Gradius Collection, few of them come close to offering this much quality.
Gradius III: Fun fact: this dragon boss was originally going to appear in the SNES port, but was cut for unknown reasons. Most likely, the system couldn't handle it.

The original Gradius is still delightfully fun and playable to this day, as is its graphically impressive sequel, Gradius II. Gradius III, however, unfortunately uses the arcade version, and, in addition to that, doesnít have the stage select that Gradius III and IV (PS2) had. You can still go through it pretty well with saving and loading, however, but it does get a bit tedious. Gradius IV is also worth it, even if it does feel a bit stale and rehashed a little too much. Both Gradius II and Gradius Gaiden were previously been unreleased over here, so if youíre not import or emulation-savvy, this is likely your first chance to play them, Gradius fan or not. Boasting some gorgeous visuals, excellent gameplay, and rockiní music, Gradius Gaiden is one of the best shmups Iíve ever had the pleasure of laying my hands on. If youíre any kind of self-respecting shmup-fun and you havenít played it yet, you truly owe it to yourself to pick this compilation up even if itís exclusively just for Gaiden. The game is fully intact on here and something you shouldnít just pass up.
Gradius IV: Say what you will about this one, but at least the OST is good. Especially the theme for this stage.

This collection honestly would have been nearly perfect for me if it had come with the NES version of Gradius II and the SNES version of Gradius III, but considering Iíve played the former to completion and have done the same with the latter, while also owning two copies of it (SNES and VC), the Gradius Collection is definitely damn good enough, already.
Gradius Gaiden: Even while slowly rusting away, the Covered Core still wants revenge. Look out!

Worth the purchase: Without a doubt.

Diversity: Although there are only five games, and theyíre obviously all Gradius games, itís pretty good.

Playability: Nothing to worry about here, smooth sailing.

Hidden gems: If you havenít played Gradius Gaiden yet, itís an effiní huge one.

Screenshots courtesy of Gradius Homeworld.