Gradius III (PS2) – only masochists need apply
While writing my recent post about the music of Gradius, I felt the need to experience the music in context. I’ve spent at least some time with each game in the series, but Gradius III has my favourite soundtrack and was the one I really wanted to sink my teeth into. Who could have known that such easy listening would accompany such a difficult game?! Gradius III is one of the hardest, most gruelling games out there, sometimes to the point of absurdity. Beyond a staggering difficulty, Gradius III sports some utterly baffling game design. But there’s a solid core of enjoyable gameplay in all the Gradius games and, thanks to that steady foundation, I was eventually able to “complete” it. Continue reading
The melodic music of Konami shooters
For the past several weeks I’ve been in thrall to the Gradius series. The strategic power-up selection, the challenging levels, and the reward of downing a powerful boss – it’s a joy to play these games. Alongside Gradius there are also spin-offs that share the same DNA, most notably Salamander/Life Force and Parodius.
This post is dedicated to these games’ amazing tunes, all courtesy of Konami’s esteemed composers. Konami are perhaps best known music-wise for the Castlevania series. but Gradius is a neglected well of wonderful melodies and beautiful tunes. It’s unfortunate that Konami neglected the series after the mid-2000s, and that Gradius never had a talent like Michiru Yamane attached to the series to expand and extend its unique musical identity into the present era.
What makes the music of Konami’s shooters so special? TV Tropes has a great phrase that explains:
The bulk of Gradius’s most crowning songs accurately convey some sort of cosmic wonder.
This is a great way to kick us off, so I suggest we see how this bears out in practice! Continue? Continue reading
Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus (Saturn) – is this biological or mechanical warfare?
It’s been a while, readers. But I’m back. That’s right, the PhD is over. Submitted and awaiting viva! Throughout these past few months, I haven’t stopped playing games entirely. Still, my enjoyment of life in general has increased dramatically now, and that extends to games too. After listening to a recent Retronauts episode about the Gradius series, I decided to dust off my copy of the expansively named Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus for the trusty Sega Saturn. I’d always been curious, so why not try these spin-offs of a beloved series?
Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus is a collection of three arcade games, namely Salamander, Life Force, and Salamander 2. The former two, which I’ll cover first, are variations on the same basic game released within a year of one another in 1986-7. Salamander 2, by comparison, released almost ten years later in 1996, and is a more modern iteration on the series formula. These games all riff on similar level themes, bosses and structure, many of these themselves nabbed from the Gradius series. For instance, every game alternates between horizontal and vertical scrolling stages, and contains a mix of biological and sci-fi themed stages. Continue reading
Breaking the space-time continuum in Gradius V (PS2)
Reputed to be one of Treasure’s best games and one of the most ambitious shmups of all time, Gradius V is the stuff of legend. Expensive and difficult to track down on its native PS2, thanks to the PS3’s online store it is finally within easy reach for PS3 owners. And at a cheap price too! Having sunk my teeth into it at long last, I’m happy to say that in my opinion this game’s glowing reputation is justified.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Gradius V is the way it shakes up the conventions of the traditional 2D shooter genre. When I wrote about Shienryu on PS1 in my most recent shmup review, I concluded that it was competent in all areas but inspired in none. Gradius V is similarly competent, retaining the tried and true gameplay mechanics of the Gradius series, but this fifth entry is also incredibly inspired, adding puzzle elements into a genre that is generally much more taxing on your thumbs than your brain. Continue reading
Sexy Parodius (Saturn) review
Do you have a grudge against penguins? Have you ever suspected them of evil but not had any proof? Well, then, Sexy Parodius is the game for you: finally documented evidence of penguins engaging in all manner of filth and perversion. Human trafficking, wealthy decadence, wielding a tommy gun, illegal mining operations, plus assorted general evil toilet-wearing mastermind antics. As well as nefarious penguins, you can also play pest control to a cute mice infestation in a haunted castle, fight raccoons with oversized testicles, crush ears of baby sweetcorn and corn-on-the-cobs that fire popcorn, and destroy deviant Dreamcast logos. And that’s just for starters.