Konami’s landmark shoot-em-up series begins here.
PLAYERS: 1-2 alternating
RELEASE DATE: December 1986
Let’s be honest: when one thinks of Gradius, what you’re really thinking of are Easter Island heads that spit out blue raspberry candies at you. Don’t deny it! I love that Konami took a very mysterious stone statue and turned it into hordes of enemies in an otherwise innocuous shooter. I won’t be so bold as to say Easter Island heads are the only thing worth enjoying in the game. In fact, I quite like the simplistic upgrade-or-don’t shooter contained here. All that’s required is to be on your toes at all times. Outside of the first level which is quite reasonable, the remaining six levels will turn your ship into so much scrap metal if you let them. Honestly, even the upgrades like missiles, lasers, and a shield (located at the bottom of the screen and accessed through collecting red orbs dropped by enemies) don’t help much, unless you have all of them equipped at one time. I’m not sure the latter is possible without a code, but either way, I highly recommend it. I don’t think you can make it through the game without them, to be honest, and therein lies my one real frustration with the game. Should you die anywhere past level 2, you may as well restart the entire game. The onslaught of enemies and projectiles that will face you and the vulnerability of your ship after a sudden death can not be over-emphasized. Needless to say, the game is ridiculously hard. It’s 3 lives, no continues, buddy, so enjoy those Easter Island heads while you can. This is space, not Halo.