Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gradius III (Playstation 2)

Checkpoints ON
6 Difficulty levels
10 Stages (loopable)
Ship speed by icons
- - - - - - -
Developed by Konami
Published by KCET in 2000

Lovers of the Gradius series owe themselves a great deal of thanks to the Konami of old. As we entered the new millennium they were still capable of presenting shmup fans with stuff like Gradius III and IV for the Playstation 2. This fantastic bundle doesn’t need any explanation as to what is inside that shiny blue-tinted CD. As far as I know these are the only ports of the last real arcade Gradiuses, wrapped in a package that’s enriched by a few nice tweaks and two distinct animated intros that work as a sweet homage to the series. One of these intros is, in fact, very similar in style to the psychedelic intro to Mars Matrix on the Dreamcast. Were they made by the same team, perhaps? I wouldn’t doubt that.

The most well-known fact concerning the arcade version of Gradius III is the consensus among gamers about the extraordinary leap in difficulty from Gradius II, which isn’t actually that shabby in this regard. You’ll often see people cursing the checkpoints in the game and how it's impossible to recover when you die. Now I can say that’s partially true, and I take the opportunity to grant forgiveness to the SNES port for everything I might have declared in the past. Much accursed for its alleged slowdown problems, now I know that this slowdown was *already* heavily present in the arcade game (judging by what I could see from MAME). With four options/multiples the slowdown was so heavy in the last part of the volcano stage that very early on I decided I would play without the slowdown on the port for the Playstation 2.

This slowdown tweak is one of the neatest things you get in the console version. Go to the options and set “wait level” to 2 in order to experience the original slowdown, but leave it at 0 to get rid of it and enjoy a seamless game with no loading times whatsoever (you can also change it on the fly by pausing the game). Gradius III has absolutely no continues, but each checkpoint reached is unlocked in the Stage Select option for your suffering delight. You even get to unlock a special practice area for the dreaded cube rush in the “Extra Mode” screen, which also includes Gradius / Salamander bonus stages (unlocked by getting hit by the energy balls from the final boss) and Extra Edit (allows selection of weapons from all ship configurations, including the exclusive ones from the SNES version / finish the game to unlock).

Pop the bubbles to go from legend to myth!

As the story goes, the Vic Viper spaceship returns to battle the evil Bacterion army in Gradius III. Not much has changed from the basic gameplay of earlier games, except for the weapons rearranged in four basic configurations (A, B, C, D), a limited weapon edit alternative and several shield options. Besides that, the player must choose between the technical course (regular game) and a beginner’s course (easier game with only the three initial stages). By default one button shoots, another drops missiles and a third one triggers upgrades. These upgrades correspond to the highlighted cells of the weapon array, which in turn is cycled by collecting orange power-up capsules. The order of the cells in the weapon array is as follows: speed-up, missile, double, laser, option/multiple, ? (shield) and ! (a screen-clearing smart bomb that replaces the effect of the gray capsule seen in previous chapters). Each configuration plays drastically different from the next, to the point where you need to practically devise completely different strategies to play the game with each one of them.

Sounds pretty simple, wouldn’t you say? Yes, there are no complications in the way controls work. Using them to overcome the odds is a whole different story though, for brutal is the most common word used to describe Gradius III and its checkpoints. One of the early examples in the game is in the bubble stage, which is merely the second one and also the reason why most casual players remember it as a painful experience. Dying there makes getting back on your knees simply impossible, and in my opinion the same can be said about a few parts in the volcano, moai and fortress levels. Whenever it happened I would give up the credit immediately. While these checkpoint drawbacks certainly pose extra pressure upon players, they also tell you up front to accept the challenge as it is: relentless, ruthless, vicious, merciless, you name it. Playing a full credit for over half an hour to die horribly in a place where you just can’t recover? Oh, I’ve been there countless times, as I’m sure those who’ve already been there also were...

Of course that doesn’t mean Gradius III isn’t fun. It’s just that the fun in this case is irrevocably related to the player’s dedication and the overall sensation of achieving a grand objective in a shooter of epic proportions. Each level won feels like a small victory, but coping with all variables and hazards still takes lots of practice because more often than not the game likes to throw something different to screw things up. The asymmetrical stage lengths help keep things in perspective – the volcano (3rd) and fortress (10th) levels are very, very long, in a strong contrast with the brief rail segment of stage 4. That one is an anomaly in the Gradius universe since it only appears here, acting as a bridge between levels that are common to both courses and levels that can only be played in the normal course. This section is devoid of enemies and you're not allowed to shoot, only weave through wall corridors and collect power-up capsules. The cool thing is that any shield you had prior to entering the level is fully recharged when you come out of it directly into the moai stage.

Allow me to break down the game in stages:
  1. Desert – easy first level; I guess those sand lions sort of represent the most iconic image people have from Gradius III.
  2. Bubble – knowing where the turrets are and being aggressive to destroy the larger bubbles is important, since a clean screen is needed when those minions start coming from behind.
  3. Volcano – a 3-part level where the first part throws lots of those hatches that unleash hordes of minions/bullets, the second part unfolds as a huge maze of walls and the third part is filled with destructible matter; it all ends in the staggering laser boss after a mini-volcano spree.
  4. High speed – the short rail segment.
  5. Moai – yet another one of these... urgh; aggressive behavior works well for the whole stage, but don’t hesitate to protect yourself from the ring showers if needed.
  6. Cell – looks like a leftover from Salamander, but it’s a lot trickier and more claustrophobic.
  7. Fire – this one is a nightmare because it's impossible to destroy the fireballs completely and even the shield can be deceiving with its bigger hitbox; at least there’s no randomness at all to the fireballs, so I memorized safe routes in order to get back up upon dying.
  8. Plant – a relatively easier level that ends in a considerably tougher boss; I never reached him with full power, so I had to learn how to survive his approaches and time him out.
  9. Crystal – cubes mount from the right to form the stage itself, and then try to crush you when the screen stops prior to the boss (I think this is the second most iconic image people have from Gradius III); my strategy on the cube rush concerns two elements – cube spawning position is random, while the point where they “rush” on you is fixed; knowing the second element is the key to build a wall and shelter yourself until the boss arrives.
  10. Fortress – first there’s the boss rush and then a long stretch inside the fortress itself with very tight passages, lots of difficult hatches to take care of and the dreaded combo of wall + mechanical spider prior to an organic wall + last boss + high speed escape.

Things got kinda nervous at the end of this 1CC...

The reason why I never got past the fire stage with a fullly powered ship without dying is rank, which is directly related to your firepower level and survival time. Enemies don’t get any more sympathetic either if you give away all your options to the capturing bug before entering the fireball area. The truth is that reducing rank is only really achieved by dying, but in a good run where I perish in the fire level I feel comfortable to bridge the game to the end if I can get “good” cubes in the cube rush. If I get a stream of “bad” cubes the earned extends are much welcome to provide extra attempts at surviving them (first one with 20K, then at every 70K).

Just like in the first games in the series, the scoring system of Gradius III is very basic and totally detached from any more noble objectives due to the checkpoint system. For instance, a no-death run would result in a measly score when compared to a credit where the player exploits the cube rush or the boss rush checkpoints. I have gotten several scores higher than the 1CC result shown below but refused to have them registered because, you know, for me it's 1CC or bust.

There isn’t anything special about the graphics of Gradius III especially when comparing this chapter to the second one, which came out just one year earlier. Everything is just cruelly exquisitely designed, that’s all. Musically the game is okay in the recycled levels (volcano, moai, fortress) and quite good in the ones that bring new themes (bubble, cell, plant, crystal). Digitized voices are everywhere, from activating upgrades to the creepy monologue of the final boss and the trademark bossy messages (destroy the mouth, destroy the eye, destroy the chest). In between each lesson learned when being killed the umpteenth time by one of the bosses or crashing onto a wall due to nervousness or greed, my final impression is that Gradius III excels at flooding the player with feelings of joy and anger in equal measure. At least it doesn’t tease you like Gradius II did (you need some practice!), otherwise the anger factor could be even higher.

I am proud to say I have succeeded in beating Gradius III for the Playstation 2 on Normal with slowdown disabled (wait level 0). It was a joyous ride full of failure, yet extremely rich in acquiring deep Gradius knowledge. I used the type B ship configuration and the original shield (force field), reaching the middle of stage 2-1. Note: besides being a lot harder, the second loop has completely rearranged enemy patterns.

Next in line is Gradius Gaiden on the Playstation!


  1. This is a phenomenal example of skill. I will share with our brazilian readers.

  2. What?! You already got this game done?! D:

    First you need to clarify this. you played it with no slowdown. D: It's the only way I play this game, lol. That to me is the normal speed. XD (Oh wait, you later clarify this. Man, I can't believe you made this game that much harder, lol. What were you thinking and what happened to playing the game as was originally released. Now you can't relate to how players felt like back in the days playing this XD)

    And that's how you beat stage 7 Fire stage? Memorization? That's the one stage where I always wing it with a fully powered up ship constantly firing non-stop to keep the slowdown engaged and then weave through all the tinny fireball fragments I'm causing, lol. It's now one of my fave stage cause it's so spontaneous and well, quite the rush once I finally reach that bad boy boss untouched. :D

    And you never beat the plant boss but time him out? He's that hard? I forget him now, but I always beat him, I know that.

    The fire stage music (via MAME only, it's a tad different in the home ports) had this section that reminded me of TMNT Arcade game also by Konami. And when I look it up, 1 of the 2 music guys did the music for TMNT too.

    Going to leave it at this for now. And thank you very much for going pretty in depth and a level by level description. And man, I can't believe for your first try you did this without slowdown. You're crazy, man! And this proves you're a true masochist too. :P

    - Sinful

    1. I'm not crazy, I just can't resist these games!

      While I can see why the slowdown would be good at certain places, it just takes tooooo long to get through the mud part of the volcano stage.... It's almost unbearable to get through that part with wait level at 2. Plus without slowdown the flow of the game feels more natural.

      The reason I never faced the plant boss at full power is that I always died somewhere in the fire stage. Surviving with a fully powered ship + no slowdown is really hard. Even when I let the bug take all the options the rank is so high that the stage still remains quite aggressive. Therefore I always reached the plant boss with no options, only missiles and force field (sometimes a force field in reserve). Then I had to learn how to evade his attacks till it quits.

      Thanks for the support, I guess you and a couple of other friends really pushed me into doing this.

  3. lol, I just re-read what I posted and I hope it didn't come out as rude. Plus I want to clarify as to why I was shocked you beat Fire Scramble via memorization. Cause that's one area where if I died there, it was 100% game over for me... well, wait, there a ton of moments like that for me in this game. XD (why I thought it was funny when you said it too. Cause I too once once I die, it's basically back to stage 1 from the very start again). But that one stage in particular sticks out big time. As it was the only stage where I finally made a state save at the very start to get in a few practice runs. By the ninth run I finally made it through and from then on I always tense up big time when I get to that part, because it's for sure do or die. There is no try.

    I knew it could be done without powerups/slowdown, because tviks, you know tviks, right? Course you do! Well I read he once beat the game without upgrading anything but speed. But when I heard that, the thing that right away blew my mind was how anyone can play this game without slowdown & especially for that section more then anything in this game by a longshot (oh wait, stage 3 boss is another that comes to mind when he tosses them super fast lazers... heard of timing him out though, something I never done. As I just always make sure always get there fully powered up or it's game over). Cause no powered up ship = no slowdown. It's having all Options shooting everything non-stop that causes the slowdown. And when I do Fire Scramble, the ship I have best success with is the Ripple Lazer ship. Cause that Lazer causes a consistent constant slowdown to which I adjust to being the normal speed for the whole game. While the normal Lazer you can't always have all Lazers on screen at once all the time, so you gets hiccups in the slowdown. Plus when I finally decided to give that ship a try was when I finally beat that stage. But yeah, with that ship I just go at it full guns and missiles a blazing and slip through the cracks like I've said. Very fun. :)

    Plus that spontaneous thing. It's one of the main reason I prefer Gradius over R-Type. Less memorization more acting on the moment type thing. Cause no matter how much I memorize in this game, there still are very many moments where I have to act on the fly. Always.

    Read one guy on the forum say he preferred to lower the difficulty when removing the slowdown to balance it out + make it feel more like Gradius II cause he too didn't like the slowdown idea. But the game really was balanced around the slowdown. Kind of like a bullet hell game with more bullets and stuff but slower bullet movement. Why this game is so unique in the classic Gradius series (will name a few more things in another reply).That's why this game tosses so much more at you to compensate for the slowdown to begin with.

    I also noticed the slowdown on the PS2 version not matching the Arcade one all the time. Like it's not always kicked in when it should be. But I forget which one does it more now?

    K, I better stop talking otherwise you won't be able to answer it all. Plus thanks again and a big congrats on conquering this game, and without slowdown to boot too... wow, what madness. 0_0 Didn't think you'd succeed with this much style.

    - Sinful

  4. Almost missed that post as you posted it within 2 min of my latest one. So that's why you time out that boss. But yeah, like I said, I always get through that Fire Scramble stage with full power-ups otherwise I don't make it through there at all. >_>;;

    And couple of other guys convinced you to go for this game? Really?

    - Sinful

    1. OK, lets see...

      You mention tviks being able to beat Gradius III by only upgrading speed.... I would very much like to see that!! For instance I think it's impossible to get through the moai stage without at least 2 to 3 options. If I die anywhere there it's game over. How the heck am I supposed to beat the moai boss with a bare ship? And how the heck am I supposed to survive the bubbles with no options? And the hatches inside the fortress? What about Dellinger Core?

      Check my 1CC video, you'll see how I deal with the plant boss.
      In this particular run the prick stripped me off my force field, but most often I get out of there with an active force field.

      As for people convincing me, it's more in the vein of supporting / cheering. It doesn't always come out here, but sometimes all it takes to give you an extra push is a good comment or a nice email with positive feedback.

    2. You have a video of this too. O_O

      Ok, I better get watching. But I forgot to ask one more thing I was wondering about and I guess I'll see it in the video. Did you make a recovery in the Fortress level? There is supposed to be a glitch in the PS2 and PSP version (since it's a PS2 port and where I seen this glitch too via abusing it's checkpoint saving feature) at that spinning arm lazer thingies. Forget what triggers it but it's something like either not losing a life the whole game or at least that level? Thus making a 1 life run impossible on these ports (well, I actually found a way). This glitch causes the arm lazers to not all start at the proper time, thus totally blocking at least one place. At first I didn't crack the puzzle right, thus found a way by abusing their collision detection while playing it on the PSP to go through them at certain angles and spots. Which I must of found by accident? Didn't know it was a glitch till I read tviks mention it on the Gradius forum.

      And yeah, on that tviks play-through, yeah, I know. I don't know how to make it past some situation like the Moai stage either, among many others. But he had a video of it once too. Just can't find it anymore. But this is all mentioned on the Gradius forum by him. It's how I know of it. But he sure the kind of guy that can pull some crazy feats in just Gradius & R-Type games (he doesn't seem to like any other STGs?). Check out the only two or 3 vids of his plays on YouTube. Makes the Cube Rush look like a joke, lol.

      = Sinful

  5. Watching...

    -used play this game with only 2 speed ups for a bit
    - ah, I usually start stage 1 with 2 speed ups, missile, 3 options and finally Lazer before the boss. Or switch the 3rd option with Lazer. Then finally at stage 3 is when I go for that 3rd speed up (mainly for the extra Option spread which really helps with the first section of stage 3). I even try 4 speed sometimes.
    - at the bubble stage and I can't believe your doing this without slowdown.
    - I like how the Arcade Gradius games don't flood you with too many power-ups. Unlike Gaiden which makes It possible to fully power-up within a stage. Here, you need at least 2 stages are the usual norm. :) (I'm actually not that crazy for Gaiden as most are so far. Still a very good Gradius game, just not in the same league as the Arcade ones to me. It really feels like a hybrid of the Arcade & console styles. I just wish it was a tad more Arcade like)
    - I think everyone starts boss 2 like that. XD
    - making great use of that Option spread in stage 3 I see. :) You even score the secret tune. ... You know, it's weird, but I think the music sounds much better coming out of MAME. It highlights certain instruments more. Though it could be a MAME emulation error. :D
    - still, this secret tune sounds epic nonetheless. !m!
    - wow, you switching to double back?! I've yet to try that double...
    *grab an Energy Drink to add to the excitement & enjoyment*
    - well that double sure helps for this stage!! ... But I'm seeing you didn't place your Options to take out that top hatch during that pre-boss thingy (I forget what it's called again?)
    - well you handled that well, but it sure looked risky near the end...
    - what?! Your timing out the 3rd boss?!!! Oh yeah, no slowdown >_>;; ... that was fast! 0_0
    - back double for Moai Stage too?! Well this is different... lets watch 0_0
    - man, they spit out an insane amount of cereal at you 0_0 ... all with no slowdown too 0_0
    - well that Moai last boss seemed a lot easier with double back (forget about if it made the stage easier? Probably without slowdown). The pre- boss seemed a lot harder/riskier though, but probably cause of no slowdown too... almost thought you were going to time out the last boss.
    - Wow! 0_0 So that's how you do a recovery at Fire Scramble. The first true roadblock for me in this game. Can't believe I never thought of it or gave it a try. I was too dependant on my crutch slowdown, I guess you could say. >_>;; But I read that shmupslation interview on this game where the guy said one guy tested this game to see if it was possible to beat via credit feeding, and he did so it passed the test. lol. That was the test. XD But yeah. I'm so freaking impressed right now with that stage play-through. I want to try this too next time I play this game again. I'm also wondering it this is why they made next plant stage so easy for such a late game level, because they counted on so many losing their full powered up ship after that stage?
    - wow! 0_0 That plant boss sure looked mean without a fully powered up ship. 0_0
    - and the cube wall is all set for you to be safe now. Well, this is as far as I made it in a legit run. I thought after finally conquering the Fire Scramble hurdle, it was time for a break before I conquer the Cube Rush hurdle... you know the devs never expected for folks to beat the cube rush that way? They never even knew about it. They actually wanted you to beat it the proper way, lol. Now that is sadistic. XD (I for real chuckled while writing that last part :D)
    - wow, Tetran sure went down super fast. 0_0 ... that flailing 2 arm boss sure looked like a tight close call every minute of it...

    - Sinful

  6. - joy!! We're in the fortress now, baby!!! I don't know much of this place. That's for sure. Let's watch 0_0 ... oh wow... the epic music.. it's... so epic.
    - I'm at where the walls moving section seems to be over, and wow. What madness!!
    - you sure timing that force field just right. K, the moving arm lazers part. 0_0 ... Hmm, it didn't glitch. Guess you have to not lose a life all the way up to there, then.
    - that was a weird unexpected death at that boss. I seen you move just a split hair second too late, lol. So you weren't totally asleep then. XD ... wow, no one would of think there'd be a safe spot here, lol. ... what?! You just beat the boss, why you jump toward them bullets?!
    - wow, down to 3 lives... wonder what you were thinking?... What?! You got to do that boss again?! 0_0
    - lol, you die at the spider legs and you still have to do that boss fight again?! 0_0
    - man, those moves dancing around them spider legs looks tense as heck!
    - what's up with that circling of the ship when you arrive at the organic part? Was that you doing a small "Woo-hoo" victory dance? lol XD
    - lol, that death must of been due to pure adrenalin messing you up.
    - wow, you made it. 0_0
    - lol at the noise the Backterion boss is making. XD It's classic stuff too. :)
    = wow. Adding that last speed section right there is so freaking cruel. And can't believe you get it on your first try too.
    = and what a beautiful ending. :)

    Well, that was great. :) And I just realized you came pretty close to the cut off date, as I now remember I gave you this year as a challenge to get this game done. Which makes me wonder if that gave you any pressure as the year was coming to a close? When did you start practicing for this run? And I wonder if the pressure was sort of a buzz kill?

    Well, now that Gradius III AC is done, next is... Gradius 4!!!! Ah, hahahaha!! But this one you can do whenever you feel like. :) Gradius IV I feel is actually the best Gradius game too + most balanced. But something so far still makes me love part III just a tad more for some reason?

    I still need to put some decent time into Gradius V. But today reading this made me think about firing it up now that I have the first model PS3 that can play PS2 games via HDMI connection and graphics set to upscale PS2 game to higher resolution mode... but alas the newer PS3 is hooked up cause I don't want to wear out my precious first model one, lol.

    Well, thanks for this very much, Edward. You've been great, and we've been Megadeth.

    - Sinful

    1. Wow, that's a first here, a deep analysis of one of my runs, what an honor! Thanks, Sinful. :)

      What's this secret tune you're talking about in stage 3?
      Also I agree with you, on MAME the music instrumentation and sound effects seem to be slightly richer than on the PS2. Probably due to the porting/emulating process done by KCET?

      You mention Crystal Core looking like a tight close call.
      In fact, when I started practicing the boss rush it was my most dreaded boss except for Dellinger Core (before I knew of that luring strategy to escape his lasers). The truth is that Crystal Core only becomes natural with lots of practice, to the point where you pretty much know the gaps between his shots and movement. Of course having more options helps to kill him faster.

      I never noticed any glitch in the moving lasers part inside the fortress, but then again I never reached it after dying prior to that section. If I die in those final hatches before the laser thingies I surrender immediately because I just can't deal with all those drones firing like crazy.

      Going by what I wrote in my ongoing Journal (see in overhead links) I started practicing Gradius III by mid-April, which makes it roughly five months until getting the loop. Soon after I reached the cube rush on console I quit training on MAME and used only stage select on the PS2.

      Next in line for me is Gradius Gaiden, which I actually tried on the PSP during a flight recently. Let's see how it goes once I have done Goku Paro and C-S Dodonpachi. :P

  7. The secret tune gets triggered by hitting something like the first enemy behind the wall, where he can only be hit by feeding the options through the wall or rear double. My guess is the dev's added it there as a reward for figuring out smart Options use for dealing with that stage section.

    So you gave Gaiden a test run already. Well, that was actually the Gradius game that finally got me into the series, I should mention. It's really does go all out on wowing the player with all kinds of cool things (no spoilers from me). So I can't wait to hear your take on it. :)

    I thought Gradius IV was next, but yeah, Gaiden came like a 2 years earlier that slipped my mind in all this excitement.

    All this Gradius and shmup talk made me pull out my original PS3 I found just a bit back at my local used game store. And decided today to give the only Gradius game I never gave in the proper playtime, part V, a test run to see what it would look like via an HDMI connection and the PS3's up scaling ability? Well, that went all down the drain when I noticed the PS3 D-pad is still super bad for 2D games even with my PSP overlay I had slapped over it. That blasted PS D-Pad has been the bane of my life since the PS1 era. >_< Can't believe enough folks aren't complaining about it so that it would fixed for crying out loud. Instead of been so busy blindly kissing Sony rear end. ... heh, sorry, this always happens when I discuss that blasted crap D-Pad... man, I finally found R-Type final for PS2 also. It's just not fair. :(

    So you got a journal too. Will check that out.

    - Sinful

    1. Interesting....
      I never had any problem with Sony controllers since I'm very comfortable with the analog sticks. In fact I think they're great.
      I only use the d-pad on fighting games.

    2. Wait. You play STGs on the Sony game pads with the analog stick?! 0_0

      Now that I think of it, does Gradius V have analog stick support?

      Oh, and between the 360 and PS3 analog sticks, the 360 one I find superior. Cause they are shorter and stiffer on the 360 instead of super flimsy like a small passing breeze may move them PS3 sticks.

      But on the PS4 and XBONE, it's the total opposite, lol. So Sony PS4 analog sticks feel like the 360 ones, and the XBONE feels like the PS3. Even down to the high of these sticks. So yeah, total 180 is what happened here. XD

      But yeah, me personally I was always driven mad by them Sony D-Pads since day one. And since then they still continue to haunt me. :( Especially for on as me that has seen the light of the Sega 6 Button gamepad D-Pad. ;) ... Why I'm surprised that you as a Sega fan don't see this too?

      I got some more Gradius III things to say, but will say it in another reply another day.


  8. Time for some Gradius III/Gradius series trivia!

    - Gradius III is the only game where each ship tosses about 2 missiles at a time instead of one like in other classic Gradius games where only the 2-Way missile ship did 2 at a time. This may of come out from the dev's thinking the 2-Way ship in Gradius II was too powerful from an interview on shmuplations I've read. Course this greatly weakens the 2-Way ship in Gradius III in comparison to the other ships (playing as this ship for me is where I challenge myself more XD). Maybe this is why they gave it the supposed most powerful Lazer in the C-Lazer? (I only say that because I have yet to pinpoint what makes it more powerful?)

    - The way the long straight Lazers work in Gradius III is unique too. As in if you move up to somewhere around half-screen distance or closer to screen edge, it's possible to have one continues uninterrupted lazer stream. Whereas in all the other classic Gradius games it always breaks up after a certain length came out and resumes again after a brief pause.

    - the blue item crush that replaces every odd powerup icon does not exist in Gradius III AC unlike all the other Gradius games (the SNES version brings it back, however). I actually prefer it like this... well, so far at least.

    - a lot of the changes to Gradius III SNES and Gradius IV are to make it more like Gradius II. In fact, Gradius IV is like an entire homage to Gradius II in many ways throughout the game. Look for them. :) Gradius III SNES basically reverts all the neat exclusive things that I'm mentioned plus brings other things back like the Speed Stage just like in GII, a Moai stage & boss just like GII, Fortress just like Gradius II, etc.

    - after Gradius III the boss rush consists of more original & unique bosses instead of just returning the previous games bosses exactly as they were. Plus the bosses overall starting with Gaiden & IV get a lot more creative/interesting and challenging. You're going to love it, Edward!

    - Gradius IV is the one Gradius game where the second loop makes the most changes to level structure and to practically every stage too. I was so eager to know what the level changes where to Gradius III after hearing of the changes to stage 1, that I couldn't wait till I got good and used state saves in MAME to see for myself. Sadly stage 1 is the only one that's changed. All other stages are the same except that in stage 3 all volcanoes erupt. Similar to how this happened in GII second loop Volcano stage (only in GII the level layout changed too, but sadly for GII the only other stage that changes in layout is stage 1 from what I recall).

    - there was an event sometime around the mid 2000 in Japan for Gradius III where they had an improved and bug fixed version of Gradius III plus a new missile select in Edit mode (the Salamander 2-Way that also crawl on the floor by the looks of it). I really can't wait for this version to see the light of day one day. ... They also had a show on screen projector breaking down how the cube rush works.

    - for those that miss Edit mode of Gradius III, if you play Gradius II via MAME and download the cheat file, you can alter your ships weaponry. :) I now can't wait till Gradius IV gets emulated in MAME. :D As that's the one single thing I wish Gradius IV kept from part III. :(

    - Sinful

    1. :D
      I would very much like to try this "deluxe" version of Gradius III as well.

      As for the existing version, I am very thankful that Konami got rid of the gray smart-bomb capsule. Lose one capsule in the stage and that thing messes up our strategies completely, does it not?

  9. You should attempt a no miss/on 1 life only run one day. Course stick with the slowdown this time, lol. Otherwise that fire stage will rip you apart. XD And, of course, use the tactic I used for the fire stage. Where you never stop shooting your Ripple Lazer & missiles to keep slowdown always engaged. It's not as hard as it might sound or first seem. It actually works really well. Just don't count of your shield. That giant hit-box thing will disappear instantly.

    This way you can have you revenge on that Plant boss too. And another thing is if you get fully powered up to the third stage boss, the slowdown makes it possible to dodge the very quick lazers he tosses from the middle. So no need to time him out either. But yeah, it's quite a different way to play this game.

    I read this again and am reminded of how you hate the Moai stage. I used to freaking hate them so much when I first started playing these games, but after sometime these stages really grew on me. Now I really love em. Wait till you see the Moai stage in Gradius IV. Mwa Hahahaha. Now that's a Moai stage. Can't wait till you get there. ;)

    Moai stage in Gaiden is very unique and quite fun too. Probably one of the best stages in that game? Gaiden actually puts quite a fresh spin on returning stages. One of the reasons why this game gets so much praise, I imagine.

    Actually one other stage I was getting tired of always coming back instead of a totally new stage was the Volcano stage. But now it's like one of my favourite stages in all Gradius games and Gradius isn't Gradius without it.. Love the heck out of them and was very sad when I seen the first section of it with the upside down volcanoes be so very short in Gradius IV. Lucky the second loop fixes that big time by greatly increasing the length of that section.

    And yes, them Sand Lions are what I think to be the most iconic thing in Gradius III too.