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Gradius III & IV
Platform:  Playstation 2
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  KCET/Konami
Publisher:  KCET/Konami
Features:  Analog Control
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  78 KB
Info:  www.konami.com
Who'd have ever thought that the late 80's would be considered retro?
Playing Gradius III and IV on the Playstation 2 actually made me feel really
old, and I remembered just why I never played too many shooters way back
then- these games are HARD, and if you haven't played them at all or it's
been a while, these two games will break you like a well-used toothpick. The
games are presented just as they were originally (III came out in 1985, and
part IV some 15 years later), except there seem to be a few extra special
effects tossed in. Sure, it's not so impressive when compared to the rest of
the PS2 lineup (big understatement), but if you've got 'em, sit the kids
down in front of the TV with this one and bet them the dishes, laundry and
the lawn for a month if they beat it on the highest setting. You'll finally
get some rest on the weekends.

The brand new intro is absolutely mindblowing- about five or so minutes of
amazing movie quality CG that would make George Lucas' eyes pop. I hope that
Konami is working on a Gradius game that looks like this, if only to see if
they could actually DO it on the PS2. After that, it's strictly old-school
gameplay with a few modern extras added, like analog control. There's now an
easy mode, which is helpful for newcomers to the series, a stage select
opens after the game is played for a level or more, and finally, the
Continue feature has been improved slightly. Of course, the proper way to
play any Gradius game is to do it with the alloted lives and not continue at
all, but some of us are old, to paraphrase Brian Eno...

Compared to "modern" shooters like Ray Crisis or Einhander, Gradius moves
kind of... slow. But this slowness is a mere deception to those unskilled in
the ways of shooters. It ain't the speed, it's the motion, as they say- only
careful placement of your ship and shots will enable you to sucessfully
vanquish the huge amounts of aliens out to blast you into dust. Of course,
you have to pick up (and keep) some speed power-ups as well as additional
weapons in order to survive, but such is the life of a shooter pilot. The
import version also has an Internet feature that allows players to post
their scores based on a unversal setting for all (no cheating allowed!)

Gradius IV is the more impressive of the two games, with its morphing bosses
and superior special effects. You'll most likely die dozens of times because
of some cool effect you haven't seen before, so it's good to have another
person either playing against you or watching to help you along through some
of the tougher stretches. Both games have that "One more game" feeling about
them, and even after you've finished both of them, you'll want to keep this
one around whenever you need a shooter fix. Trust me, play these games once,
and you'll want to play them all the time...

As good as the games on the disc are, and all the extras, Konami could have
fit all the Gradius, Parodius, and Twinbee shooting games on the same disc,
I think. This would have been a much more impressive collection than what's
here, but I suppose i can't complain. I guess sales figures will determine
what other classics show up, but I'm hoping for all the old Contra and
Castlevania games on the next two discs, as well as the Metal Gear series
and hopefully Snatcher and Policenauts (in English!). I'd write more, but my
trigger finger is getting itchy. If you're like me, and remember the "old"
stuff, pick up a copy of Gradius III and IV, and save your quarters for the
snacks you'll buy for when you're camped out in front of the TV.


Greg Wilcox


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