Gradius II

Here goes nothing. Is this game as bad as the first?

Review Date: March 25, 2021

Release Date: March 24, 1988 (apparently, this went unreleased in NA at the time)

Platform: NES

Developer: Konami

Genre: Shooter

Anecdotes: About a month ago, I played the first Gradius game. I hated it. I was not enjoying it and only got to the third level. I got frustrated with the Moai head level and quit. Therefore, me expectations for this sequel were set very low. I am happy to say that Konami not only exceeded those expectations, but they also made this game a lot more fun to play.

And here is the biggest reason why. The powerups were upgraded to the point where there are options choices. I highlighted the package I picked.

I did notice there was some Konami induced confusion. This is not Life Force, Salamander, or Nemesis. Konami tried to market Life Force as the sequel to Gradius, figuring that most of North America would never know the difference. It worked for a while, as once Gradius III came out, many people assumed Life Force was supposed to be the II in between. Once the Internet became available technology in 1995, the myths gaming companies were trying to hide started to get exposed. Not long after that, people began to discover that Life Force is not Gradius II.

Description: The Vic Viper is back for more, taking on the Bacterion Empire and going after the big, giant head. It retains the basic gameplay of Gradius, with autoscrolling levels and a power meter to make the Vic Viper stronger.

Positives: Konami clearly took some lessons away from the first Gradius game. They’ve taken a bad game in Gradius, cleaned up the mess, and made the sequel a much better game. Here’s how.

First, Konami added a choice of power meters. While limited, players now have choices as to how to power up. Doubles can be a Tailgun instead. Ripple was added as a laser alternative. Missiles have multiple styles. Best of all, there can be four options instead of two. These things also become more useful as Konami was far more generous with the capsules in game two than in game one.

I would say the graphics are really good, too. Plus, some areas have limited vertical scrolling, so objects like this can easily be flown around.

The Vic Viper still crumbles in a single hit. However, the shield is now a forcefield, which means the VV can withstand stray bullets from any direction. To make sure players just don’t breeze through everything, the VV can still crash by making contact with an enemy.

Konami also tamed down the flying objects. The Moai heads don’t shoot out ten or so rings at a time anymore; it’s usually about 3 or 4. Stray bullets won’t cause nearly as many cheap deaths; there are few cases where tons of bullets will be on the screen, but in the rare occurrence of bullets everywhere, they move very slowly so they can be dodged.

This time, I was actually able to get through this.

Negatives: Flickering is still a huge issue. The game likes to throw so much stuff on the screen that it not only flickers, it slows down. The game has trouble running at speed. This can make things easier to dodge, though.

I also thought some of the bosses have really small hitboxes. A lot of the strategy of battling them is just pray the shot counts as a hit and avoid letting anything hit the ship. With a fully powered up ship, the options can do a lot of the work, but the ship has to still be protected.

More Screenshots:

NO!! They’re going to make me kill a giant griffin. Not fair.
Take a quick look at stage 2.
Gee, I wonder where the weak point of this thing is?
The little touches are nice. Take a look at the upside down trees at the top.
And here comes the stage where they start flooding the screen with junk.
This thing looks cool, but it didn’t last long as I figured out its pattern quickly.
OK, I’m a fan of this idea, too. In one stage, there is nothing but a sequence of bosses. The only drawback is that a loss to any of them means having to start over with the first one.

Grade: B

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