Gradius Collection

By on November 9, 2006

Starships can bite my space dust!


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First Impressions
My reaction is

Just as the world moves ahead to plunge into an obfuscating wonderland of Next Gen Electronics, our oldest buddies in the game industry take a step back in time and resonate a nostalgia so good its gamegasmic!

Say hello to Gradius Collection on the Playstation Portable, reincarnated by none other than our beloved, Konami. The collection includes full length games dating to the first ever Gradius made in 1985, when UAE was still thirteen years old, and we were even younger.

Incase some of you were never born before then; Gradius was the game that defined a genre of games to follow. The inevitable side scrolling phenomenon evolved here; and the clichéd nerdy story put you in the cockpit of the Vic Viper. Vic Viper was the space craft protagonist of the game defying alien invasion and the only hope for mankind. Very simply though, your level continuously moves towards the right and you control a small plane like thing, shooting pixels at any and everything that you think may come in your path to save the universe.

If at all, the aforementioned may have concluded anything about the game; it sure helps you to understand where the game story writers get inspiration from, even now. Moving on to the collection, it’s got five Gradius titles, including Gradius Gaiden; probably the most diversified and popular Gradius to date; also the most enjoyable one amidst the others on the UMD. 

Namely, the roster includes Gradius I, II, III, IV and Gaiden for the games bit. The game is best enjoyed if you play it up the actual timeline and wow yourself at the improvements in the level design, the intensity of the game and the wonderful boss fights. I mean where else will you be fighting a fiery flying flame throwing Cock in the middle of the galaxy?

What sets this game apart from other side scrollers is the immense and immersive detail in the level designs which only gets better as you move from Gradius I to Gradius Gaiden. You have levels that not only move sideways but even up and down (Gradius II is absolutely stunning at that), and they just concrete on the hours of work put into the game even if all of the stuff is scripted. The games also includes special boss fights in the same level; for instance if you move into the upper area of the game, you’ll face another boss than the one you would have faced if you had gone through the lower vicinity.

Apart from the boss fights even your normal foes are remarkably challenging and innovative. Higher levels will see you being attacked by behind and they’d disappear and come again forming into different objects. There are similarities in the enemies between all of the Gradius, for example you’ll see suns spitting out dragons in Gradius II and you’ll see the same suns only this time they are colored like mercury in Gradius III. But that’s the least of your worries, and it only makes you sharper and better at killing them.

Most importantly though, it’s the option based power ups that makes the game all that different from so many of the others out there. It lets you decide which power-up you want to use when you collect them by blasting certain enemies (hint: ‘they are usually orange colored space-crafts or a chock full together). So as you squeeze through tiny gaps and shoot through the foes, you should also keep an eye open for the bar in your left corner and see whether you need a speed up or a dual shooter, or perhaps a laser beam. My personal favorite is an ‘Option’ where there appears a heavenly light, which helps you in your adventure and shoots exactly what you do and this can be very helpful in most of the situations when they come at you from every corner of the 16:9 screen of the PSP.

Speaking of which, you can play this game in both the original resolution as well as zoomed in PSP screen size. It’s definitely more fun being close to the action as the original aspect ratio can make things even smaller than they were in the first place. But then again, moving into more crowded environments, there is definitely a drop in the frames to quiet a considerable extent. Much like something that will be expensed with the life of your fighter, as the game slows down and your jet becomes some what unresponsive.

Nevertheless, the unresponsiveness of the jet is not entirely due to the lag but the game has indeed got some controlling issues; especially once you’re up the speed gear. You can use both the D-Pad and the analog stick to steer the Vic Viper and the others through the game but it will become apparent that the game lacks a perfect balance in the controls department; the stick being over done and the D-pad being as lousy as we’ve come to see from the PSP. There isn’t much that can be done for that bit, than to try again; and it’s seriously worth doing stuff again.

Another slight problem with the game is the difficulty curve, its very steep! Gradius III can be absolutely punishing that even the most masochists of all players would be troubled. I had been playing a Gaiden level which had a 20 second stretch and I couldn’t complete for two hours; do the math and calculate my suffering. It is really this acute challenge and the frustration that might hamper your enjoyment of the game for sometime, but you will be back if you’ve got a thirst for challenges.

There is only a small amount of difference in terms of what you can do in all of the five games in the pack, Gaiden being more creative than others. In Gaiden you can select the order of specials you require and also choose between four different space crafts (as opposed to only Vic Viper in the rest) with varied shooting styles. Each one of them can be handy in different areas and since you aren’t slotting any penny in the machine you can change into them once your credit wastes off; and start from the same place in the level. Relative to the same ease, is the save system, which works like any other save system on any other game. Only this one allows you to save in the middle of an ongoing space race, and it’s extremely essential for pick and play the PSP is actually meant for.

No collection pack is ever complete without some collectibles and Konami does no mistake to add them. Added is a gallery which includes cut scenes from the game’s intro videos which look a lot like what we used to fantasize how games should appear, back then. More exciting are the music clips in original 16 bit sounds from the game which can be a historic audiophile’s heart beat to say the least. They are downright pleasing to the ears and provide the apotheosis the game so deservedly earns. All said and done, Gradius Collection is a retro phenomenon almost equivalent to the feat it was back in the days. If you want to suck up to some retro coolness and re-experience an old but thoroughly refreshing adrenaline, Gradius Collection is the way to go.

The Scorecard
If it werent for the control issues, this could have been a perfect score.
The PSP screen does make things look wonderful, despite some frame rate issues.
16 bit rocks! Pleasing music sets the tone properly.
Its sad there is no multiplay, specially when Gradius Gaiden was hailed for that very feature, but the save system and the approachability and the collection are scoring areas.
There isnt any.
tis iS t3h pWn - retro style!


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