Reviewed by Malc

I do love that subtitle above:) Makes me think of pistols at ten paces with demonic young office helpers. Having a good old snigger just thinking about it. What would be do without these cracking Japlish translations? remember Macross? 'We sot a new machine for the fightig. Now the time to scrambled Valkyrie again' Fab stuff. Ok, enough blather. This is Gradius 2, also known as Vulcan Venture, which was yet another coin muncher I spend too long of my youth in front of.
It's a classic blaster in the Konami style, with extremely hard sections requiring inordinate amounts of skill. But it's also a lot of fun to play, the pure arcade sounds and driving music heighten the experience, and the traditional scare factor when you lose all your weapons and manically wriggle your ship about avoiding the unavoidables is unbeatable. The addition of an fully surrounding force shield too helped the more thumb-enhanced of the arcade fraternity to get just a bit further. This shield was particularly handy at overwhelming bits, when brain to hand control was lost and panic set in, you didn't necessarily die right away. Of course, heroes wanting to show off to restless girlfriends chose the traditional two blobs every time:)

I've never had so much fun with multiples too: get four of them and a few speed ups and you just can't resist swirling them around in loops and figures of eights - don't tell me you haven't tried it! :)

Gradius II was launched during the Golden Age of arcade shooters, where technological advances improved the games' look and sound, without swamping the playability. Coming out 3 years later than its older brother, the graphical and music differences between the siblings were pretty enormous at the time, while still keeping the well-known powerup system. I remember that the machine was set to a ridiculous difficulty level, but this just encouraged us to try and get that little bit further.

One guy in particular could sail through it on one life, never mind one credit... I don't think he was human. Since then, the game was forgotten until a whole slew of conversions came out, first on the PCEngine CD (which I've used here to show it), and Saturn, Playstation and even a proper PC version. With the release of Sparcade version 2 (as I call it), we've finally got a full emulation of the game under its original name, Vulcan Venture, courtesy of Dave Spicer. Have fun!

Oh yes, the PCE CD version has a groovy little intro animation, which you can have a peek at here.

SCORE: 9½/10 (an all-time fave!)

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Not quite so many weapons to choose from as Gradius III had, but major differences in the way they work define how you play the game. Personally I can never resist a two-way torp and ripple lasers:P

Probably one of the most impressive levels is the first one! HUGE balls of fire, with lava snakes zipping in and out of them. This was what hooked me in the arcade - I'd never seen a shooter with such super graphics!

Great idea having the first level a good-un... you've got to immediately impress in an arcade, but stil keep the quality throughout. This is the level 1 boss, crank it up to PROFESSIONAL difficulty and you might not get past him!

Level two has a dark Giger atmosphere about it, with some alienesque protrusions ready to crash into. Things get tight in here with the shootable grey webs restricting your movement...not nice when there's a small baddie flying up your arse.

Without weapons you'll find these aliens jumping out of eggs rather difficult. They come from top and bottom at once, and move VERY quickly... kind of hard to cover all bases.

End of level 2 boss is a bit of a wimp. Remember in Nemesis where you could sit in some places and just keep on hitting the fire button? Yes, same here. Sometimes you get a stray rock shooting out, so don't get too complacent!

Level 3 is an ice block level. Dunno why this shot's here, it's not very good...

This one's better....will you LOOK how busy that screen gets! A bit like asteroids, the big ice cubes break up into shards which bounce around off each other. Try this with just a one-shot gun!

Our old friend the Ice-Boss...who pops up quite regularly in other Gradius games. Believe it or not he's in Gradius Gaiden too!

A typical Nemesis level - upside down woods, rocks and trees.... bet you know that there's volcanoes in here too! This is one of the trickiest ones, as baddies hide behind the protruding ledges, and you're shagged if you don't dodge quick enough. This is where good multiple positioning can be a boost to life preservation!

Talking about positioning your multiples well, how about this eh? On hard settings you can't really get a chance to shoot past the missiles and actually hit his weak spot. Instead you have to try and get him to move over your multiples like this. NB...if you're new to Shmups, those orange blobs are multiples... just like shadow ships, they shoot and fire missiles, effectively 'multiplying' your firepower - make sense?

Moai heads. Sick of them. Every single bloody time. At this point something good came on the telly and I died.

I'll try to get pics of some later levels another day:)


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie