Gradius 3 - Konami

GRADIUS III - The first Super Famicom game I bought - and it was a bloody good choice too.

Reviewed by Malc

1990. Just seems like yesterday when I was a young 21-year-old panting at the door waiting for my brand new SuperFamicom to arrive. I'd bought Gradius III the month before, but SF's were in very short supply, and I eventually got mine two months after I bought this game. Finally, I gingerly plugged in the cart and threw the power.

What followed was a far cry from what I'd been used to on the old Amiga. A Japanese coded shooter, for once the arcade was brought home in all it's glory. It just FELT different, and immensely more playable, than the likes of Xenon II, Hybris and Battlesquadron, previously my favourite Amiga shooters. All I didn't really like was playing with a joypad, which I'd never used before.

The graphics are fabulous, loads of variety, but still very similar to the previous incarnations of Gradius - that was fine by me, as I loved Nemesis. The music still isn't the most melodic ever, but it suits the game perfectly, as do the instantly gratifying bleepy sound effects and explosions. I came away from the toasty-hot machine about 5 hours later, caught up with sundry annoyances like eating and felt damn pleased with my purchase.

Konami has been a little bit off-form recently - their 32-bit efforts have been distinctly lacklustre, with the exception of the Salamander Pack and Gradius Legends. This game, together with Contra Spirits and Mystical Ninja, represents what Konami stood for in their heyday - a company who produced wonderfully created games overloaded with fluid playability, imagination and fun.

Today when I play it, the pure shooter ambience is still there... Shmups proudly presents... GRADIUS III.


Weapon Select:

The weapons you choose vastly affect your progress in Gradius III. Here are my favourites:

  1. Hawkwind Missiles: can fire both and up down.
  2. Normal Double Weapon - good for baddies above you.
  3. Ripple Laser - nice wide shot, fairly powerful
  4. Standard Option - Classic Multiple formation
  5. Force Field Shield - VERY useful, all round protection.
  6. Full Barrier - refills your shield to full strength


Level 1. When I first got this game I was SURE it was Vulcan Venture. But I was wrong.

The sand dragons are very similar to VV's firey ones though. End of level mother is a bitey sandworm - just sits there and takes it really.


And here's level 2 boss. Things begin to heat up a bit, with lots of bubbles crowding the screen and getting in the way. This unfortunately is where you notice Gradius 3's main fault - slowdown, and lots of it. Still, it helps at the hard bits!


One of MANY secret levels (thanks for the rest Roger!). This one is the only one I've tried yet. Take your chance here, you'll get a LOT of weapons and lives maybe, but you'll probably get killed when the pink blobs wipe you out.

Pretty easy to get here, just go into the bottom gap near the end of level 2 where the bubble-encased ships come from.

I've forgotten to show you level 3, its just another upside down volcano stage, but there's a secret here too: Destroy all of the guns on the ground. Fly close to the low rock ceiling toward the end of the level and the secret warp point is immediately before the last "mountain".


Funny how you know this is a Konami game. Easter Island heads appear YET AGAIN.

Excuse my language, but I FUCKING HATE this level. Ah, better. Without the right weapons you don't stand a chance here... the screen fills up with red and blue doughnuts and before you know it, you're jam.

Yet another secret bit here: Condition: No power-up boxes at the bottom of the screen may be lit. Fly into the back of the Moai head located in the middle of upright three heads toward the end of the level. This particular head will be facing away from you.


Big Easter Island Heads now. Slightly difficult this, as every time you blast them, rocks come from the ceiling. So if you get a few good hits in, you'll be peltered with stones - just take it slow.


Homage to Salamander this bit. Pretty much an uneventful level, until the two headed fire dragons appear.

To be strictly accurate, this is only one dragon, a head at both ends. Not feasible really if you think about toilet logistics.

ANOTHER secret bit! Fly through the fire at the corner of the inverted volcano. It is located just before the small passage that leads to the two-headed fire dragon.


Excuse me again, I'm going to swear. "OOH YA LITTLE BASTARD!!!!"

You might know why I'm so het up here. If you don't, then have a squint at that baddie with the blue thing. It's just stolen my multiples, the wee creep. Seconds after this, I crashed into the greenery trying to avoid getting them all nabbed.


Nasty plant. it takes a big deep breath and sooks your ship in, and if you don't have at least two speedups, consider yourself sooked.

Takes up most of the screen as well, not much room for dodging.


After a bottom-clenchingly fast ride through a space-mall thing, you get blasted by this boss - no time for even a quick breath, don't loosen that sphincter!

While you're in the space mall, you might want to try this! Fly through low corner just after the four turrets. Your ship would normally have to fly upwards diagonally at this point, to gain access to a secret level.


Lost track of the levels now.

This one is a gathering of bosses, about five of em, one after the other. The first one is a boring big-laser-shooter, easily despatched.

However, this icicle one isn't so easy. Its the arms that cause the bother here, you don't quite know where they're going to spit next. (If you recognise some of these, its because they're from Vulcan Venture.)


'Nuther boss. Kill it.


Kill this one too.

If you can that is. Took me ages to get him. Its those missiles you see, they come from top AND bottom at the same time. Ignore everything else on screen, and just watch out for the missiles, you have to be a couple of steps ahead of them, or you get stuck in a trap.


Likewise, kill. Shoot, blast, maim, destroy.


Boring boss this. Shoot away the guns, and relax - you can splat the blue blobs without anything shooting at you at all.

The actual level isn't much fun either, with the walls moving about trying to crush you.


My most hated bit in the whole game. I've only ONCE managed to get past this bit without dying.

The bathroom tiles rip themselves off and home in on your ship - I'm damned if I can't find a safe pattern for staying alive here.


Oooh, how hard this is too. These blue crab robots leave you absolutely NO room for mistakes.


YES! the last level. A bit like the strawberries and peas level in Nemesis, you can tell that the final boss isn't far away.

How do you know? Because it's gone all ORGANIC thats why! Standard shooter rule, that is.


Yawn... another organic brain end of game boss. Kind of expected wasn't it? This really pisses me off, all Gradius games have the most stupidly easy final bosses. This one burps a few marshmallows at you and dies as soon as you tickle him with your bullets.


Thanks for these end grabs Roger:) Once completed in normal or hard mode you get this end sequence. You could always try it on ARCADE mode, in which case you get this bonkers message:

I'm give up
Your appellations
Technical monkey

I'd heard there was an extra level in the arcade mode. This isn't another of your powerup secret stages, it's apparently a proper extra level. I defy anyone to get pictures of THAT! I've been at it for years... maybe it was a hoax? Hmph!


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie