Reviewed by Rob Strangman

Gradius Gaiden has got to be one of the greatest Gradius games I've ever played, right up there with Gradius III (SNES). From the kickass CG opening, which shows the four fighters in action, to the fantastic music, the killer graphics and the dead-on gameplay, Gradius Gaiden is a must play for any shooter fan.

For once, Bacterion isn't the evil force that you fight. The opening story (done up a la Star Wars and read by either a male or female voice) explains that unknown forces are attacking out of a section of space called the Dark Nebula, aka the Evil Range (if you've played Salamander or Life Force, you'll recognize the leader of the armada). Four fighters are sent in to destroy the advancing forces - the Vic Viper, the Lord British, the Falchion Beta, and the Jade Knight.

The levels are similiar to the other Gradius games - there are the usual levels (the speed up zone; another replay of the first level of Gradius, which is DESTROYED by a black hole; and everyone's favorites, the Moai heads from Easter Island - after all, it wouldn't be a Gradius game without them!), as well as a few new ones (an ice board; a junkyard full of the rusting and partially functioning remains of earlier Gradius bosses - fans of the series will recognize a lot of these guys; and a pulsating organic level, among others).

There's not a wide variety of powerups like Gradius III, but each weapon can be powered up to a second level (cool!), and each ship has it's own set of weapons. Above all, this can be a TOUGH game (watch out for the Axelay-looking mech in the last board - he can be a bitch if you don't know the pattern!).

Gradius Gaiden is a truly awesome addition to the series, and should be given a worldwide release by Konami (here in the US, Konami has a thing against Gradius. Morons.). Pick it up if you can find it. You won't regret it.

Thanks Rob! About time someone did Gradius Gaiden (or Legends as I am wont to call it) as I was a bit slow about it myself:) I played this game to death when I first got it, and refused to play it on anything but hard for fear of spoiling it. Still haven't finished it either! It's a true 'old-skool' shmup, redolent of the heady mid-eighties, with some beautiful yet restrained use of the Playstation's effects. Strangely, there isn't a Saturn version afaik, it's one of the few solely PSX shooters. On a similar note, Thunderforce V is now out on Sony's portable cooker lookalike, with a lovely intro and nowt much else changed. Here's a few pics of levels 5-9 - Malc

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LEVEL 5. Organic Fortress

This level should really have been in Salamander 2. It's all wobbly and wavy, and dead easy to get stuck in traps. End of level baddie is a huge eye blob, with a nasty laser attack.

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LEVEL 6. Green Inferno

One of my favourite levels, reminiscent of the grassy one in Gradius III. I love the windy snakes and the organic 'walkers'. Not too easy this one.

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LEVEL 7. On the Event Horizon

Did you ever see that film? Personally I thought it was pretty good, but I know of no-one else that even remotely liked it. And this level's not remotely like it either, having lots of orange platforms and stuff. Very like the first level in Gradius I, with extra bits.

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LEVEL 8. Formidable Guardians

Oui, les Guardians etait tres formidable, m'sieur! Er, sorry. Finally we get a series of Bosses (just like in Gradius II) except we haven't seen a lot of these before! GREAT level this.

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LEVEL 9. Fate

This level type has been seen before in Gradius games, just rush through a speeding spikey sharp area before you get to the boss... and the boss is?? Ha hah!! You'll just have to buy it to see! I wonder if he's as easy as all other Gradius end-bosses?


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie