Approximate Release Date: August 23, 1991
Genre: Side-scrolling shooter
I’m not ashamed to admit I turned the difficulty in Gradius III down to Easy.
This was the Gradius game I played most growing up, and it’s still fun, but I have no idea how I dealt with the awful technical problems of this arcade-to-console port. Because you’re constantly earning powerups that fill the screen, eventually the game just starts slowing down and chugging. And it gets even worse when there are lots of enemies on the screen. Paradoxically, the slowdown makes Gradius III a bit easier since it allows you to more easily maneuver around bullets and bad guys. It’s just annoying because the game feels so unresponsive when lots of things are happening.
But Gradius III features a ton of great powerups that are a joy to play with. You can outfit your ship with a customized loadout, including missiles, lasers, and floating red balls called Options that fire whatever munitions your ship has equipped. You wouldn’t think there could be four meaningful differences in laser beams, but there are.
With how fun Gradius III is, the slowdown is a major bummer. I know I beat the game, so it couldn’t have bothered me too badly when I was a child. But the game doesn’t even look good, so the performance problems are quite the mystery. Gradius III is worth playing, but I’d recommend getting the PlayStation 2 port.
Tomorrow: Falling back down to Earth in Pilotwings.