Review: Gradius III (SNES)

By Drew Wilson

We review another game from the Super Nintendo. This time, it’s the side scroller action game Gradius III. How was this iteration of the Gradius series stacking up?

Released in 1991, Gradius III was another iteration in the side scrolling game series Gradius. It was originally released for Japanese arcades, but eventually released to the Super Nintendo just two years later in North American markets.

One of the features of the Gradius series is the unique item pick-ups. There are two kinds of items you can pick up. The first is a blue item which is effectively a smart bomb. If you collect it, all enemies currently on the screen are destroyed.

The other item allows you to select from a bunch of different power-ups. If you collect one and select it, you can speed up the ship. If you pick up a enough and select “option”, you get a small sphere of light that follows you and increases your fire-power. Those are just two possible power-ups you can get just by collecting the red items and selecting at the right time.

At the beginning, you can also pick from a variety of different kinds of weapons you’ll be using throughout the game. I selected the second option although it’s possible to completely customize your selection too.

Another feature of this game is the large variety of enemies. Some of them are little flying ships that can be destroyed by a single shot, others are sandworms that float through space that requires multiple hits to destroy them.

While it’s more than possible to strategically select weapons towards the beginning, it only makes the game mildly easier. This game is not exactly a walk in the park. One hit and you lose a ship. You start off with four ships, but it is possible to earn more ships by obtaining a certain number of points you earn by destroying enemies. Ultimately, you need good reflexes and an eye for picking the right speed for your ship (as the slowest speed isn’t really enough in my opinion). Too fast, and you slam into things too easily. Too slow, and you won’t be able to manoeuvre your ship around all the bullets flying around.

One aspect of this game is that there is a multitude of different levels to go through and each one has distinct characteristics. Still, they do go into a particular pattern of the ship flying through space at first, then entering some sort of cavern-like level, fighting a boss and the cavern-like level vanishes as if it was a mirage the whole time. There is a little variety with the multi-boss portion of the game towards the end, but that’s about it.

The graphics are decent enough. It’s not something that you can jump up and down over and say that it’s amazing, but they are reasonably good for a Super Nintendo Game. Of course, while the graphics were fairly decent, there was a huge variety of different textures which is unlike most games where a lot of the textures are simply repeated or some textures have different paint jobs. This game doesn’t necessarily fall into this kind of style of level design and the textures are always evolving. That makes the game great in my books.

The audio was nicely done though. Packing in voice talent onto a Super Nintendo cartridge isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world, but there is even voice talent in the game. the music is good and the sound effects are great.

Overall, this game isn’t for the light gamer. It takes a certain degree of skill to get through this game – even from the beginning. If you can muster the fast reflexes that is demanded by this game, then you’ll very likely find this game enjoyable and interesting. If you find yourself dying lots, though, this game might prove to be too frustrating which would rob the replay value of it.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game, but not without some degree of difficulty.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 5/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 72%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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