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Gradius is a series of horizontally-scrolling arcade video games developed by Konami[?]. The player controls a spaceship called the Vic Viper, with the goal of destroying enemies while avoiding their attacks.

The games are level-oriented; the game world[?] in each Gradius game is made up of several contiguous environments that are distinct from one another. Movement in each environment progresses from left to right until the end of the level is reached, at which point the player must challenge a boss character. If the player is successful in destroying the boss character, play continues at the beginning of the next level. Each level usually has a distinct visual theme.

When gameplay[?] begins, the Vic Viper can only move and fire a relatively weak gun directly to the right. This level of capability is generally insufficient for fighting enemies, but the Vic Viper can gain greater capabilities by collecting and using power up[?] items. The power up system in Gradius is one of its unique points; while most arcade action games utilize distinct power up items that each correspond to a specific effect on the player character, Gradius has a single power up item. The effect of this power up item is to advance the currently selected item in a power up menu that appears at the bottom of the screen. When the desired power up is highlighted, the player can obtain it by pressing the power up button, returning the menu to its initial state in which no power up is highlighted. In the original Gradius, this menu looks somewhat like the following:


Almost all power ups in the Gradius series are based on one of these. Explanations follow:

SPEED UP: This power up increases the speed of the Vic Viper's movement; usually needed at the beginning of the game or when restarting an area after the Vic Viper has been destroyed, because the initial speed of the Vic Viper is much too slow to comfortably avoid enemy attacks. This power up may be triggered multiple times to achieve greater speed, but there is a danger in increasing the speed too much, resulting in a lack of precise control needed to avoid collision with terrain or enemy characters.

MISSILE: This power up adds a secondary projectile weapon. Arcade versions of Gradius games usually have a separate button for firing this projectile, while home console and computer versions usually use the same button for both this and the primary projectile weapon. In the original Gradius, the weapon is a missile that fires downward and to the right, travelling along the ground. Most Gradius "missile" weapons are a variation on this concept.

DOUBLE: This power up adds a second projectile weapon identical in power and firing rate to the standard gun. In the original Gradius, this second gun fires at a 45 degree angle up and to the right. In later Gradius games, it may fire in a different direction depending on a choice made by the player before the game starts. The Vic Viper cannot have Double and Laser at the same time. If Laser is chosen while Double is being used, Double will be lost.

LASER: This power up changes the standard gun into a laser weapon that fires to the right. The laser weapon does substantially more damage than the standard gun, and can be controlled to a certain extent while it is being fired by moving the Vic Viper vertically; this can be used to quickly destroy a group of enemies. The Vic Viper cannot have Laser and Double at the same time. If Double is chosen while Laser is being used, Laser will be lost.

OPTION: Options are glowing elliptical entities that mimic the movement and attacks of the Vic Viper, resulting in greatly increased attack capability. Furthermore, Options are invulnerable, making them additionally useful in certain situations. All attack power ups possessed by Vic Viper are also possessed by each Option. In most Gradius games, up to four Options can be obtained.

? (SHIELD): This power up adds a projectile-blocking shield to the front of the Vic Viper. The shield is destroyed after a certain number of absorbed projectiles. In later Gradius games, this can be replaced, at the player's option, with other shields, such as a force field that envelopes the entire ship or the ability to shrink the ship. In later Gradius games, it is also usually labeled with an appropriate power up label instead of the less than informative question mark.

Home console and portable versions of Gradius spawned the now-legendary "Konami Code", considered by some to be one of the defining elements of Gradius. The code (traditionally Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A; variants also exist), when entered while the game is paused, grants the player most of the available power ups. While this is essentially a cheat code, the player is only allowed a limited number of uses, suggesting that this is meant only as a limited adjustment of the difficulty. In most cases, the limit starts at one use and an additional use is granted for each completed level. While this is a well-known feature among Gradius fans, many video game enthusiasts more closely associate the "Konami Code" with the NES version of Contra, a later Konami game in which the code can be entered at the title screen to grant the player 30 lives.

There have been nine games that are direct members of the Gradius series. These are (note that the known platform listings are probably incomplete):

Gradius (1985) - Originally released as an arcade game, and later ported to other platforms. It is known to exist on the following platforms: Nintendo Famicom, Nintendo Entertainment System, MSX, [NEC PC Engine], SEGA Saturn (packaged with Gradius 2 as Gradius Deluxe Pack), Sony PlayStation (packaged with Gradius 2 as Gradius Deluxe Pack). In some areas, Gradius was released under the name Nemesis. In Japan, a special version of the game exists for the Famicom. It was given away as a prize by ArchiMENdes, a ramen noodle company. The Vic Viper would power up using cups of ramen noodles rather than the usual pods. The cart itself is quite rare, and considered a collector's item.

Gradius 2 (1987) - The first sequel to be produced exclusively for the MSX, and the first Gradius to have a graphic intro detailing the plot. Also, it had the unique feature of acquiring weapons from a defeated boss. It was later given a facelift and released on the [Sharp X68000] computer as Nemesis '90. It is known to exist on the following platforms: MSX, Sharp X68000. Called Nemesis 2 in Europe.

Gradius II: Gofer No Yabou (1988) - Originally released as an arcade game, and later ported to other platforms. This version is completely different from the MSX Gradius 2 mentioned above. It is known to exist on the following platforms: Nintendo Famicom, MSX, NEC PC Engine, Sega Saturn (packaged with Gradius as Gradius Deluxe Pack), Sony Playstation (packaged with Gradius as Gradius Deluxe Pack). In some areas, Gradius II was released under the name Vulcan Venture. The MSX game has extra options, like the ability to choose between ships. It's known as G II: Ambition of Gofer in Japan, and Nemesis 3: Eve of Destruction in Europe.

Gradius III (1989) - Originally released as an arcade game, and later ported to other platforms. It is known to exist on the following platforms: Nintendo Super Famicom, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sony Playstation 2 (packaged with Gradius IV). The SNES/SFC version is not a very accurate port; levels, enemies, and weapons were altered; in a sense, it's almost a remix of the arcade game.

Nemesis (1989) - The first Gradius for a portable system, in this case Nintendo's Game Boy. The name Nemesis was kept for the game's worldwide release. It combined elements from Gradius and Gradius II, as well as some all-new features. It is known to exist on the following platforms: Nintendo Game Boy.

Gradius: The Interstellar Assault (1992) - Another Gradius game exclusively for the Game Boy. It was one of the biggest Game Boy carts in existence at the time (2 meg!), and was completely different from the rest of the series - most of them used music, enemies, bosses and even levels from previous games in the series, but this one did not. It is known to exist on the following platforms: Nintendo Game Boy.

Gradius Gaiden (1997) - The first Gradius produced exclusively for a home console, and widely considered one of the best games in the series; however, it was never released outside of Japan. This was also the only other Gradius game (the first being the MSX G II: Ambition Of Gofer) where you could select which ship you wanted to use, including the LordBritish Space Destroyer from Salamander. It is known to exist on the following platforms: Sony PlayStation. There are two variations - the original release, and as part of the "Sony PlayStation The Best" line, which is the Japanese equivalent of America's Sony PlayStation Greatest Hits.

Gradius IV (1998) - Originally released as an arcade game, and later ported to Sony Playstation 2 (packaged on the same disc as the arcade version of Gradius III, under the collective title Gradius III & IV).

Gradius Galaxies (2001) - The first Gradius to be created by a development team other than Konami's own internal teams (by Mobile 21 Studios, to be exact). It is known to exist on the following platforms: [Game Boy Advance].

Gradius V (2003) - The first official Gradius sequel to be released exclusively on a home console. It is scheduled for release in the fall of 2003. It is rumored that the game company Treasure (developers of the classic games Gunstar Heroes, Guardian Heroes, Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga, among others) is assisting Konami in Gradius V's development. It is known to exist on the following platforms: [Playstation 2].

Gradius is related to the Konami series Parodius[?], a parody of Gradius that features cute or humorous enemies and environments as well as non-Gradius Konami characters. Another related series is Salamander[?], which is considered a side story of Gradius. Also, a three-dimensional[?] arcade game based on Gradius, Solar Assault[?] (or alternately Solar Assault Gradius) exists, and there is also an arcade racing game that uses the ships from Gradius, known simply as Vic Viper (Japanese release only).

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