After being teased several weeks ago, today finally sees the Virtual Console release of Gradius II: Gofer’s Ambition (better known as Gradius II, because no one wants to acknowledge that goofy subtitle). As much as you might question whether the VC needs yet another shoot’em-up, this one is genuine cause for celebration; with enticing thematic stages, amazing music and visuals, and the ability to select from a variety of power-up schemes, it’s one of the most beloved games in the genre — and a sterling example by which to judge its progeny. Aside from a limited arcade run in Europe and a handheld release on PSP, this is the first time it’s been made available to Western gamers, too. If you still can’t empathize, then for you old-school Square fans, imagine that Square Enix suddenly decided to haul off and localize Seiken Densetsu 3, and forego the forty-dollar DS release to sell it for nine bucks on VC. That’s roughly the level of excitement shmup fans are feeling right now.
[[image:nn_081011_graii_01.png:Destroy them all.:center:0]]
If anything, we thought we might get the Famicom port, which made interesting revisions to the arcade stages but frequently suffered from abysmal hit-detection (not entirely unlike the odious Gradius III). But we can rest easy, for this is the PC Engine CD version: nearly identical to the arcade original in both function and aesthetics — not to mention putting the CD format to use with the rockingest animated intro of all time. If you have ever longed to Shoot the Core, or found yourself curious at the prospect of a “Ripple Laser”; if dodging dragons made of fire amidst a field of artificial suns sounds like a pretty good time (and it should); Gradius II will do you right.
So, so right.