Review: Gradius Collection (PSP)

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Good: Classic shooter gameplay, power-ups, Gradius Gaiden

Bad: Difficulty may drive some gamers off, occasional slowdown

World's Worst Scenario: Getting attacked by a giant flaming space hawk

For those unfamiliar with the Gradius series, imagine taking Galaga, turning it horizontally and injecting it with a Canseco-sized dose of steroids. It took the basic shooter concept and filled it to the brim with tons of powerups, enemies and a much larger range of motion. Now, PSP owners get yet another re-release of a classic series, but is it worth $39.99?

Gradius Collection offers the first four games in the series, as well as the unreleased-in-the-US Gradius Gaiden. The progression of the series isn't unlike that of fellow classic franchise Mega Man. Whereas the latter series usually added a new move each time (slide, charge), Gradius tended to add a couple new weapons or shields. Each game fully resembles the previous effort, but with a couple added bells and whistles.

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The first Gradius is predictably bare-boned, although it was the one to introduce the basic power-up structure. Defeating certain enemies or lines of foes causes a power-up icon to appear on the screen. There's a basic ladder system in place for these, as the first one you pick up will increase your speed, and subsequent pickups add weapons and shields. Later games in the series allow you to choose the weapons for the ships, which is a great addition. After picking up enough powerups, floating orbs follow your ship and will mimic your motions and weapons fire. Being fully powered-up and having four drone orbs fire alongside of you is a great feeling and makes the game far more entertaining.

Casual gamers will probably be scared off due to the ridiculously high difficulty. Even on the absolute easiest setting, all of the Gradius games are extremely challenging. Huge boss fights fill the screen with hazards, and it takes the most nimble of thumbs to avoid getting hit by them.

All of the titles are emulated well on the PSP screen, and can be viewed in widescreen mode or the original aspect ratios. Some boss fights cause some noticeable framerate drops, but these are few and far between. The early titles are bare and don't offer much to look at, but once you get to Gradius Gaiden you'll be presented with a ton of environmental effects and general mayhem. Recent PSP re-releases of classic games have shown that graphics can be updated without sacrificing gameplay quality (Mega Man Powered Up, Mega Man Maverick Hunter and Lemmings come to mind immediately). I wouldn't have minded some updated visuals for Gradius, but it's not a huge complaint. At least all the classic tunes from the originals have been kept intact (and can be listened to anytime in the Gallery).

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Overall, Gradius Collection is a competent assortment of some classic games, but I'm not entirely sure it's worthy of the $39.99 price tag. The main draw to this title is the inclusion of Gradius Gaiden, which is the most entertaining of the bunch in my opinion. For hardcore Gradius fans or the shooter genre in general, it might be worth picking this one up.

Graphics: 6.5

Sound: 8.0

First Play: 7.5

Replay Value: 6.5

Gameplay: 7.5

Overall: 7.3

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