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Thread: Famicom Gradius II (1988) previewed by EGM, GamePro, mid 1989. A highly underappreciated game

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    Default Famicom Gradius II (1988) previewed by EGM, GamePro, mid 1989. A highly underappreciated game

    The Famicom version of Gradius II fascinated me, because we never got it on the NES in the United States.

    We got Life Force, which itself wasn't quite as good as Salamander on the Famicom. The Japanese version had a Konami MM chip (VRC3) that Life Force NES didn't.

    And yet, Gradius II on the Famicom had an even more powerful Konami chip, the VRC4, allowing for a significant leap in graphics and audio.
    Compared to the earliest Famicom games in 1983, Gradius II looks almost 16-bit. Maybe not technically, but relatively.

    I'm happy to provide these mid 1989 previews from EGM and GamePro for Famicom Gradius II which had already been released overseas in 1988.

    I threw in a few images, the Konami VRC4 chip, the Gradius II cartridge board and a youtube video.





    _________________________________________ ^
    _________________________________________




















    Gradius II Famicom (1988)


    Salamander Famicom (1987)


    Life Force NES (1987)
    Last edited by parallaxscroll; 02-03-2017 at 08:58 PM.

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    I might have to pick this up, special chipped games intrigue me

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    It's also really fun to play.

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    I've owned it for a few years now, put it easily in the Top 3 maybe Top 5 Famicom games we didn't get released (or were brutally censored.) It's quality right up there with parodius, (jp) castlevania 3, yume penguin monogatari, crisis force, twinbee 3, wai wai world 2 level stuff that's a must play.

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    This game pushes the NES/Famicom hardware to its absolute limits, and has the gameplay to match; it's easily one of my top 3 games on the system. Shame it didn't make it to the US. Did Konami feel it wasn't worth the effort, due to the special mapper it used?

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    Maybe. They probably would've made cuts to make it fit on a Nintendo mapper, as they did with Contra and LifeForce.
    Although aside from NoA giving publishers the five-game quota they supposedly were telling publishers what they could publish with the supposedly "shortage" chips.
    I read a rumor on another forum Konami once considered a US release of Bio Miracle Upa but NoA struck it down as "not worth it". (to only get an official western release as a Wii Virtual Console "import" download)

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    Quote Originally Posted by SparTonberry View Post
    Maybe. They probably would've made cuts to make it fit on a Nintendo mapper, as they did with Contra and LifeForce.
    So is that why Life Force didn't have as many options at once on the US version? I never knew it was a hardware issue.

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    This is pretty interesting stuff for me. The only version I own and have played is the PCE CD version, which is great, but the steps they took to get this going on Famicom makes me want to play that version.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrillo View Post
    This game pushes the NES/Famicom hardware to its absolute limits, and has the gameplay to match; it's easily one of my top 3 games on the system. Shame it didn't make it to the US. Did Konami feel it wasn't worth the effort, due to the special mapper it used?
    Yep.

    And the leap from NES / Famicom Gradius (1986) to Gradius II Famicom (1988) is so impressive.



    Quote Originally Posted by celerystalker View Post
    This is pretty interesting stuff for me. The only version I own and have played is the PCE CD version, which is great, but the steps they took to get this going on Famicom makes me want to play that version.
    PC-Engine CD Gradius II is on a whole nother level of course. I just bought it for the Wii Virtual Console.

    Here are two previews of the PCE CD version.





    Last edited by parallaxscroll; 02-06-2017 at 12:34 AM.

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    Those magazine articles took me back to playing Retro Game Challenge.

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    The PCE release was my first experience with the Gradius II game so the Famicom one while I do like it feels watered down even though it shouldn't.

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    EGM also reviewed PCE-CD Gradius II as a "Fact File" suggesting it was at one time planned for a US release. But by 1993 the TG16/Duo was basically dead in America, which is probably why it wasn't released either (until Wii VC).

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    Quote Originally Posted by SparTonberry View Post
    EGM also reviewed PCE-CD Gradius II as a "Fact File" suggesting it was at one time planned for a US release. But by 1993 the TG16/Duo was basically dead in America, which is probably why it wasn't released either (until Wii VC).
    Yes, you're right, good memory.

    I found both the 'Fact File' and one other International Outlook preview where they said Turbo Technologies Inc. would bring PCE CD Gradius II to the U.S.

    EGM #45 - April 1993:



    EGM #46 - May 1993:



    Last edited by parallaxscroll; 02-06-2017 at 06:52 PM.

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    Parallaxscroll, thanks so much for posting the scans of the old mags. Wonderful stuff to read, I don't have the Gamepros and EGMs of 1989, only from 1990 on. Great to read about Gradius II, it looks fantastic for a game from 1988. Life Force was one of my earliest experiences on the NES, and you can imagine how frustrating it was hardly used to videogames. Little did I know that shoot-em-ups are a very tough genre! Without the Konami code I would have had a hard time finishing it.

    Too bad that we didn't get Gradius II. I think there is a collection of Gradius for handhelds, otherwise I guess the only way to get it is the Famicom version. I just played a couple of weeks ago Gradius III and V again, and I had a great time.

    The chip development for the NES cartridges were exceptional. If we compare the first generation of games with games released from 1991 to 1994 it is a huge graphical and processing difference.
    Last edited by lendelin; 02-06-2017 at 10:57 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lendelin View Post
    Too bad that we didn't get Gradius II. I think there is a collection of Gradius for handhelds, otherwise I guess the only way to get it is the Famicom version. I just played a couple of weeks ago Gradius III and V again, and I had a great time.
    Yes, Konami made compilations for four shooter franchises for the PSP in Japan (Twinbee, Salamander, Gradius and Parodius), but the Gradius pack was the only one to get western release.
    I think I was lucky to get the Salamander collection as I hear that has become high in demand for one of the "extra" games on the disc (since Salamander didn't have as many games as the other series. It was an arcade game otherwise never re-released).

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    Quote Originally Posted by lendelin View Post
    Parallaxscroll, thanks so much for posting the scans of the old mags. Wonderful stuff to read, I don't have the Gamepros and EGMs of 1989, only from 1990 on. Great to read about Gradius II, it looks fantastic for a game from 1988. Life Force was one of my earliest experiences on the NES, and you can imagine how frustrating it was hardly used to videogames. Little did I know that shoot-em-ups are a very tough genre! Without the Konami code I would have had a hard time finishing it.

    Too bad that we didn't get Gradius II. I think there is a collection of Gradius for handhelds, otherwise I guess the only way to get it is the Famicom version. I just played a couple of weeks ago Gradius III and V again, and I had a great time.

    The chip development for the NES cartridges were exceptional. If we compare the first generation of games with games released from 1991 to 1994 it is a huge graphical and processing difference.
    lendelin, you're welcome. For me, it was great to see the GamePro coverage since I had never read that issue as a kid, I started with the one right after it. As for EGM, I remember those issues really well, they were the first two I bought at a grocery store. My first experience with Gradius was at a friend's house in 1987. It seems like a good game, but I was much more impressed with Life Force given the graphics were better and 2 players could play at once.

    Gradius Deluxe Pack Plus came out on the Saturn and PS1 in Japan, but it wasn't until Gradius Collection on PSP that we got Gradius II officially, not counting the arcade game which was released here, I believe, as Vulcan Venture.

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    SparTonberry and Parallaxscroll, thanks for the heads up about the handhelds! Unfortunately, I'm not into handhelds (I have only ten GBA games) otherwise I'd be all over the PSP collections; but the Japanese Sega Saturn 'Gradius Deluxe Pack' is worth a thought. I might buy it so I have finally Gradius II.

    I have for the PS2 the Gradius III and IV compilation, and of course the SNES Gardius III. Is the PS2 Gradius IV faithful to its Japanese release?

    Gardius V was one of the absolutely best game experiences I had on the PS2! What a great game! I like this kind of traditional shmups much better than the bullet hell shooters on the Dreamcast or on the Xbox360. Frustrating as it can get sometimes, but you always have a fair chance finishing it!

    Too bad that there was since Gradius V no new Gradius game. Any word from Konami about a possible new game for this generation???

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    Gradius VI was apparently in development for the PS3, but by January 2007 (yes, over ten years ago) the new Gradius game was among a wave of sudden Konami game cancellations.

    http://www.ign.com/articles/2007/01/...ns-from-konami

    MASSIVE CANCELLATIONS FROM KONAMI

    Gradius and other titles disappear from company's release list.

    BY IGN STAFF Konami's support for both the PS3 and Wii appears to have taken a major hit. The release list in the latest issue of Famitsu reveals reveals that a number of next generation titles previously announced by the company are no longer in development.

    Here's the full list of cancelled titles.

    Gradius Series (PS3)
    Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball (PS3)
    New Action Game (PS3)
    New Role Playing Game (PS3)
    New Action Adventure Game 2 (Wii)
    Role Playing Game (Wii)
    https://www.destructoid.com/konami-c...rs-29194.phtml

    Konami cans Gradius VI, numerous others

    Like a nail through my heart, Konami has closed the lid on several of its PS3 and Wii titles, including -- may God have mercy on their souls -- the PS3 incarnation of its timeless Gradius series, presumably the sixth.

    As for this current generation, I don't believe there's been so much as even a rumor of a new Gradius for PS4, or any platform.
    Last edited by parallaxscroll; 02-08-2017 at 12:07 AM.

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    Compared to the earliest Famicom games in 1983, Gradius II looks almost 16-bit. Maybe not technically, but relatively.
    It looks great for 8-bit Nintendo, but the colors (or lack thereof) make it clear that's exactly what you're looking at.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lendelin View Post
    I have for the PS2 the Gradius III and IV compilation, and of course the SNES Gardius III. Is the PS2 Gradius IV faithful to its Japanese release?
    I haven't played the Japanese PS2 version of Gradius 4 : Fukkatsu, only the NA PS2 version. All I can say is that it seems faithful to the arcade version.

    The arcade Gradius 4 : Fukkatsu used Konami's 'Hornet' hardware, which used a 3DFX Voodoo 2 Pixel processor with 16MB RAM and a Voodoo 2 Texture processor with 32MB RAM

    http://system16.com/hardware.php?id=583&gid=918#918

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