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Gradius II is Konami's sequel to Gradius, and shares its predecessor's basic set-up: The player controls an upgradeable ship named the Vic Viper as it flies horizontally across a series of enemy-infested terrains, fighting enormous bosses at the end of each stage. The upgrade system has been slightly tweaked, the graphics updated and the levels are completely different, but is otherwise the same Gradius experience.
Among the new additions are the load-out screen, from which the player can choose four distinct weapon load-outs for the Vic Viper that they can experiment with to find the one that best suits their play style. The game also has more boss variety than the first, though some bosses are carried over from Salamander/Life Force, an interim Konami shooter that was heavily inspired by the first Gradius.
Though neither the Arcade version or the original NES home version ever made it to the US (the Arcade version was released in Europe as Vulcan Venture), the NES version would eventually make its way to the US Wii Shop's Virtual Console almost 20 years later.
The MSX/X68000 game is a completely different game in every sense.