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Players take control of the Vic Viper as the fight their way through the Bacterion Army in five levels. This game lacks some characteristics of most other Gradius games, such as certain terminology, the lack of Maoi imagery, and an unfamiliar soundtrack.
The game retains the signature Gradius power-up system. This system allows players to save power-ups to unlock more powerful powers instead of having the power-up applied instantly when picked up. These power-ups include a speed boost, missiles, double firepower, lasers, options, and a force field.
A weapon select screen is displayed before the player starts. Each option has a bearing on the types of missiles, double firepower, and lasers the player can get. There are three options:
- Missle - Normal, Two Way, Tail
- Double Firepower - Normal, Twin Cannon, Twin Gun
- Laser - Normal, Twin, Ripple