The ten stage, third installment to Konami's popular Gradius franchise, aptly titled Gradius III, originally appeared in 1989 at Japanese game centers (aka Japanese Video Arcades). Of the ten stages, Stage 4 was infamous as being the first to offer 2.5D action. Gradius III was also the first title in the series to offer customizable weapon sets. Most recently, Gradius III has been made widely available through Nintendo's Wii Shop as well as a PSP release in the Gradius Collection.
The game is infamous as being one of the hardest of the series, as the original arcade version had no way to continue the game upon losing all lives, and a continue system wasn't even in place to be used at the discretion of the owner and operator. The biggest addition is the ability for the player to edit their weapon load-out, that will come with power ups collected through the game. Players can choose predetermined setups or opt to customize their own, though certain variations of weapons are not available between modes.
There are a few differences between the Arcade and SNES versions of the game including some stages being switched around to the SNES having less stages then the Arcade
|Stage 3||Volcano, Underground||Volcano, Underground|
|Stage 4||3D High Speed||Moai|
|Stage 7||Fire||High Speed Zone|
|Stage 8||Plant||Boss Rush|
|Stage 9||Crystal||Mechanical Base|
|10 (Part I for Arcade)||Boss Rush||Cell|
|10 (Part II, Arcade only)||Base||n/a|
|Hidden Stage 1 (Arcade only)||Gradius||n/a|
|Hidden Stage 2 (Arcade only)||Salamander||n/a|
The SNES version of Gradius III was released in 1991 and included a reduced difficulty setting and additional load-outs. The slowdown from the arcade version is replicated on this version and doesn't include the 2.5D and Crystal levels present in the arcade version. This version is the only version to include a method to continue the game once all lives are lost. A port was released for Virtual Console on April 23, 2007.
The Playstation 2 version of Gradius III was bundled with Gradius IV and was closer to the arcade version of the game and includes the feature that allows the player to edit their weapon load-out. Because of the PS2's superior processing speed, an option is included to simulate the slow down of the original arcade game or to let the game play without any lag. This version doesn't have a continue option, but it does let the player select any stage they have already cleared.
This version was released in 2006 as part of the Gradius Collection. This version keeps the arcade tradition of not allowing the player to continue once they have lost all lives.
A soundtrack containing original music and arranged tracks was released by Konami on the Kings Records label on February 21, 1990. This music has been included on other Gradius themed albums, all released by Konami.