Gradius III (known in Japan as Gradius III: Densetsu kara Shinwa e, the sub-title loosely translated to "From Legend to Myth") is a sci-fi side-scrolling shoot-'em-up developed and released by Konami for arcades exclusively in Japan on December 1989.
The third entry in the Gradius series (and the sequel to Gradius II: GOFER no Yazou), Gradius III puts players back in control of the starfighter Vic Viper as a new Bacterian force is making their way to the planet Gradius.
The game retains most of the gameplay from the first two games, with some new additions and changes. Along with a variety of new power-ups, the most notable addition to the game is the ability to freely-customize the Power Meter. In addition, some versions of the game also include an alternate mode for beginners (reducing the game to three levels while making the game easier). The game also includes a behind-the-back scalar-3D segment used for one level.
The game received only one port in that era (for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System), released in both Japan (on December 21, 1990) and North America (on August 13, 1991). It features numerous changes in stage layouts, optional difficulty selections, new power-up choices, and the option to continue. This version was later digitally re-released for the Wii (as a Virtual Console title) in 2007 (April in North America, September in both Japan and Europe).
The game was also bundled with Gradius IV: Fukkatsu as part of the Gradius III and IV compilation for the PlayStation 2 in 2000 (April in Japan, November in both North America and Europe). This version of the game includes some adjustments, as well as some new features (including the Japanese-exclusive online leaderboards and an unlockable "Extra Edit Mode" with additional power-ups to choose from). It was also included in the 2006 PlayStation Portable compilation 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.
The Power Meter system from the previous games returns, in which players start each life with minimal speed and a basic cannon shot, and can upgrade their ship by collecting Power Capsules to progress through their seven-part Power Meter (and then using the Power-Up button to collect the meter's highlighted power-up). One new power-up is added to the series, called the Extra (marked with the "!" symbol).
Weapon Type Select
It also includes the Power Meter Select system from Gradius II (as Weapon Type Select), in which players can choose from four different weapon configurations (changing the Missile, Double, and Laser power-ups). Instead of the classic Type-A configuration, players can optionally choose:
- Type-B: Spread Bomb, Tailgun, Ripple Laser
- Type-C: 2-Way Missile, Vertical, Cyclone Laser
- Type-D: Photon Torpedo, Free-Way, Twin Laser
In the SNES version, both Spread Bomb and 2-Way Missile are reversed, and Free-Way is replaced by the new Back Double.
After choosing from the four Weapon Types players can choose from three different barrier types (Force Field, Shield, and Free Shield). Free Shield is not selectable in the SNES version. The Speed-Up, Option and Extra power-ups are the same for all four Types.
New to the series is the optional Edit Mode, which allows players to customize their own Weapon Type by choosing a variety of options for each Power-Up:
- Missile - Normal, Control, Upper Missile, S. Spread
- Double - Vertical, Spread Gun, Tailgun, Free-Way
- Laser - Twin Laser, Ripple, E. Laser, C. Laser
- Option - Option, S. Option
- ? - Force Field, Shield, Free Shield, Reduce
- ! - Normal, Speed Down, Extra Life Option
In the SNES version, this is changed to:
- Missile - Missile, Hawk Wind, 2-Way Back, S. Spread
- Double - Vertical, Double, Tailgun, Back Double
- Laser - Twin Laser, Ripple, E. Laser, C. Laser
- Option - Option, S. Option, F. Option, R. Option
- ? - Shield, Force Field, R. Shield, Reduce
- ! - Speed Down, Remain Option, Full Barrier, Mega Crush
The Speed-Up power-up is the same, no matter the configuration.
Increases the movement speed of the Vic Viper. This can be activated up to five times to further increase the speed, although higher levels can be very unwieldy.
This is the only power-up that is standard in all configurations.
Allows the Vic Viper to deploy missiles separately from its main weapon.
- Normal Missile - Missiles that are fired in a downwards arc and move along flat surfaces until they reach an enemy or a wall.
- Spread Bomb - Missiles that are fired in a downwards arc and detonate on impact for damaging explosions. Type-B only (Type-C in the SNES version), or in Extra Edit for the PS2 and PSP versions.
- 2-Way Missile - Missiles that split into two from the ship, one moving in a downwards arc and one moving in an upwards arc. Type-C only (Type-B in the SNES version), or in Extra Edit for the PS2 and PSP versions.
- Photon Torpedo - Missiles that are fired in a downwards arc, overpenetrate enemies, and move along flat surfaces until they reach a wall. Type-D only, or in Extra Edit for the PS2 and PSP versions.
- Control Missile - Missiles that are fired from the front and move upwards and downwards along with the ship's movement. Edit only. Not available in the SNES version.
- Upper Missile - Missiles that are fired in an upwards arc and move along flat surfaces until they reach an enemy or a wall. Edit only. Not available in the SNES version.
- Small Spread - Missiles that fire in a backwards arc and detonate on impact for damaging explosions. Edit only. Not available in the SNES version.
- Hawk Wind - Missiles that split into two from the ship depending on the ship's position. Along with a front-facing missile, it fires a missile in either a downwards arc (when the ship is in the upper half of the playfield) or an upwards arc (when the ship is in the lower half of the playfield). Edit only. Only available in the SNES version.
- 2-Way Back - Missiles that split into two from the ship from behind, one moving in a downwards arc and one moving in an upwards arc. Edit only. Only available in the SNES version.
Improves the Vic Viper's cannon by having it shoot an additional shot. Replaces the Laser power-up. Two different types are available in this game:
- Double - Second shot is fired in an upward angle. Type-A only (outside of the SNES version), or in Extra Edit for the PS2 and PSP versions.
- Tailgun - Second shot is fired behind the ship.
- Vertical - Second shot is fired directly above.
- Free-Way - Second shot is fired at the last direction moved by the ship. Not available in the SNES version.
- Spread Gun - Both shots are fired from the front in slightly different angles. Can be upgraded to fire three shots. Edit only. Not available in the SNES version.
- Back Double - Second shot is fired in an upwards angle from behind. Only available in the SNES version.
Replaces the Vic Viper's cannon with a more-powerful laser cannon. Replaces the Double power-up. Two different types are available in this game:
- Normal Laser - Thinner beams that can over-penetrate enemies. Type-A only, or in Extra Edit for the PS2 and PSP versions.
- Ripple Laser - Beams that become very wide over time.
- Energy Laser - Edit only.
Same as the original, the Option creates a ball of energy that follows behind the path of the Vic Viper and fires the same weapons (and missiles, if active) as the ship. This can be activated up to four times, each of which creating a new energy ball.
Recurring enemies, called "Option Hunters", can appear sometime after an Option is active. While it cannot damage the Vic Viper, it instead attempts to steal all of the ship's Options. Players are given time to dodge its attack to minimize the amount of Options stolen.
- Option - Options follow the path of the ship and stop when the ship stops.
- Snake Option - Options move towards the ship's last location and overshoots it. Edit only.
- Formation Option - Options follow the ship directly, similar to that in the 1988 game Thunder Cross, two above and two below. Edit only. Only available in the SNES version, or in Extra Edit for the PS2 and PSP versions.
- Rolling Option - Edit only. Only available in the SNES version, or in Extra Edit for the PS2 and PSP versions.
Provides a temporary barrier to the Vic Viper that completely negate projectiles in certain directions. These barriers have limited energy and can be destroyed.
This Power-Up is marked with the "?" symbol in the Power Meter.
- Force Field - Guards the Vic Viper in all directions. Less durability than Shields.
- Shield - Two energy shields that guard the ship's front.
- Free Shield - An energy shield that attaches to the ship at any point and guards the ship in that position. Can be activated multiple times for additional shields (up to 8). Not available in the SNES version.
- Reduce - Reduces the size of the ship itself. Unlike other barrier power-ups, it does not negate any projectiles and is not temporary. Edit only.
- Rolling Shield - Edit only. Only available in the SNES version, or in Extra Edit for the PS2 and PSP versions.
- Reduce II - Only available in Extra Edit for the PS2 and PSP versions.
New to the series. Provides a unique bonus to the Vic Viper used only for certain situations.
This Power-Up is marked with the "!" symbol in the Power Meter.
- Mega Crush - Deploys a screen-clearing bomb (similar to the blue Capsule from previous games), damaging all normal enemies on the screen and eliminating all enemy bullets. Weapon Types only (outside of the SNES version).
- Normal Shot - Removes the Double or Laser power-ups. Used to reduce enemy attack difficulty that is added by those power-ups. Edit Only.
- Speed Down - Removes a level of Speed-Up. Used in case the player accidentally accumulates too much Speed-Up levels. Edit only.
- Remain Option - Consumes enough of the player's remaining lives to generate a full group of Options, one life per Option. Edit only.
- Full Barrier - Restores the durability of the equipped barrier. Cannot be selected if Reduce is used. Edit only. Only available in the SNES version.
- Reduce - Reduces the size of the ship itself. Only available in Extra Edit for the PS2 and PSP versions and only if neither Reduce options for the Barrier are taken.
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|
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.