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It is amazing to think how many game genres have been perfected on the SNES. Platforming with Super Mario World, Adventures with the Legend of Zelda, Racing with F-Zero, Fighting with Street Fighter II, the list goes on and on and on. And for me, the perfect Shooter on the SNES has to be Gradius III. The third game in the Gradius series and the final Gradius game on a Nintendo console (bar handhelds and Gradius ReBirth for WiiWare) it is a truly perfect shooting experience, combining clever level design with challenging difficulty and addictive gameplay.
Gradius III has you again taking control of Vic Viper battling against the Bacterion Empire. Playing through ten levels with various power-ups and sheilds it is your job to take the Bacterion Empire down and once again gain control of the galaxy. New to the series in Gradius III, was the ability to be able to choose and edit what power-ups and sheilds you have when playing the game. While the player is able to choose pre-defined categories of weapons and sheilds, it is much more fun to edit your own set of arms to aid you in your conquest, leading to a much bigger sense of strategy than most shooters I have played.
As with all arcade ports to home consoles, there are some notable omissions. Some of the levels (the pseudo-3D and Crystal levels) have been taken out of the SNES version of the game. This is mainly down to the graphical capabilities of the SNES which is a shame but it does not take away from the game at all.
Yet, the SNES version of the game does include some things to make up for the loss of the levels. Firstly, the SNES version is the only version of the game to allow players to continue when they have lost all their lives. The SNES version of the game also includes a new boss Beacon who appears at the end of the all new high-speed stage (a tribute to Gradius II).
But what Gradius III is probably most remembered for is its extreme difficulty. While Gradius III is extremely easy to pick up and play, it is also extremely difficult to master. It is truly a game of trial and error and said to be the hardest game in the franchise. While this may put players off, it does add a sense of replayability to the game, which is helped along by the brilliant level design and countless combinations of power-ups.
To conclude, Gradius III, like most games in the SNES library is a brilliant game. What Rareware were for the N64, Konami were for the SNES and it really shows in Gradius III. With brilliant level design, simple controls, challenging gameplay and mesmorising graphics, it is truly a game not only all Shoot-Em Up fans should play (and own) but all SNES fans should own. While Gradius III, wasn't released in Europe for the SNES, it has been re-released for the Wii's Virtual Console at 900 Wii Points meaning everyone can experience this great shooter and all it has to offer.