[[quoteright:326:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/gradius_ii.png]]
''Destroy the Core!''

{{Konami}}'s ''Gradius'' (also called ''Nemesis'' in some incarnations) is one of the seminal side-scrolling ShootEmUp series. The player controls the Vic Viper, a small starfighter, and faces off against the forces of the Bacterions, and generally destroys everything. Its most recent installment is ''Gradius V'' for the Playstation 2 -- there are many {{Gaiden Game}}s, however, so the total game count is enormously larger than five.

The PowerUp scheme in ''Gradius'' is unusually involved, and was particularly so for its time -- destroying an entire enemy wave (or special PaletteSwap enemies) drops a glowing token. Collecting tokens advances a counter along a track. The player may elect to purchase the powerup currently pointed to by the counter, which resets the counter to the beginning. Essentially, powerups in ''Gradius'' are currency; this is in contrast to the system later used by ''{{R-Type}}'', where there were multiple types of powerup each with a specific application; other shooters would typically copy one of these two systems. The traditional sequence is Speed Up, Missile, Double (a bidirectional cannon), Laser, Option, and Shield. It is because of ''Gradius'' that "Option" is often used to describe a powerup that provides the player with an AttackDrone.

The first ''Gradius'' was released in 1985, but in a real-life {{Retcon}}, the 1981 game ''VideoGame/{{Scramble}}'' was declared part of the series in ''Gradius Galaxies''.

Compare ''VideoGame/{{Parodius}}'', which is Konami taking [[SerialNumbersFiledOff this series]] and giving it a CuteEmUp redesign. [[ThisIsYourPremiseOnDrugs And pumped with enough LSD to drop an elephant]]. Also compare ''{{Otomedius}}'', an anime parody series which has a lot of breasts and FanService.

!!List of titles:
* ''Gradius'' (1985, arcade). Titled ''Nemesis'' outside Japan.
** Ported to NES (which retained the ''Gradius'' name for its overseas releases), MSX, PC Engine, Japanese cellphones, [=PC88=], X1, X68000, Spectrum (as ''Nemesis the Final Challenge'').
*** MSX port ported to Japanese Saturn and [=PlayStation=] in Konami Antiques MSX Collection.
** Ported as part of ''Gradius Deluxe Pack'' to the Japanese Saturn, PS, and PC.
** Ported as part of ''Konami Classics'' to the DS.
* ''Salamander'' (1986, arcade Japan/Europe)
** Ported to NES, MSX, PC Engine, Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad, Japanese cellphones, X68000.
*** MSX port ported to Japanese Saturn and Playstation in Konami Antiques MSX Collection.
** Ported as part of ''Salamander Deluxe Pack'' to the Japanese Saturn and PS.
** Ported to PSP as part of ''Salamander Portable''.
** ''Life Force'' (American arcade version, with changed plot and some changed backgrounds)
** ''Life Force'' (Japanese arcade version, with completely overhauled graphics and a ''Gradius''-style power-up system)
*** Ported as part of ''Salamander Deluxe Pack'' to the Japanese Saturn and PS.
*** Ported to PSP as part of ''Salamander Portable''.
* ''Gradius 2'' (1987, MSX; ''Nemesis 2'' in Europe)
** Ported to Japanese cellphones.
** Ported to Japanese Saturn and Playstation in Konami Antiques MSX Collection.
** Ported to X68000 as ''Nemesis '90 Kai''.
** Ported to PSP as part of ''Salamander Portable''.
* ''Gradius II: GOFER no Yabō'' (1988, arcade; not to be confused with ''Gradius 2''). Titled ''Vulcan Venture'' outside Japan.
** Ported to Famicom, PC Engine, X68000, and Japanese cellphones.
** Ported as part of ''Gradius Deluxe Pack'' to the Japanese Saturn, PS, and PC.
** Ported to PSP as part of ''Gradius Collection'', for a proper North American release. After ''18 years.''
* ''Gofer no Yabō: Episode II'' (MSX; ''Nemesis 3: The Eve of Destruction'' in Europe)
** Ported to Japanese Saturn and Playstation in Konami Antiques MSX Collection.
* ''Gradius III: Densetsu Kara Shinwa E'' (1989, arcade)
** Ported to the SNES.
** Ported to the Playstation 2 as part of ''Gradius III and IV''.
* ''Nemesis'' (1990, GameBoy)
** Included in ''Konami GB Collection Vol. 1'' (1997, Japan) for the SuperGameBoy under the title of ''Gradius''
** Included in ''Konami GB Collection Vol. 1'' (2000, Europe) for the GameBoyColor under the title of ''Gradius''
* ''Nemesis II: Return of the Hero'' (GameBoy). Released as ''Gradius: The Interstellar Assault'' in North America.
** Included in ''Konami GB Collection Vol. 3'' (1998, Japan) for the SuperGameBoy under the title of ''Gradius II''
** Included in ''Konami GB Collection Vol. 4'' (2000, Europe) for the GameBoyColor under the title of ''Gradius II: Return of the Hero''
* ''Salamander II'' (1996, arcade)
** Ported as part of ''Salamander Deluxe Pack'' to the Japanese Saturn and PS.
** Ported to PSP as part of ''Salamander Portable''.
* ''Gradius Gaiden'' (1997, Japanese Playstation only)
** Ported to PSP as part of ''Gradius Collection'', finally giving it a proper overseas release after 9 years.
* ''Solar Assault'' (1997, Japanese arcade)
* ''Gradius IV Fukkatsu'' (1998, arcade)
** Ported to the Playstation 2 as part of ''Gradius III and IV''.
** Ported to PSP as part of ''Gradius Collection''.
* ''Gradius NEO'' (2004, Japanese cellphones)
* ''Gradius NEO -IMPERIAL-'' (2004, Japanese cellphones)
* ''Gradius Galaxies'' (2001, GBA). Didn't come out in Japan until 2002. Titled ''Gradius Advance'' in Europe and ''Gradius Generation'' in Japan.
* ''Gradius V'' (2004, [=PS2=]) -- Developed by Creator/{{Treasure}}.
* ''Gradius [=ReBirth=]'' (Wiiware, 2008, 2009 in US)
* ''Gradius the Slot'' (Arcade, 2011) not a traditional shoot 'em up, but a ''pachislot'' game where doing well in the slots affects how well you do in battle.

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!!''Destroy them all!'' The ''Gradius'' series provides examples of:

* AttackItsWeakPoint - "Destroy the core!"
* AnimeOfTheGame - The ''Salamander'' [=OVA=]s.
* AsteroidThicket - ''Gradius V'' stage 5 is the epitome of this.
* AsteroidsMonster - Numerous enemies. In 2 of the stages in ''Gradius III'', they're predominant.
* AttackDrone - the Options.
* AwesomeButImpractical - The flame thrower weapon in the ''Nemesis'' series and ''Gradius V''. Sure it's powerful, but it has such short range that you have to put yourself in harm's way to get the most of it, and it's practically worthless against Core bosses.
** In ''Salamander 2'', you could do rolls like in later entries in the ThunderForce series. And like in ''Thunder Force'', it does nothing but [[RuleOfCool look stylish.]]
* BanditMook - Option Hunters/Thieves will steal away your options if they touch you or your options, but they cannot destroy you or be destroyed.
* BattleshipRaid - Stage 4 of ''Salamander 2''
* BigBad - Bacterion in most games; Dr. Venom in ''Nemesis 2'' and ''3'' on the MSX and in ''[[spoiler:[=ReBirth=]]]''.
** Doom in Salamander 2.
** The Lars Empire in Gradius NEO/Imperial.
*** For those who don't know, the Lars Empire is an evil human empire that has obtained the ancient Gradian and Bacterian technology in a time which takes place many years after the Gradius/Nemesis series. The only Bacterians in Gradius NEO/Imperial live in the wild, with no Hive Mind to guide them, and the Gradian Empire doesn't even exist anymore.
* BossRush - Most of the games since ''Gradius II'' have had one of these.
* BrokeYourArmPunchingOutCthulhu - Blowing up the Big Bad into pieces just winds up having each piece being able to develop into their own Big Bad. Each with their own attack force.
* BulletHell - Many games on loop 2 and above, particularly the Creator/{{Treasure}}-developed ''Gradius V''.
* CatchPhrase - "Destroy the core!", also known as "Shoot the core!"
* ClassicCheatCode
** The {{NES}} conversion of the first game introduced the KonamiCode, and the the {{SNES}} conversion of ''III'' was also first to subvert it.
** Using the code in the FC version of ''II'', as well as in ''Life Force'' on the NES, grants you 30 ships when you start the game.
* CollisionDamage - Arguably, this is more justifiable when one is flying a spacecraft. However, ''Gaiden'' has the Guard shield, which renders the player immune to terrain unless they wedge themselves into a space too small, or get smashed by two walls.
* ContinuingIsPainful - So you've spent 30-35 powerup capsules powering up your ship. Then you die. Then you die some more because your default speed is slow and your ship is completely ass-naked.
** You do start with a single power-up on the bar (though this is only if you died with one on the bar). That's enough for a Speed-Up, which may be just enough speed to survive long enough to start rebuilding. If you're good.
** Depending on where you died, you might have enough time to get over to your options, which drift offscreen rather than vanishing, and pick them up again.
** ''Gradius Gaiden'' lets you rearrange the power meter, so you can, for example, get Options for only one or two powerup capsules each. Also, if you're playing a 2-player game and you die, you'll explode into five capsules.
* ContinuityNod - ''Gradius [=ReBirth=]'' is chock full of references to ''Nemesis 2'' and ''3'' on the MSX, to the point of being a ''de facto'' prequel. (The game is set in Cosmic Year 6664, 3 years before ''Nemesis 2'').
* ConvectionSchmonvection - In ''Life Force'' and ''Gradius II'' NES you fly between two solar surfaces and are totally OK unless you actually get struck by a flare.
** Same thing with any lava-based stage.
* CoolStarship - The Vic Viper, of course, along with its cousins, Lord British, Jade Knight, and Falchion Beta.
* CoresAndTurretsBoss - Potentially the TropeCodifier.
* CueTheSun - The ending for ''Gradius Gaiden''
* DemotedToExtra - Big Core MK.I is a recurring boss in the first Gradius games. By Gradius V, it's a generic mook which appears multiple times throughout the stages with the other enemies. Yes, it's more powerful than an ordinary mook, but it's still an EliteMook.
** Subverted when a modified Big Core MK.I appears as the first stage boss in Gradius V.
** A similar fate occured to the Japanese Life Force boss Gau/Gaw, appearing in groups before the start of the Bio stages of Gradius Gaiden and Gradius V.
* DifficultButAwesome: Vertical Mine in ''Gradius IV''. These can be thrown in any direction, the direction being influenced by what direction you're moving when you launch the mines. Clumsy at first, but once you learn how to throw mines effectively, you can easily hit hard-to-reach enemies and turn bosses into mechanical Swiss cheese very quickly.
* DoppelgangerSpin - the Options.
* DramaticDisappearingDisplay: Oddly enough in the NES version of ''Gradius II'', the HUD at the bottom disappears completely when fighting certain bosses, but not others. This may have been invoked because of the lack of free tiles for the boss and the HUD in those places.
* DubNameChange - In ''Gradius III'' for the SNES. Several [[strike:bosses]] mayors get renamed: Big Core mkII to Ice Ice, Crystal Core to Monarch, among others. The Vic Viper itself is called "Modulated Artillery Exalter" (or [[FunWithAcronyms M.A.X.]]). The NES version called the Vic Viper "Warp Rattler".
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness - One staple of the Gradius series are of course the variety of big awesome bosses. Gradius 1 however features either invironmental hazards or an army of smaller sub-bosses, always followed by a Big Core MK I and the same [[SoundtrackDissonance cheery boss music]] at the end of every level. The only exception are the Stage 6 Nucleus boss and the Brain.
* EenieMeenieMinyMoai - Nearly every game has one stage full of these [[IncrediblyLamePun stoners]].
* EldritchAbomination - Most of the [[BigBad Big Bads]] qualify, including Zelos, Venom, Gofer, and Bacterian.
* {{Engrish}} - Gradius was originally going to be called "[[JapaneseRanguage Gladius]]" (after the ancient Roman war sword). [[GoodBadTranslation We'll forgive them]].
* EverythingTryingToKillYou
* EvilIsVisceral - The final boss in each game tends to be some sort of brain, or a head with a very big brain. The entirety of ''Life Force'' is also this.
* FantasticVoyagePlot - ''Life Force'' establishes itself to be set inside a giant alien life-form which is infected by a strain of bacteria. In the Japanese version, you must destroy a PlanetEater from the inside.
* FasterThanLightTravel - According to the ''Gradius Gaiden'' [[AllThereInTheManual manual]], the Vic Viper and its three sibling ships are capable of traveling at ''five times the speed of light.'' This could explain why they are completely unaffected by the black hole in ''Gaiden'' stage 7.
* FollowTheLeader - A great many shooters followed the ''Gradius'' powerup system, sometimes expanding it into a between-levels "shop" where points could be exchanged for powerups, other times using it verbatim.
* FlyAtTheCameraEnding - Played straight in the NES version of Gradius, Inverted in the rest of the games which show the Vic Viper or any other of the space fighters fly out of the camera and back to planet Gradius.
* FunWithAcronyms: The final boss of ''Gaiden'' is named O.V.U.M. ([[UltimateEvil Original Visions of the Ultimate Monsters]]).
* GaidenGame - The aptly-named ''Gradius Gaiden'', though if you're looking for a real Gaiden Game, check out the MSX Gradius series (''Salamander'', ''Nemesis 2'', and ''Nemesis 3''), which has a completely different and more detailed plot from the main series, and introduces several features not seen in future games, save for a remake of ''Nemesis 2'' called ''Nemesis '90 Kai''.
* GasChamber: The first-half of stage 6 in ''Gradius V'' have these.
* GeniusLoci - Many of the Big Bads, including Gofer, Bacterion, and Zelos. This trope also applies to the organic planets, which have Bacterians controlling the planets.
* GetOut - In ''Gradius Gaiden'', one of the messages you get for a GameOver is "Get out of here, forget about it!"
* GuideDangIt - In order to get the good ending in the MSX version of ''Salamander'', the players has to have a ''Nemesis II'' cartridge plugged into the second cartridge slot, get a item that randomly spawns in a set of different areas, and beat a bonus stage. To make matters worse, the bonus stage doesn't load properly on certain [=MSX2=] models.
* GravitySucks - In Gradius Gaiden's stage, ''On The Event Horizon'', you are ''chased through a planet by a black hole''.
* HaveANiceDeath - "You need some practice."
* HiveMind - Bacterion, Gofer, and Zelos in the Gradius Series. Venom has [[spoiler: become one too in Gradius V.]]
* HopelessBossFight - The Shadow Gear(arachnoid HumongousMecha) in most of its appearances.
* ImpressivePyrotechnics - Treasure managed to include ''Ikaruga's'' characteristic tendency to have bosses blow up spectacularly into ''Gradius V.''
* InertiaIsACruelMistress - Too many Speed Ups can lead to you running right into the bullets you're trying to dodge.
* InvincibleMinorMinion - The shrapnel fireballs in the Fire Stage of Gradius III AC, the [[MookMaker mook-depositing]] floating Moai heads, the ice cubes in the Ice Stage, the mini-spiderbots in the Fortress, and the regenerating Blue Moais in Gradius IV. Also some of the {{Mook Maker}}s used by bosses.
* ItHasOnlyJustBegun
* LandfillBeyondTheStars - Stage 2 ("Requiem for Revengers") of ''Gradius Gaiden'', complete with lots of boss cameos.
* LargeHam - The announcer in ''Salamander 2'' is ''really'' enthusiastic in his line delivery.
-->''"POUND through the ENTRAILS and '''SHOOT ABADON!'''"''
* LargeHamAnnouncer
* LastBreathBullet - On later loops, many bosses will fire aimed shots at the player during their death throes. Better not get [[KaizoTrap caught off guard]]...
* {{Leitmotif}} - The first game's boss music evolved into the iconic "Boss Rush" music. Whenever and wherever it shows up, BossRush time.
* LoadBearingBoss - The final bosses of the Gradius/Salamander Series. Certain organic bosses count too.
* MalevolentArchitecture - The Fortress Stage in each game consists mostly of this.
* MascotMook - In the spinoff ''Cosmic Wars'', the Moai represents the Gradian Empire, while Salamander's Brain Golem is the mascot for the Bacterians.
* MeaningfulName: "Vic ''Viper''". Consider its shape and how it is followed by the Options.
** The mechanical robot walker of ''Gaiden'' (Just before O.V.U.M.) is a giant gear-like wheel named Sol (Spanish for "sun").
** Aside the acronym O.V.U.M., the word Ovum means "egg".
* MeetTheNewBoss - Bacterion, Gofer, Venom, and Zelos. All of them are Bacterion emperors who mastermind the Bacterian attacks. All of them are located in fortresses/planets. All of them want to destroy Gradius. They command strong armies, but they themselves are weak and very vulnerable. They eventually get destroyed by Vic Viper and explode into pieces. The pieces spread across the universe and grow into a new BigBad.
** Subverted for Venom at first. Even in Nemesis 2, Venom was a Bacterion emperor but unlike the others, he was ThatOneBoss. But then Venom reappeared in Gradius V and in that game, now he's a brain that's no weaker than the other Big Bads.
** Doom is an exception too.
* MookMaker - The ubiquitous enemy-spawning devices, some of which are indestructible. And many bosses, eg the Giant Moais, can do this too.
* MyDeathIsJustTheBeginning - Said by the AntiClimaxBoss [[spoiler: who is also the BigBad and the FinalBoss]] in Gradius V, to more or less some degree after he is destroyed.
** In fact, it states that there is a whole lot of pieces of itself spread across the universe, with each one eventually becoming sentient and coming after the Gradians. Which leads to a horrifying thought: ''What if they '''ALL''' gain sentience '''AT THE SAME TIME'''?''
* MyNameIsNotShazam - The final boss music for ''Salamander 2'' is named "Giga's Rage". The final boss itself is actually named ''Doom''.
* NintendoHard - The arcade version of ''Gradius III'', especially. The SNES conversion and ''Gradius Gaiden'', on the other hand, are possible exceptions.
* NonLinearSequel - Played straight with most of the games, save for ''Nemesis 2'' and ''3'' on the MSX and their prequel, ''Gradius [=ReBirth=]''.
* NowDoItAgainBackwards - Nemesis 2 (and presumably Nemesis '90 Kai) does this.
* OddballInTheSeries: ''Gradius V'' features a number of deviations from past mainline titles:
** It is the only mainline game to allow two simultaneous players.
** It is the only mainline game to have a "respawn in place" mechanic. (You can, however, turn checkpoints back on if you wish.)
** It is one of the very few ''Gradius'' games (and only mainline one) not to have a [[EenieMeenieMinyMoai moai]] stage.
** It is one of the very few ''Gradius'' games (and only mainline one) not to have a volcano stage. (Stage 5 could be seen as one, as it features asteroids and volcano-like rock formations, but said formations don't erupt.)
** It is the only mainline game to be developed by a third-party developer (Creator/{{Treasure}}).
* OneManArmy - Except of a few games like ''Salamander'' and ''Gradius V'', even with multiplayer, each player storms the army of spaceships separately.
* OneHitPointWonder - Partially mitigatable by the Shield, but only if it hits the shield instead of you. Then again, the first ''Gradius'' was originally an 80s arcade game...
* OrganicTechnology - Most of the organic enemies as well as the [[WombLevel Womb Levels]] are these.
* QuietlyPerformingSisterShow - ''Thunder Cross'', another series of horizontal shmups by Konami which reused musics and had similar aesthetics.
* PlanetEater - Zelos from ''Salamander''/''Life Force''.
* PlayerMooks - ''Gradius NEO Imperial'' has you playing as a rebel Big Core MK I
* PrecisionFStrike - In ''V'', exactly two swear words are spoken: by the announcer upon dying after 7 stages ("What the hell?") and by the pilot at the end of stage 7 ("Damn. Nothing's denting it."). Oddly enough, ''V'' got a T rating...with the content warning ''having nothing to do with language.''
* ProtagonistWithoutAPast - Heck, outside of the MSX games, the Vic Viper's pilot isn't even named, and it isn't until ''Gradius V'' that he ever finds it necessary to talk to anyone. [[spoiler: And he's just [[HelpYourSelfInTheFuture talking to himself anyway]].]]
* RailShooter - ''Solar Assault''
* RecurringBoss - Oh god, where to start...
** [[http://gradius.wikia.com/wiki/Big_Core_MK_I The good ol' Big Core MK 1]].
* RecurringBossTemplate: The final stage is usually a long one inside the enemy's base, with {{mini boss}}es in between: These vary, but two of them are almost always:
** The first one is a "wall" with turret guns and MookMaker pods. Depending on the game, you will have to destroy 1-4 cores to put an end to it and proceed onwards.
** The second one is a strange walking robot or star-like machine where you will need to manoeuvre between its "legs". Depending on the game, it may or may not be destructible.
* RoyalsWhoActuallyDoSomething - The 2nd player ship in ''Salamander'' is piloted by the prince of Planet Latis, the planet you're defending.
* SelfDestructMechanism - In ''Gradius III'' (SNES) and ''Gradius Galaxies'', this comes in the form of entering the classic version of the KonamiCode while the game is paused.
* SentryGun - In so many places.
* SequentialBoss - The first boss of stage 8 in Gradius Galaxies is this.
* ShoutOut
** The 2nd player ship in ''Salamander 2'' is called "Super Cobra", a reference to the old arcade game of the same name.
** Vic Viper is one of the Konami characters appearing in the [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPbS-cDOUZA special Purikura]] sequence of ''[[VideoGame/MitsumeteKnight Mitsumete Knight R : Daibouken Hen]]'' ; it's also, in ''[[TokimekiMemorial Tokimeki Memorial 4]]'', Rui Nanakawa's third (and very effective) LimitBreak, [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGAmeo0Y27E#t=5m42s invoking it]] after playing the {{Konami}} Code's buttons on a VideoGame/DanceDanceRevolution board.
** The Falchion Beta in ''Gradius Gaiden'' is an updated model of the titular ship from Konami's 1987 Famicom Disk game ''[[SpellMyNameWithAnS Falsion]]''.
** Many bosses in the ''Nemesis'' series are named after rock or heavy metal bands. Most of them have been renamed and given more generic names, with only Venom retaining his name.
** The boss ship Deltatry from ''Gaiden'' is heavily inspired by the ship from Konami's Trigon/Lightning Fighters, complete with its giant laser and fire dragon summoning attacks.
** Let's not forget [[VideoGame/{{Ultima}} Lord British]]
* SmartBomb - One of the items you can pick up.
* SoundtrackDissonance
** Stage 4 of the Salamander arcade is hard as nails due to fast-moving rocks, volcanic eruptions, and enemies that come out of the background. The background music, on the other hand, is calm and relaxing. It is worth noting that most console adaptations of the game (including the NES Lifeforce) change this song's tempo to make it more upbeat.
** Many final stage themes sound cheerful and almost holiday-like.
** ''[[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEqkwU_C5Og Aircraft Carrier]]'' was first heard as the boss theme in Gradius 1, and it has shown up as a remix in almost every game of the series since. It also has never lost any of its unsettling cheerfulness.
* SpaceBase - Every level takes place on a SpaceBase, be it a WombLevel, a Mechanical fortress, or a volcano planet.
* SpaceIsNoisy - As expected from a shoot'em up game where a large part of the events take place in space.
* SpellMyNameWithAnS - Are the bad guys called "Bacterions" or "Bacterians"? It's not clear, especially when ''Gradius Gaiden'' use both names in the same context.
** Is it Lord British or Road British?
** Is it Metalion or Metarion?
* SpiderTank - The Shadow Dancer / Shadow Gear. In many of its appearances, it is invincible and must be dodged until it leaves.
* ThemeNaming - The bosses of the MSX ''Nemesis 3'' are named after obscure American rock and metal bands.
* TimeTravel - In ''Gradius V'', you encounter your future self in Stage 2 and cooperate with him to destroy a battleship that he took back in time with him. Then at the end of Stage 7, you [[spoiler:encounter that same battleship and time-travel back to the events of Stage 2, because the battleship can only be destroyed with two ships.]]
** One fun little detail regarding Stage 8 [[spoiler:is that your past self plays exactly like you did in Stage 2 during the parts when both ships are shown, or all four if there's 2 players. If you skip Stage 2 using stage select, however, then the ships will follow a predetermined path, like your future self does on Stage 2.]]
* UltimateEvil: The FinalBoss of ''Gaiden'', O.V.U.M. ('''O'''riginal '''V'''isions of the '''U'''ltimate '''M'''onsters), according to TheOtherWiki, may be "The power of ultimate evil condensed into physical form".
* UnstableEquilibrium: Losing a life swipes all of your powerups, which against a [[ThatOneLevel stage]] or [[ThatOneBoss boss]] that is giving you serious trouble, translates to "give up and exit the game." There are a few exceptions, such as ''Gradius III'' (Arcade)'s easy mode and games that respawn you in place and therefore allow you to get your options back. As such, the best ''Gradius'' players aren't necessarily the ones who can [[NoDamageRun complete the game on a single life]], but the ones who can recover out of deaths from even the most hopeless-seeming of situations.
* UnwinnableByDesign: ''Gradius [=ReBirth=]'' -- Select Type E, then get either V. Shot or Vector Laser and go into Stage 2 on higher loops or any bonus stage. V. Shot deprives you and your options of any forward-firing capability and Vector Laser cannot destroy destructible walls. Result: -1 life.
* VideoGame3DLeap - ''Gradius IV'' was a presentation upgrade rather than a total upgrade.
** There's also the ''Solar Assault'' sub-series, which is fully-3D ''Gradius'', though it hardly got any attention.
* VideoGameLives
* VideoGameLongRunners - The first game was ported to the NES, as well as many, many PC platforms. Then there's the many arcade releases and many, many console and (original!) PC releases.
* VillainProtagonist - You can play as the Bacterians in Cosmic Wars.
* TheVirus - The Bacterion Empire is an example of this. They are composed of invasive and matter controlling cells that multiply ''every'' ''time'' the Bacterian Empire is defeated.
** Subverted partly in the Salamander [=OAVs=]. Instead of cells, the Bacterians are living crystals that can turn into any kind of creatures. Maybe Bacterion is a huge Crystal lifeform that can transform into a cell or maybe the Bacterians are cells born in crystals grown on Bacterion's rocky shell?
* WaveMotionTuningFork - Near the end of the opening cutscene for Gradius V, the Vic Viper is shown shooting a beam from between its front fins. It ''[[CutscenePowerToTheMax pierces through and destroys the boss of the first level]]''.
* WeHardlyKnewYe - [[spoiler: The Vic Viper pilot in ''Gradius V''.]]
* WikiRule - [[http://gradius.wikia.com/wiki/Gradius_Wiki Yes, it has one]].
* WhamLine:
** ''Gradius V'', stage 2.
---> "Warning: There is a space-time anomaly forming. Two objects have emerged. Ship identification code cannot be processed for the large craft. The other is [[spoiler:[[TimeTravel Vic Viper]] [[HelpYourselfInThePast T-301]]]]."
* WhatTheHellHero
** You hear this said by the announcer if you make up to the last stage but die.
** Inverted in Gradius IV, where if you make it up to the last stage and die, the announcer [[AWinnerIsYou congratulates you for making it that far, saying "You are the Viper!"]].
* WombLevel - Usually at least once per game, since the BigBad does the invasive bio-goo thing. Cell-levels are also reasonably common. The premises for ''Life Force'' and ''Salamander'' make those entire games {{Womb Level}}s, but not every level within them counts as one.
* ZeroEffortBoss - played straight for the most part, but [[ThatOneBoss heavily averted]] in ''Salamander 2'' and ''Nemesis 2''.
** That's probably because the final level is usually the final boss; all the enemies are controlled by the Big Bad's pyschic powers.
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||align=center border=1 width=100%
|| '''[[OverDrive SPEED UP]]''' || '''[[MacrossMissileMassacre MISSILE]]''' || '''[[MoreDakka DOUBLE]]''' || '''[[FrickinLaserBeams LASER]]''' || '''[[AttackDrone OPTION]]''' || [==] '''[[LuckilyMyShieldWillProtectMe ?]]''' [==] ||