YMMV / Gradius

You need some practice.
  • Accidental Innuendo - "POUND through the entrails and SHOOT ABADON!" Something about that sounds unsettling.
  • Adaptation Displacement - Most American fans believe that the NES version of Gradius is the first in the series due to the fact that arcade version was renamed Nemesis outside Japan.
  • Best Level Ever - Stage 7 of Gaiden, which starts off as a seemingly-innocent volcano stage...and then gets gradually sucked into a black hole. Too bad it slows down to a crawl on a PS2.
  • Breather Level - Subverted in Salamander. Stage 3 has a soundtrack to match the terrifying and chaotic nature of the level, but it's otherwise not too bad of a stage. Stage 4 has a calm, soothing soundtrack not unlike going down a river in an inner tube, suggesting the game is setting this trope up. It isn't..
  • Broken Base:
    • Gradius V is about 90 minutes per loop. Some players enjoy this because there's there's so much content as a result, while others feel that it's just too long and exhausting to try to relegate an hour and a half to completing the game, also due to extreme difficulty even on Very Easy difficulty settings. To compare, most other Gradius games can be beaten in 20-40 minutes.
    • Fans have generally been divided as to which of these games is the best in the series: Gradius III (SNES) and V amongst North American fans, in addition to II and Gaiden for European and Japanese players as well as North Americans who import the games (due to those two games suffering from No Export for North America for a long time):
      • II is responsible for a number of series innovations such as multiple weapon loadouts.
      • III (SNES) for having a large variety of content including stage diversity and Weapon Edit, as well as bringing the notorious difficulty of the arcade version down to managable levels.
      • Gaiden for having a balanced ship roster, the rearrangable powerup meter, and some very creative stage design such as the boss junkyard in stage 2 and the volcano level getting sucked into a black hole in stage 7).
      • V for introducing Bullet Hell to the series, being developed by Treasure, and having a more cinematic feel compared to other games due to its far more advanced presentation.
    • Fans can't decide whether Gradius III (arcade) or IV is the hardest game in the series.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome - Gradius contains a large amount, listing them here would take too much space. Examples can be seen on the trope page.
  • Demonic Spiders - Those bouncy things that shoot omnidirectional bullet spams, the Bubbles in the titular stage, especially in IV (where you have bouncing icebergs to dodge as well), the dreaded Option Thief, the goddamned Zubs (who sometimes materialize on top of you), the inflating mini-Moais that the Moai Boss spawns, the fireballs that generate indestructible shrapnel, and the dreaded Cube Rush at the end of the Ice Stage.
  • Ear Worm - Aircraft Carrier aka the boss theme in the first Gradius aka the first theme of the boss rushes. It is literally only 4 measures that loop over and over again but god damn it if it isn't catchy.
  • Game Breaker - Some of the custom weapon set-ups can be this if the right weapons and option formations are used.
    • The Falchion Beta is this in Gaiden. The Auto-Aiming at full power covers 180 degrees of the top of your ship, the Gravity Bullet speed kills bosses, and the Rolling Missile both goes in both directions and pierces through weak enemies.
    • E.Laser, R. Option, Reduce Shield, and Full Barrier in SNES III. E.Laser and R.Option combined give you a powerful rotating charged attack that can erase distructable bullets even while charging and can kill most everything in several hits. Reduce shield is the best shield in the series, although it can only negate two hits, it makes your ship, and thus your hit box, smaller, allowing you to slip though most bullets with ease. Full Barrier allows you to refill a partial shield instead of deplete it to bring it back to full.
  • Goddamned Bats - Lots of examples. One particularly irritating example is the "Strobe Ship" in Salamander's second and fifth stages, which Interface Screws you with seizure-inducing flashes.
    • Turrets. Sure, they may only take one hit to die, but they have a good aiming and a fast fire rate compared to most other enemies. And on later loops in V, they fire out a constant stream of bullets.
    • The infamous Zub cube enemies. They usually appear prior to a major boss (and almost always before a Boss Rush), and then start appearing as regular enemies in the last stage of the game. What makes these things notorious is they appear out of nowhere (possibly on top of the player) and zoom straight for the Vic Viper. The ones in Solar Assault aren't as bad, but the Zubs in this game do fire bullets.
  • It's Hard, so It Sucks: The series was already infernally difficult to begin with but the original arcade release of Gradius III is just so preposterously difficult that even hardcore Gradius fans started to turn away from it. Even one of the developers made the Konami Code for that game because he admitted that he couldn't beat it in one run. It's this sole point that makes many players regard the Super NES port to be the better game because it toned down the difficulty.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks: A common criticism of Gradius IV is that many stages are just rehashes of those in Gradius II. For example, Stage 1 is just the sun stage WITH LIQUID METAL! Granted, most games have a rehashed stage or two (usually the volcano stage and the Moai stage), but IV is seen as especially guilty of it.
  • It's Short, so It Sucks:
    • Gradius ReBirth is in trouble as far as this trope goes, as it's just five stages, although the player does have to beat the game three times in order to actually beat it completely with an ending.
    • Inverted with Gradius V, with some players complaining that the loop length of 90 minutes is far too long for an arcade-style game.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Paula in the Salamander OVAs. She poses as a boat person from the 5th planet and tricks one of the protagonists into destroying a Moai Statue, which allows the Bacterians, who were repelled by the Moai Statue, to come in and mess up the place.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In Nemesis 3, Venom attacked planet Gradius and kidnapped a three-year old James Burton to change history in favor of the Bacterians. His attack has indirectly killed many of Venom's own species due to radiation.
  • Narm - Several boss taunts, such as:
    "You think you can beat me with THAT? Loser!" —Moai Dimension, Gradius Gaiden stage 4
    "I'm going to scare you like you've never been scared before!" —Doom, Salamander 2 stage 6
  • Nightmare Fuel - Usually the Bacterian Emperor either looks like a Brain, a Giant Eye (Zelos), a skinless head (Gofer), a three headed humanoid (Doom), or a face surrounded by smaller faces (Bacterion).
    • There is also the two facts that :
      • A. The Bacterians are pieces of Bacterion who is an cell.
      • B. The Homeworld of the Bacterians is Bacterion himself.
    • What's really scary is that every the Bacterian Emperor gets defeated, the cells composing the Bacterian Empire increase in numbers, making a new and stronger Empire.
    • Regenerating walls. Imagine them not only regenerating within your ship, but inside of you.
    • The overseas versions of Life Force (NES) only has a static shot of the Konami logo against a solid back background while the ending theme plays. It's rather eerie, particularly if you're playing alone at night. In contrast, Salamander (its Japan-region counterpart) has a proper credit roll.
    • The Stage 6 of Gradius V might remind someone of Gas Chambers in The Holocaust. Yikes.
  • Polished Port: Gradius II on PC Engine is a very faithful recreation of the arcade version, AND adds a new stage. The Famicom verson, while not one-to-one like the PCE counterpart, stands out on its own with its unique stage design, and is the only Gradius game on the Famicom/NES to allow four options on the screen at oncenote  thanks to the cartridge's special chip.
    • Even better, you can destroy Shadow Dancers, which is indestructible in the arcade version. This tradition continued on many home console sequels.
  • Sequelitis:
    • Gradius III (Arcade) is not only atrociously difficult, but it's also full of extremely cheap moments that just makes the game very unforgiving. Many players regard it as the worst game in the mainline Gradius series. The SNES port on the other hand is more favorable because the difficulty was toned down drastically.
    • Gradius IV is victim to this, due to not adding anything new to the series (the first stage is even a re-hash of the first stage from Gradius II) and for the 3D effects looking rather cheap, even for Playstation standards. It's also a contender with Gradius III for "hardest game in the entire series".
  • So Cool, It's Awesome: The entire series. Let's not forget to mention the fact that Treasure was involved in the making of Gradius V, and the game has a little resemblance to Ikaruga.
  • That One Boss:
    • Rolling Core, the boss of Gradius IV's 7th stage, already That One Level in itself due to being a high speed stage. The developers have the nerve to throw a boss with small laser guns filling all the empty space down the flat side facing you, the "donut hole" core aims independantly of the outer shell, so it fires around 10 lasers in one direction and another 4-6 in another... and every time you think you've got his pattern figured out...he throws something new at you, like turning the core sideways and blasting you with a no "other" warning laser blast. And then Konami has the gall to bring this boss back for a rematch in a BOSS RUSH in Gradius V (this one has spinning cores rather than a spinning shield, but also has lasers and guns to go along with the missiles, some of which will explode and create a spreadshot.
    • Doom, the Final Boss of Salamander 2. Yes, he is a Final Boss. However, it's extremely rare for a Gradius final boss to not be a Zero-Effort Boss; on the contrary, Doom throws Bullet Hell of all kinds at you and is the hardest boss in the game.
    • Venom, from Nemesis 2, also a non-pushover Final Boss.
    • In the second loop of Gradius Gaiden, Deltatry, the fourth boss of Stage 8, not only fires its usual red flak spam that can at least be shot down, but also fires blue flak that can't be destroyed and blocks attacks other than the Lord British's Disruptor laser. This makes for a longer and more unsafe fight.
    • Gradius NEO has two:
      • Ogre Shield of Stage 4. It fires extremely huge Frickin' Laser Beams and you have hard time to avoid them.
      • Central Server, the final boss. While the main console is a Zero-Effort Boss, it launches the diamonds to warp around, trying to attack the player. Beat it correctly and it can become Breather Boss.
    • All bosses in Gradius V qualify, but at least two notable ones:
      • The first is the Blaster Cannon Core, the boss of Stage 5, the asteroid base. What makes this boss hard is the exact navigation the pilot has to go through; the meteor field for the boss is much thicker than the rest of the stage (as if it wasn't thick enough to begin with), and when the blaster first spirals onto the screen, it's leaving behind a trail of mines that produce two shockwaves of bullets. You CAN destroy the mines before they explode and no bullets will come out of them. Once the rock flow changes and the Vic Viper can attack the core, this machine spams Bullet Hell on you and you have to navigate the asteroids (the blaster's superlasers can destroy the rocks, but make sure you're in the center of the vertical axis.
      • The second is Keeper's Core, the first of two bosses met at the end of Stage 7. After a plethora of enemies with powerups, the pre-boss area requires precise navigation through a minefield with Ducker turrets firing at you. Once the gunwall forms, it has two phases; the first phase, in addition to both the regular bullets from six smaller guns (which can be destroyed, but it will be replaced in 5 seconds) and the plasma shots from three big guns (which you need to destroy) will fill the room, plus there's a gravity field that will pull the Vic Viper towards the ceiling or floor. Plus, more Duckers keep walking in. This part is infernally difficult, but if the pilot can survive, you then have to shoot the cores while the wall is laying lasers; rolling balls coming in to ram you from behind will block these lasers (the smaller guns will keep firing and the wall can charge you, too.)
      • The mid-boss of this stage, a Beacon ship, isn't much better; this one shoots lasers that bounce off the walls and in your general direction while it occasionally fires superlasers. Plus it can drop bombs and alter the hallway to make it smaller and then crooked (this second version has it firing Bullet Hell bullets at you. While it is advised to destroy this machine, it's not required; after several rounds of these attacks, the Beacon bounces off and the second part of the stage starts up anyway.
  • That One Level: The Fire and Ice zones in III Arcade, the Bubble and Cell stages in IV, and the "green slime factory" stage in V. And the fortress stage in almost every game. ALL of Gradius III arcade.
    • The first stage of III Arcade is pretty fun, and provided you played perfectly (you have four options, your laser, and missiles) and keep up a steady stream of fire, the second stage is tense, but enjoyable. It's the third stage where it all goes downhill (ironically, the third stage is virtually a rehash of the first stage of I only a hell of a lot harder, and appears again in Gradius Rebirth, where it is nowhere near as hard).
    • These get toned down in the SNES port of III, only to gives up the sudden crash into the brick that is the High Speed Zone due to sudden change in auto-scroll speed. If you don't have at least three speed ups, you will smash into the wall the moment the intro of the music finishes.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks: One criticism of V is that it lacks the series-traditional volcano and Moai stages, something that even non-mainline games such as ReBirth and Gaiden have.
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