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Characters / Gradius

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There are characters in the Gradius series. However, few of them are enough information to be included in this page.

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Heroes and Fighters

This part of the page covers the central heroes and the fighters from planet Gradius or its ally planets.
     Fighters In General
  • Attack Drone: The Options are possibly the Ur-Example of this trope for video-games as a whole, although unlike future versions of this trope, the Options fire the exact same weapon loadout for their respective fighters and they follow the fighters' movements. Bonus points for the Vic-Viper itself, since the Options' snake-like movement are what gave the Vic-Viper its name.
  • Continuing is Painful: Every time whenever a fighter gets destroyed, it respawns with no power-ups, although the Konami Code can remedy this by giving you all of your power-ups sans the Laser or Double. Thankfully, other games like Salamander or Gradius V let you pick up your Options right on the spot.
  • Cool Starship/Space Fighter: All of them are kickass star-fighters that blast Bacterion scum to smithereens.
  • Deadly Walls: Frustratingly like in any other Shoot 'Em Up, all of the fighters are very vulnerable to walls, ceilings, and floors. Thankfully, Gradius Gaiden introduces the Guard Shield, a shield that nullifies this trope while protecting the fighter from above and below for three hits total.
  • Energy Weapon: Each fighter has its own special laser, such as the Vic-Viper's Simple, yet Awesome thin piercing laser, the Lord-British's ripple and disruptor lasers, the Jade-Knight's round and pulse lasers, and the Falchion-Beta's gravity lasers.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: The manual for Gaiden states that each of the game's four ships have a maximum speed of five times the speed of light. Which may explain why they are able to outrun a black hole.
  • Glass Cannon: The fighters can pack a punch (especially with the Energy Laser or Gravity Beam), and while they have great speed and mobility, the fighters are all equally squishy One Hit Point Wonders. The only form of defense are the various shields throughout the series, but they have their own flaws (Shield has the highest durability out of the shields but it leaves the fighter exposed from the top, bottom, and rear, Force Field protects the fighter's entire body yet it lasts for three hits, Guard has a big hitbox and doesn't protect the front or rear, Limit lasts for three seconds, Reduce shrinks the fighter, reducing it's hit box but only lasts for two hits).
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Throughout the series, all fighters have the option to pick any shield as some form of defense, whether it's the Double Shield (highest defense but only protects the fighter's front), the Force Field (small hitbox and protects the whole fighter but lasts for three hits), the Guard Shield (nullifies Deadly Walls but only protects the fighter from above and below for three hits total), the Limit Shield (grants the fighter 3 seconds of invincibility), and the Reduce Shield (shrinks the fighter, greatly reducing it's hitbox but only lasts for two hits).
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Every fighter has its own unique missile. Vic-Viper's missiles have a decent fire rate and slides through the ground until they either hit an enemy or an obstacle/wall; Lord-British's missiles fire both above and below but they don't slide on the floor/ceiling until leveled up; Jade-Knight's missiles spread across the floor when detonated; Falchion-Beta's missiles tumble to the ground where they split up and shoot horizontally.
  • More Dakka: The Double power-up varies for all fighters, but they all allow them to fire multiple directions at the same time. The Vic-Viper's Double fires at a 45 degree angle (it becomes a Triple when leveled up, thanks to the addition of tail-gun), while the Falchion-Beta's Double fires smart bullets that automatically attack the enemy at every angle. Oddly for the other two fighters, the Lord-British's Double is its aforementioned Ripple Laser, while the Jade-Knight's Double is its Round Laser.
  • Segmented Serpent: Started by the appropriately named Vic Viper, all Gradian (and Gradius-allied) star-fighters are followed by their Options like a snake's tail, giving every fighter a vaguely serpentine appearance.

     Vic Viper 

Vic Viper
The Vic-Viper in the cover of Gradius V.
The heroic snake-themed starfighter of the series, designed by Dr. Venom (yes, that Venom) and first piloted by James Burton. The star fighter has battled the Bacterion forces for generations, keeping planet Gradius and the galaxy safe from their wrath. The Vic Viper is armed to the fangs with missiles, double machine guns, lasers, options, and a shield.
  • Alliterative Name: Vic Viper.
  • Animal Motif: The snake of course (hence the name), considering the Vic Viper's Options follow the fighter like a snake's tail and the prongs on the fighter resemble a snake's fangs.
  • Attack Drone: A special case for this fighter; the Options' default snakelike tail movement emphasize the Vic Viper's snake motif, making the fighter look like a Segmented Serpent. Along with the trailing snake tail formation, the Options can also form a horizontal V or an Orbiting Particle Shield.
  • Blue Is Heroic: The Vic Viper is primarily white with blue accents, and it is the heroic fighter ship whose pilots fight for the peace of the galaxy. Even if some incarnations of the Vic Viper lack blue accents, the shields and lasers they use will also be blue (except for the Vic Viper in Gradius II where the Force Field and Laser are green or red instead).
    • Orange/Blue Contrast: In most installments of the series, the Vic Viper's blue accents on its frame are contrasted by its orange Options, although other installments such as Gradius Gaiden and Salamander/Life Force change the orange Options to blue.
  • Charge Attack: In Gradius III and Gradius V, the Vic Viper has the option (no Pun intended) to use the Energy Laser, a slow-firing yet very powerful laser beam that annihilates waves of enemies and even bosses within seconds, just like the R9A-Arrowhead's Wave Cannon.
  • Dub Name Change: Called the Warp Rattler in the overseas NES versions of the original Gradius.
  • Hit Box Dissonance: A rare example where it benefits the player. The Vic Viper's hitbox in V is somewhere around the center or cockpit, but it is significantly smaller than the fighter's actual size, making it easier for the player to weave through enemies, obstacles, and storms of bullets.
  • Jack of All Stats: The Vic Viper's default "missile, double, laser" set-up may not be as damage-focused or spread-out as the other set-ups or fighters, but the default set-up still handles every situation adequately. This is taken a step further in Gaiden and Galaxies where the Double might as well be called Triple, thanks to the addition of the tail-gun. Depending on your view, the default set-up is either Boring, but Practical, or Simple, yet Awesome.
  • Legacy Character: Because the series has a timeline which spans nearly two millennia, the Vic Viper is obviously not always the same ship. Despite this, there are games set just a year or so apart where the ship looks drastically different.
  • Meaningful Name: According to Word Of God, the Options' snake-like movement and the fighter's V-shaped body are the reasons why the developers gave the Vic Viper its name.
  • Playing with Fire: In Gradius V, the Vic Viper can be equipped with the Fire Blaster, a flamethrower from Nemesis II and Nemesis III. While the Fire Blaster used to deal mediocre damage from those games due to a bug, the damage is drastically improved in V. Even with its short range, this "laser" is absolutely devastating when used correctly, especially when combined with Spread Bombs and Freeze Options.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Inverted. The Vic Viper is themed after a snake (a venomous snake family in this case) and yet it is nonetheless heroic, thanks to its purpose of protecting the galaxy from the Bacterions.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: Downplayed; the Vic Viper can fire a scaled-down version of this trope by lining its Options horizontally straight and firing its basic Laser. The Energy Laser is the closest thing the Vic Viper has to playing this trope straight, especially when lined up and fully charged.
    • Wave-Motion Tuning Fork: Artistic depictions show the Vic Viper firing lasers out of the frontal fins. This is confirmed in the cinematic intro of Gradius V, where the Vic Viper fires a charged-up laser from said fins against the Big Core Rev 1.2, destroying its core without touching anything else.

     Lord British (Fighter) 

Lord British (Fighter)
The Lord British portrayed in Yu-Gi-Oh!.
A state of the art star-fighter named after its pilot. This fighter is first introduced in Salamander (1986), where it serves as the second Player Character to battle the Salamander forces. Like the Vic Viper, the Lord British can be equipped with the Cyclone Laser or the Ripple Laser, the latter becoming the fighter's Weapon of Choice in other appearances.
  • Achilles' Heel: In Gaiden, it is especially vulnerable to enemies coming from behind, as none of its weapons provide rear coverage.note 
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: In Gaiden, its Disruptor beam penetrates enemies that aren't One Hit Point Wonders and enemy armor, giving it a better shot at enemy weak spots, at the expense of damage per second.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: In the original Salamander, it's functionally identical to the Vic Viper. In the arcade Japanese version of Life Force, its powerup meter has a different order. In Gaiden, it boasts a significantly different set of weapons from the Vic Viper, much like the other two ships.
  • The Lancer: The Lord-British is sometimes paired with the Vic-Viper as a duo since their debut in Salamander. The Lord British is also the 2nd player in some installments of the series.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted; the fighter shares its name with a character from the Salamander OVA.
  • Red Is Heroic: The Lord-British is clad in either red or orange and it is the noble fighter that battles the Bacterion Forces.

     Jade Knight 

Jade Knight
The Jade Knight portrayed in Yugioh.
A newcomer to the Gradius series, starting with Gaiden. This green star-fighter aids the other fighters to battle OVUM and its forces. Its weapons are designed for covering all angles and up-close combat, such as the Round Laser. The Jade Knight is also equipped with Spread Bombs and the Twin Laser, which can be upgraded for extra firepower.
  • Beam Spam: The Jade Knight not only uses the Twin Laser, it can upgrade the laser to fire three beams instead of two.
  • Close-Range Combatant: The Jade-Knight's Round Laser has a relatively short range in exchange for 360 degree protection and consistent damage. The range isn't too shabby when leveled up.
  • Emerald Power: The Jade-Knight is clad in green, hence its name. It's also the best fighter in terms of dealing spread damage to dish out enemies of all angles.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The Jade Knight fires Spread Bombs as its Missiles, which also split into two when leveled up.

     Falchion Beta 

Falchion Beta
The Falchion Beta portrayed in Yugioh.
Another newcomer from Gaiden, joining the other fighters to battle OVUM and its forces. This purple-clad star-fighter is designed for dealing massive damage, thanks to its Auto-Aiming gun, which homes on enemies from above and behind, and the destructive Gravity Beam, which eats through bosses and enemies alike.
  • Gravity Is Purple: The Falchion-Beta's Laser is called the Gravity Beam, a slow-firing yet powerful laser that leaves purple destructive orbs that eat through enemies and bosses.
  • Purple Is Powerful: The Falchion-Beta is clad in purple and it is the most offensive-oriented fighter out of the four. Its Double auto-tracks enemies from above and its Laser chews through bosses like a knife on butter.
  • Smart Gun: The Falchion-Beta's Double automatically tracks the nearest enemy at a 180 degree angle above.
  • They Call Him "Sword": The Falchion Beta is named after a one-handed French sword.

A sketch of the Metalion from Nemesis II.
This advanced star-fighter serves as the successor of the Vic Viper series. Just like the Vic Viper, the Metalion was also developed by Dr. Venom, but after Venom's coup was thwarted, the Metalion's development was delayed until the Space Agency's engineers finished its development, just in time for Venom's invasion. The fighter is piloted by James Burton, who takes on Dr. Venom and his forces in Nemesis II.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: In Nemesis 2, it can absorb new weapons from the boss ships it destroys, expanding its tactical options. However, this also expands the power meter, and new weapons are added in between the Missile and Option slots. Thus, the more weapons you decide add on to the ship, the more powerup capsules you'll need to get Options (especially after dying and respawning) or to (re)activate your shield. It's best to take maybe one or two new weapons you want and disregard the rest.
  • Blue Is Heroic: Just like the Vic Viper, the Metalion's lasers and afterburner are bright blue and it is piloted by James Burton to save the galaxy from the Bacterions.
  • Superior Successor: Unlike the Vic Viper, which only uses one laser at a time, the Metalion fires two lasers simultaneously: a wide laser from above, and a straight-forward laser, which is strong enough to effortlessly burn through core battleship barriers and cores in milliseconds!

     James Burton 

James Burton
James Burton as he appears in Gradius Rebirth.
The hero of Gradius 1, Nemesis 2, Gradius Rebirth. He is a Wreekian, just like Dr. Venom. After defeating Venom in Nemesis 2, James becomes Emperor Lars 18th. He passes away in year 6718 at the age of 77, but that doesn't stop Dr. Venom from going to the past and kidnapping a three-year old James. Thank goodness David Burton, a descendant of James, saved the boy from Venom.
  • Ace Pilot: He pilots the Vic Viper (and its successor, the Metalion) into at least three victories against the Bacterian armadas, Dr. Venom, and Bacterion himself.
  • Arch-Enemy: Dr. Venom is this for James in two of the games, sending him out on no less than three deployments while Venom's staging a coup in Gradius ReBirth, becoming the boss of Nemesis 2 that James has to confront, and then kidnapping a toddler James in Nemesis 3.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: An offscreen example. After his epic efforts of battling Dr. Venom and the Bacterion forces, James is crowned as Emperor Lars the 18th and used his power to reconstruct the seven planets that were damaged by the Bacterion wars. He ruled planet Gradius until his death from old age.
  • The Hero: James serves as the central hero in Gradius 1, Nemesis 2, and Gradius Rebirth to battle the Bacterians and Dr. Venom.
  • Human Alien: James looks like a human, but he's actually a Wreekian.
  • Recurring Character: He's the Vic Viper's pilot note  in two of the Gradius games.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: At the end of ReBirth's second loop, Dr. Venom gives him the "Bacterian Buster Program", which uses a Wii Remote for fighting Bacterians "as if you're playing Gradius." James's response is to give him a straight and sincere thanks, as if using a video game controller to fight Bacterians and making references to the game he's in is perfectly normal fare for him.

     David Burton 

David Burton
The hero of Nemesis 3. A descendant of the late James Burton, David repels Bacterian forces and discovers the Bacterians going back in time to change history. David saves a three-year old James Burton from the Bacterians and frees the Bacterian controlled planets.
  • Ace Pilot: Just like his ancestor. He has to be one in order to pilot the Vixen series.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Since James is a Wreekian, David has DNA of that race.
  • The Hero: For Nemesis 3. In order to preserve the galaxy's peace, he battles through Bacterian forces to save the enslaved planets and his infant ancestor, James Burton, who was kidnapped by Dr. Venom.
  • Heroic Lineage: David Burton takes the role of The Hero from his ancestor as another Ace Pilot, battling the Bacterians to save the galaxy.



Voiced by: Kouji Tsutani (OVA)
One of the protagonists of the Salamander OVA series. Just like Eddie and Stephanie, Dan is one of the three Gradian pilots sent to help protect Planet Latis against the Salamander invasion in the first episode. In the second episode, Dan and Stephanie successfully stop the first Bacterian invasion by destroying the cyber brain inside of the Xaerous Fortress. In the third episode, Dan and Lord British rescue Stephanie from Paula and Gofer, and the heroes destroy the fused form of the latter two, bringing an end to the Bacterian wars.
  • The Hero: Dan is the central hero of the Salamander trilogy.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Dan and his friends defeated the Bacterian forces after killing their leaders, bringing peace to both Gradius and Latis. For now.
  • The Leader: Dan is also the leader of the Gradian pilot trio.

     Eddie Evans 

Eddie Evans

Voiced by: Kazuhiko Inoue (OVA)
One of the protagonists of the Salamander OVA series. He gets manipulated by Paula, a Bacterian disguised as a human, into destroying the Bacterian repellent: the Moai Statue. Eddie redeems himself by sacrificing himself (by flying into the mouth dragon named Salamander) to save Gradius.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice Job destroying the Moai statue, Eddie. Now the Bacterians will invade Gradius.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Destroys Salamander and the fire dragon at the cost of his life.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Eddie cocks up by destroying the statue, and it takes his death to correct it.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Paula plays him into destroying the Moai Statue to allow the Bacterians to invade.

     Stephanie McBain 


Voiced by: Noriko Hidaka (OVA)
One of the Protagonists of the Salamander OVA series. In the second Salamander OVA, she had to destroy her own father (who was kidnapped and turned into a Cyber Brain by the Bacterians). In the third, she gets kidnapped by the Bacterians and almost got become a cyber brain just like her father, but gets saved in time by Dan and Lord British.
  • Action Girl: Stephanie is a female Gradian pilot who battles the Bacterians with her peers.
  • The Chick: She straightens out conflicts between her peers sensibly. Along with Dan and Eddie, she plans to send the virtual simulations of Salamander to Lord British, so that he can train his men and prepare them against the Salamander forces. Even if Lord British refused to do so, at least the Gradius pilots' plan was morally and practically sensible.
  • Distressed Damsel: For a while in the third Salamander OVA. Thankfully, Dan and Lord British rescue her just in time.
  • Mercy Kill: Thanks to the Bacterians turning her father into one of their Living Weapons, Stephanie ends her father's suffering and the first Bacterian invasion with the aid of Dan.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After learning that Lord British sent his untrained men against the Salamander forces, Stephanie gives him an Armor-Piercing Slap and chews him out for his arrogant and stupid decision.

     Lord British (Character) 

Ike Lord British

Voiced by: Hirotaka Suzuoki (OVA)
One of the Protagonists of the game Salamander and the Salamander OVA series. He is the ruler of planet Latis. His personality isn't very detailed in the games, but in the OVA series, he's a bit of a Jerkass.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Lord British gives up on proposing to Stephanie, convinced that she and Dan form a much better couple. He's not too sad over it though, as he laughs and tells his attendants he is confident he'll find someone else.
  • Jerkass: Lord British is a hardass. In the first episode, he refuses to listen to the high priest's warnings about Salamander by dismissing him as a bumbling old fool, and gets angry when the latter contacts planet Gradius for help. Despite the Gradian pilots telling him to train his men with virtual simulations of planet Salamander, Lord British still deploys his untrained men against the Salamander forces, resulting with all of them facing horrible deaths. Of course, his stubbornness is so frustrating that Stephanie slaps him right on the face and calls him out for his actions.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite being a stubborn asshole, Lord British does help the heroes battle against the Salamander forces and the rest of Bacterian for the sake of his planet's people. After learning about Eddie's Heroic Sacrifice, he forgives Evan and his family despite their past and asks his ministers to record Evan's name as one of Latis' heroes out of gratitude. He also respects Dan and Stephanie's potential relationship, despite not having the chance to marry her.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Pilots his own super-fighter and takes the fight to the enemy in Salamander and Solar Assault.
  • Shout-Out: To that other Lord British.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted, as he shares the same name as the red fighter itself, which is most likely his ship.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Lord British is on the receiving end of this trope, as he gets called out by Stephanie for his stubbornness and careless decision of deploying his untrained men against the Salamander forces.

Bacterians/Bacterions/The Bacterian/Bacterian Empire/Bacterion Empire/etc.

The main villains of Gradius who come from the Star cluster of Bacterion. This page is just going to cover the important ones.

"I was born from the greediness of mankind. While men exist, so will I!"


Bacterion, the god of destruction. The creator of the entire Bacterian Empire, Bacterion always tries to invade Gradius, home of the Vic Viper, the ship that always defeats him.

  • Big Bad: The master and creator of the entire Bacterian Empire, who are the threats that Gradius is forced to defend itself against.
  • Brain in a Jar: Sometimes.
  • Evolved into a Planet: In Gradius III. Or maybe he have always been this way.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Much like Gofer, a head with an exposed brain in a mess of laughing (and screaming) faces.
  • Evil Is Visceral: His exposed brain is shown pulsing, and he is in a sea of organic-looking material.
  • Final Boss: Bacterion is definitely the last enemy of Gradius III, but whether or not it was him as the brain in the original is up for debate.
  • God of Evil: Check his quote.
  • Hive Mind: Appears as this if the Vic Viper is able to reach him in Gradius 3; he controls all the Bacterian organisms.
  • Recurring Character: He's the primary Big Bad of the Gradius franchise.
  • The Emperor: The original Bacterian Emperor that rules an elite fleet of warships.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Bacterion or Bacterian?
  • The Virus: Bacterion's strategy of conquering planets; Bacterion multiplies, then Bacterion use psychic controlling beings called Cyber Brains (for example, Venom and Gofer), or Bacterion uses his psychic powers to control those the duplicate cells and make them into fighter ships and monsters, called Bacterians. Combined with the intelligence of the Cyber Brains (or Bacterion), the Bacterians conquer planets into transform into whatever they like. If the Cyber Brains or Bacterion get blown up, at least the pieces would grow into more Cyber Brains, making the Bacterion Empire stronger.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: He's notable for being one of the few final bosses (and the only main series one) to actually fire back! Unfortunately for him, his shots are slow and so easily avoided that he still qualifies as this (getting hit by one of these does send you to a sub-level that you have to fight your way through to get back to Bacterion on at least the arcade version of III).



Voiced by: Shigezou Sasaoka (OVA)
"I am the strongest!"
The Big Bad of Gradius II, Nemesis 3: The Eve of Destruction (MSX) and IV.
  • Cool Starship: Gofer controls a gigantic ship named Queensrÿche in Nemesis 3. David Burton and his Vixen had to raid through it to fight him.
  • The Dragon: Lampshaded by Gofer himself: "I am just a small portion of the empire Bacterion!"
  • Dragon Ascendant: Replaces Bacterion as the Bacterian Emperor in II and IV and leads the charge against Gradius and the Vic Viper in his stead.
  • Eldritch Abomination: A skinless head in a mess of organic tissue.
  • Evil Is Visceral: His brain is exposed, and so are the muscles in his face.
  • Final Boss: Is this for II and IV, as well as Nemesis 3. Also in the Salamander OVA, Gofer merges with Paula and their merged form (a flaming phoenix, like the first boss in Gradius II) serves as the final enemy for Dan, Stephanie, and Lord British to battle, this time he actually puts up a fight (thanks to Paula at least).
  • Fusion Dance: In the climax of Salamander OVA's third and final episode, Gofer merges with Paula as The Phoenix, serving as the strongest and final foe for our heroes to take down.
  • Hive Mind: Gofer's one of the beings that can control the entire Bacterian Empire.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Gofer in Gradius IV states that he will be reborn in every single piece of Gofer's body. Fridge Horror would make his last words more of a warning than just mere words.
  • Recurring Character: The Final Boss of three of the Gradius games, counting MSX entries.
  • Was Once a Man: Until Bacterion turned Gofer into a giant skinless head.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: In all arcade versions of the mainline games, Gofer doesn't attack when the Vic Viper reaches him; all one has to do is shoot the tendrills holding his head to the ceiling. In the NES port of II, he does spit out ballistics, but he's still very much a pushover. Nemesis 3 does have him as a standard final boss.

     Life Force/Zelos 

Life Force/Zelos (Not to be confused with the other Zelos)
A Planet Eater that serves as the antagonist of Salamander, may or may not be a serpentine Draconic Abomination. Usually, you have to destroy it from the inside.
  • Big Bad: Of the game Life Force.
  • Covers Always Lie: ... Maybe. One would assume Zelos, based on the description, to be the flaming dragon depicted on the cover of the game, whose mouth is the size of a few planets in front of it. However, the same cover first originated with the arcade Salamander, the plot of which did not involve a planet eater.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Doubles with Draconic Abomination, assuming Zelos is one.
  • Evil Is Visceral: Life Force takes place inside of its body, and the levels are not only named after its organs; the levels and bosses are tweaked to look organic, giving the game an atmosphere of traveling inside of a vast creature.
  • Genius Loci: Or so it seems to be at the ending of NES Life Force.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: A possible interpretation of Zelos is that it's a galaxy-sized dragon that eats solar systems and allies with the Bacterians (if not, a Bacterian himself).
  • Planet Eater: Zelos is said to be a dragon so massive that its belly is full of solar systems, and it is coming to devour the Metalion solar system!
  • Snakes Are Sinister: In some covers of Salamander or Life Force, Zelos is portrayed as a serpentine dragon, befitting its villainous nature as a malevolent planet-eating monster.

     Zelos Force 

Zelos Force

This Bacterian is a red gigantic eye created as a Living Weapon by the forces of Bacterion to transform planet Latis, a neighboring planet, into Bacterian territory.

  • Degraded Boss: Zelos Force went from final boss to boss to a regular Mook in following games such as Gradius V. Still, an Elite Mook.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The eye has pulsing veins and a fiery glow around it.
  • Evil Is Visceral: A giant eye with veins is what the Zelos Force creatures look like
  • Eye Scream: A big eye, and in his first game, you have to shoot said eye.
  • Faceless Eye: The Zelos Force is a giant floating black and red eye, or at least it looks like one.
  • Final Boss: Of arcade Salamander and Life Force, both arcade and NES.
  • Living Relic: In Gradius Neo and Gradius Neo Imperial, the Bacterian Empire doesn't exist anymore. All that's left is the Bacterians' technology, the Crystal Moai, and some wild Zelos Forces.
  • Living Weapon: An eyeball that is a Bacterian weapon.
  • Recurring Boss: The Zelos Force is sometimes fought as a normal boss, replacing Gaw and Intruder in the NES version of Gradius II's Boss Rush level. It is not only seen in Gaiden's Boss Junkyard stage, it also controls one of the stage's bosses, a small core battleship with Combat Tentacles. The Zelos Force also controls another boss in IV, this time as the game's Womb Level boss.
  • Recurring Character: Appears as a Final Boss, one of the bosses in 2's Boss Rush level andGaiden's Boss Junkyard stage, and then reappears in the first stage of Gradius V as Elite Mooks that block the Vic Viper's path.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Zelos Force is a massive red eye.
  • The Virus: That's what Zelos Force is designed for.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: Downplayed; this last boss doesn't fight back but shooting the hangars requires the missile power up. It also requires some input to survive because it comes in behind you, plus the base will try to shut you in.



Voiced by: Sumi Shimamoto (OVA)
A female Bacterian who is the Big Bad of the Salamander OVA series.

     Big Core Series 

Big Core Series
Big Core Mk.1 from Gradius I.
Big Core Mk.2 from Gradius II.
Big Core Mk.3 from Gradius III (Arcade).
Big Core Mk.4 from Gradius V.
Big Core Rev 1.2 from Gradius V.
A series of large Bacterian Warships that mostly serve as the bosses of the Gradius series. So far, there are Big Cores MK I, II, III, IV, and many variants.
  • Ace Custom: Big Core MK I has three notable Ace Custom variations.
    • Big Core Rev 1.2 in V, equipped with a ring of laser ring-spamming turrets AND planet-piercing laser cannons.
    • Big Core Custom in NEO Imperial has Area Napalm, a multidirectional detonator. The player controls this Big Core trying to escape Lars Empire. Unfortunately, it has been destroyed by Gradius Union's forces.
    • Neo Big Core in Gaiden has a drastically different design than the other MK I variants, and alongside with the usual "up-down 4 laser beam" attack pattern, the Neo Big Core fires a Wave-Motion Gun and tons of thunder grenades. Later loops and higher difficulties allow the Neo Big Core to summon Attack Drones of its own. The fact that it has purple accents on its frame clearly shows how improved this battleship is.
  • Attack Animal: Deltatry summons at least two fiery dragons (possibly related to the Salamander/Life Force boss, Intruder) that home onto the starfighters. Destroying these dragons in higher loops results in suicide bullets, one from each segment. Upon Deltatry's defeat, its dragons turn against their master.
  • Combat Tentacles:
    • Salamander introduces Tetran, which has four arms that swing across the field. Its variants also share the number of arms and attack pattern. This trope gets taken up a notch in Gradius V, where Tetran not only fires bullets and lasers from its tentacles, it also arcs said tentacles to the front and attack the Vic Viper from its vertical position, just like the other core battleships.
    • Gradius II has Crystal Core, a crystalline core battleship with a pair of laser-firing tentacles that wave hypnotically. Desert Core in the PC Engine port has destructible tentacles that can strike the Vic Viper from above and below.
    • Gradius III Arcade gives us Lizard Core, who has two thick retractable tentacles from its "snout" that follow the Vic Viper's vertical position. Lizard Core returns in Nemesis 90 Kai as the Plant Stage boss, this time with thinner arms and a green paint job.
    • Gradius Gaiden has Nobil, the lower-route boss of Stage 2, which uses its tentacles to protect itself with garbage as armor, while trying to impale the player(s) with its tentacles. The game's Boss Bonanza stage has Parasite Core, which uses its tentacles to control and weaponize a pair of Death MK 2's, and its tentacles will fire lasers at the player(s) if any Death battleships are destroyed.
    • Gradius V: Big Core MK IV's tentacles are made of lasers that wave up and down while forming energy orbs that grow in size and fire more lasers.
  • Cores-and-Turrets Boss: The Trope Codifier in video-games, thanks to its simplistic yet iconic design and attack pattern.
  • Degraded Boss: Big Core MK I went from a boss to an Elite Mook.
    • The heavily-modified version of Big Core MK I (which comes with more weaponry) appears as the first boss in Gradius V, thereby subverting this trope in this case. At higher loops, the battleship's "loop" will be completed with another Big Core.
  • Four Is Death: Big Core MK IV (hence its name) has four cores and is also the biggest, most advanced, and deadliest addition to the Big Core family to date, complete with tentacle-like lasers and detachable arms. It also happens to be the 4th and final boss of the first Boss Rush stage.
  • Light Is Not Good: The majority of core battleships tend to be white with silver accents and a bright blue core, especially in Gradius V. They're also bad guys.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The Death and Covered Core series fire missiles as their central attack. The former fires five missiles that will home onto the starfighters in higher difficulties or loops, and the latter fires two continuous missile volleys from above and below, or all directions in Covered Core MK II's case. Death MK III's missiles will not just home onto the Vic Viper, but also explode into bullets in higher difficulties or loops, resulting in a lovechild of this trope and Bullet Hell. And as a player ship in NEO Imperial, the Big Core Custom can spew multiples of missiles when not firing the beam shots.
  • Player Mooks: The aforementioned Big Core Custom from Imperial who attempted to escape Lars Empire. The only player ship to avert One-Hit-Point Wonder until the end.
  • Recurring Boss: At least one Big Core MK I of some sort will appear as a boss enemy in any game called Gradius. The first had nothing but Big Cores until the last two stages.
  • Shielded Core Boss: The Big Core series and other core battleships all have a vulnerable core that's protected by barriers and the Gradian fighters must destroy them before reaching said core.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: Some core battleships pull this off, such as Death MK 2 and Death MK 3, the Abaddon Warship, Parasite Core (when controlling the Death ships at least), Big Core Neo, and Big Core Rev 1.2. Blaster Cannon Core fires a volley of these whenever it's vulnerable.

     Dr. Venom 

Dr. Venom
"You will never escape the shadow of fear! My hatred for your kind is eternal!"
The Big Bad of Nemesis 2, 3, Gradius ReBirth and V. He constantly tries to destroy Gradius for using his people, who became an endangered species thanks to a future version of Venom and Gofer, only for their ESP powers.
  • Arch-Enemy: Venom is this to James Burton, the original Vic Viper pilot, since he sends Burton out on several runs against a rogue Bacterian sector while he attempts a coup. Burton realizes this and has Venom imprisoned, but he escapes and becomes one of the main minds of the Bacterians, going up against James in Nemesis 2 and then trying to kidnap him as a child in Nemesis 3.
  • Because Destiny Says So: The Latisian prophecy in Salamander MSX states that a devil with green skin and five eyes will cause two catastrophes. Guess who's the devil.
  • The Bus Came Back: After Nemesis 3, he disappeared from non-remake Gradius games for 16 years, before appearing as the Final Boss of Gradius V.
  • The Dragon: He serves as this for the Bacterians, until he becomes one of their leaders in Gradius V.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Is one of the latest minds to take control of the Bacterians and lead them as a brain in an attempt to lay waste to Gradius.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Venom was partly one in Nemesis 2 and 3 due to being transformed by the Bacterians, but he became a full Eldritch Abomination in Gradius V.
  • Evil Is Visceral: In Gradius V, Venom is shown as a massive disembodied brain with two big eyes. His mech in Nemesis II and Nemesis 90 Kai looks bio-mechanical in appearance.
  • Eye Scream: When you see him in Gradius V, he's just a brain with stationary eyes, and you have to shoot his eyes out to destroy him.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Once the Director General of the Space Science Agency and, at least according to the events of Gradius ReBirth, was the head creator of the Vic Viper. But after the events of the prequel ReBirth (where Vic Viper pilot James Burton and the Gradian Empire wised on to Venom planning a coup of the planet), he left the agency and joined the Bacterians to attack the planet Gradius.
  • Final Boss: In the mainline series, his brain is the last target of Gradius V. He's also the last boss in Nemesis II, but this one puts Venom behind the wheel of a Big Core machine.
  • Go for the Eye: When you meet his brain in V, the target you are shooting at are his eyes; destroying them destroys him.
  • Hive Mind: At some point, he becomes a Bacterian Emperor brain much like Bacterion and Gofer and attacks Gradius himself with the Bacterian Empire at his command in Gradius V.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Venom is the sole designer of the Vic Viper series and its successor, the Metalion, which are piloted by the heroes to not only battle the Bacterions, but also used against him in Nemesis II/Nemesis 90 Kai and Gradius V.
  • Human Alien: Started off this way. After an accidental exposure to radiation, he gained a much more alien appearance. Even later after this, he defected to the Bacterions and his physiology was altered, giving him the three extra eyes mentioned in Salamander and a more muscular build. Even later after this, he became nothing but a giant Brain in a Jar.
  • Kill All Humans: His goal in V; his quote makes that very clear, since he is now a Bacterian Hive Mind.
  • Recurring Character: Appears as a major antagonist in a handful of the games.
  • Spikes of Villainy: His page image shows him in a dress with a major spike motif.
  • Was Once a Man: Venom became a cyborg in Nemesis II but was still a Wreek. Now all that left of him is a Bacterian Hive Mind. According to the Gradius II bible, he once appeared just as human as the Burtons, but his appearance was caused by accidental exposure to some form of radiation.
  • We Need a Distraction: He sends out the Gradian military to take out the rogue supercomputer on Antichton while he goes off on a mission of his own. As it turns out, said mission is the coup d'etat mentioned in Nemesis 2, which James wises onto by the end of the third loop.
  • We Will Meet Again: His parting words to James Burton at the end of ReBirth, after he's arrested for his coup d'etat.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In Nemesis III, Venom kidnaps a 3 year old James Burton and plans to kill him, so that history would change and the tide of victory favors the Bacterians. Thankfully, this nefarious plot was foiled by Jame's descendant, David Burton.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In the true ending of ReBirth, he's about to invoke this on James, but James flips it on him by revealing that he's onto Venom's coup.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: As usual, once you're face to eye with his eyes, all you have to do is shoot them. This is not the case in Nemesis II, where he's piloting a Big Core ship and is attached to an actual boss fight.



"I'm going to scare you like you've NEVER been scared before!" .
"I'll scare you like you've never been scared before!"

The Big Bad of Salamander 2. He was the most recent leader of the Salamander force, an elite Bacterian army that was previously led by Zelos Force and Venom. He only appeared in Salamander 2.

  • Bullet Hell: He not only puts up a fight, but throws a bunch of bullets and discs at you.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: Just look at his name.
  • Final Boss: Of Salamander 2, and it's a full-blown boss fight instead of a Zero-Effort Boss.
  • Humanoid Abomination: While other Bacterians are just disembodied heads, brains, or eyes, Doom clearly has a humanoid body from the waist up. He's also a Bacterian leader himself.
  • One-Steve Limit: Doom's name is often confused with Giga, a boss from Life Force and the Famicom port of Gradius II in the form of a giant skull, due to his Leitmotif being titled "Giga's Rage." His name is also shared with another Doom, a Womb Level boss from Nemesis II and Nemesis 90 Kai.
  • Taking You with Me: Says he'll take you with him to Hell when you destroy him; he fails, or course.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: Averted. He is one of the few Gradius Final Bosses to put up an actual fight.


O.V.U.M (Original Visions of Ultimate Monster)
"I hope you can entertain me."

O.V.U.M, the main villain of Gradius Gaiden. It transforms into several entities that are fought in Salamander; three Intruders, Zelos Force, and Brain Golem before exploding.

  • Big Bad: For Gradius Gaiden.
  • Boss Rush: O.V.U.M is a somewhat harmless one you don't have to fight. Touching its forms can still kill you of course, especially the three Intruders it summons in its initial appearance.
  • Continuity Nod: O.V.U.M itself is a Continuity Nod to Salamander.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Even more so than the Bacterian leaders themselves. It is hard to pinpoint WHAT exactly O.V.U.M is.
  • Final Boss: The last boss in Gradius Gaiden.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Original Visions of Ultimate Monsters.
  • Fusion Dance: One theory is it's the combined cells of the Brain Golem, Zelos Force and the Intruders.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Absolutely nothing implies that this is the final boss and main villain.
  • Meaningful Name: Aside from the acronym, the word Ovum also means "egg".
  • Red Herring: The "face" that appears before the battle actually begins. It's unknown if this is O.V.U.M's true identity or not.
  • The Spook: Absolutely no information is given about what O.V.U.M is.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: Downplayed. He can summon enemies that can hurt you, but they are all easily dodgable.

Other Enemies

This section covers enemies and bosses unrelated to the Bacterions.
Big Moai from Gradius II.
Moais are recurring enemies and bosses that come in variable sizes throughout the Gradius series, first appearing in Gradius (1985). These stone creatures attack the Vic Viper with destructible laser rings that glow blue and red out of their mouths, which is also their weak point. Because of their distinct nature, the Moais more or less became one of the series' mascots other than the Vic Viper itself.
  • Adaptational Heroism: The Moais in Salamander OVA were built by the ancient generations to defend Gradius planet from potential threats, unlike their game portrayals. Something of a nod to real-life Moais.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The Moais' weak point is the mouth, which usually applies for both enemies and bosses. The only exception is Moai Orb, whose weak point is the glowing orb instead.
  • Background Boss: Moai Orb, the third stage boss of Gradius Rebirth, attacks from the background with its orb, which is also its weakpoint.
  • Destructible Projectiles: Their signature flashing red and blue rings can be neutralized with your shots.
  • Eenie, Meenie, Miny Moai: Obviously, they're giant sentient Easter Island moais that live in outer space. They appeared in every Gradius game except for Nemesis II/Nemesis 90 Kai, Salamander 2, Nemesis 2/Gradius: Return of the Hero, and (egregiously) Gradius V.
  • Energy Weapon: The moais fire donut-shaped energy rings as their main attack, but other moais will fire lasers from their eyes in addition with the rings.
  • Eye Beams: Some moais not only fire energy rings, they also fire lasers from their eyes, even upon death. Thankfully, they only appear in Gaiden.
  • Flunky Boss: Some moai bosses will summon smaller moais to distract the player, such as Big Moai (as pictured here), the afformentioned Vaif and its homing and growing mini moais, Twin Vaif and its homing mini moais that thankfully don't grow, and Armored Saint, who summons three mechanical moais that attack the Vixen.
  • Kaiju: A majority of moai bosses are huge, at least as tall as the game screen. The only exception is Vaif, the moai boss of III Arcade, but what they make up for size is in numbers and the ability to summon homing moais that grow bigger until they're destroyed.
  • Recurring Boss: A majority of the games have at least one moai-themed boss, which is usually massive and comes in multiple numbers, at least two.
  • Wolfpack Boss: A lot of moai bosses come in more than one, usually a Dual Boss (Twin Vaif in III SNES, Moai Dimension in Gaiden, Alpha and Omega in IV). However, they can come in three (Big Moai in Gradius II, Dogaltes in Gradius Galaxies), or even six (Vaif in III Arcade).
     Fire Creatures
Vulture Dragon as it appears in Gradius III Arcade.
Fiery creatures that live in stars. Most of these creatures tend to be (serpentine) dragons, but they can also be phoenixes and lions.
  • Asteroids Monster: Intruder gains the ability to split itself into three smaller versions of itself in Gradius II after sustaining enough damage.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The head is the most common weak point for all fire creatures. The only exception is Wyvern, whose weak point is a blue core that is periodically exposed on its chest.
  • Elemental Embodiment: They're creatures made of fire, or at least organic creatures covered in fire.
  • Fiery Lion: Gradius Galaxies' fire stage has small fire lions that pounce on the Vic Viper, and a larger one named Volleone serving as the stage's boss.
  • Kaizo Trap: Vulture Dragon's SNES counterpart can kill the Vic Viper with its segments upon defeat, unlike its Arcade counterpart.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Vulture Dragon's Arcade counterpart is surprisingly tough for a serpentine dragon, as its heads have decent amounts of health and are blocked by its long serpentine body, it moves very fast without the slowdown, and it fires a ton of fireballs.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: A majority of fire creatures are dragons, such as Intruder from Salamander/Life Force, or Wyvern and Vulture Dragon from Gradius III.note Intruder is a serpentine dragon that coils its body around the Vic Viper and splits into three when damaged enough, and Wyvern is a 3-headed hydra with wings that transforms into Vulture Dragon, a serpentine dragon with two heads at each end. Smaller dragons also show up as enemies in Gradius II, and Intruder-like dragons are summoned by Deltatry in Gradius Gaiden.
  • The Phoenix: A massive phoenix called, well, Phoenix serves as the first stage boss of Gradius II. Smaller phoenixes show up as enemies in Salamander.
  • Planet Heck: The fire creatures live in stars or burning planets, artificial or not. These kinds of stages first show up in Salamander.
  • Segmented Serpent: Intruder and Vulture Dragon are serpentine dragons that mainly attack by coiling their bodies around the Vic Viper, but whereas Intruder splits itself into three and fires a single fireball, Vulture Dragon warps across the screen and fires explosive fireballs that explode into more fireballs.
  • Sequential Boss: Wyvern starts off as a winged three-headed hydra before transforming into the serpentine Vulture Dragon. This only applies to the Arcade version; the SNES version skips straight to Vulture Dragon.
Stinger Kid from Gradius Gaiden.
Massive alien plants that only appeared in a few games, such as Nemesis II/Nemesis 90 Kai, Nemesis III, Gradius III, Gradius Gaiden, and Gradius IV.
  • Attack Its Weakpoint: Since a majority of plant bosses are giant flowers, their weak point is the soft squishy center, or in Hans Naughty's case, its giant eye.
  • Bullet Seed: Stinger Kid fires a spray-shot of sharp seeds, while its third and final form, Gigas' Rose, fires two burst of seeds.
  • Garden of Evil: The plant stages are filled with giant hostile plants that also serve as enemies and bosses. The only exception is a green variant of Lizard Core in Nemesis 90 Kai.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Or rather, starship-eating plants, due to their massive size.
  • Sequential Boss: The plant boss of Gaiden has three forms: Stinger Kid (as pictured), Hunter Fang, and Gigas' Rose.
  • Vacuum Mouth: Some plant bosses try to suck in the fighters, such as Choking Weed from Gradius III or Gigas' Rose from Gradius Gaiden.