Gradius Gaiden (1997)

by Christopher
5 minutes read


Set in the rich lore of the Gradius universe, Gradius Gaiden offers an intense and strategic shoot-em-up experience. With its compelling narrative, innovative gameplay, and stellar presentation, it remains a high point in the series and a must-play for fans of the genre.


Explore the depths of space and engage in epic battles in Gradius Gaiden, a pivotal installment in the Gradius series that takes players on a journey to defend the galaxy from a formidable enemy force. With its rich story set between Gradius III and Gradius IV, Gradius Gaiden offers a unique blend of traditional shoot-em-up mechanics and innovative gameplay elements.


Gradius Gaiden, developed and published by Konami for the PlayStation in 1997, is a horizontal-scrolling shooter game that takes players on an interstellar journey to save the planet Gradius from the destructive Bacteria army.

The game is set 200 years into the future, at a time when Gradius is prospering. However, the tranquility is shattered when a science vessel mysteriously disappears into the Evil Range nebula. This event triggers a domino effect, leading to attacks on the colonies around Gradius and leaving most of the planet’s army in ruins.

In a desperate bid to counteract this threat, the Gradius army launches an attack on the source, with four ships in hot pursuit. Players take control of one of these four starships — the Vic Viper, Lord British, Jade Knight, and Falchion β — each equipped with unique weapons and abilities.

The gameplay remains relatively similar to previous installments in the Gradius series. Players must complete each stage by shooting down enemies and avoiding collisions with them, their projectiles, or the terrain. Some enemies drop glowing Power Capsules when destroyed, which, when collected, will highlight a weapon on the player’s “Power Meter” located at the bottom corner of the screen. Collecting additional Power Capsules gives the player access to better, stronger weapons.

Gradius Gaiden stands out from other Gradius games with its unique, creative level designs and all-new mechanics. These include a selection of playable ships, new weapon types, and the ability to swap items in the player’s “Power Meter”. Some mechanics were also created specifically to take advantage of the PlayStation’s hardware capabilities, such as its rotation and transparency effects.

Despite the game’s challenging difficulty at times, Gradius Gaiden was acclaimed for its visuals, gameplay, soundtrack, and creativity. It is seen as one of the best games in the Gradius series and has been compared favorably to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the way it builds upon the series’ core mechanics.

Unfortunately, the game was not released outside Japan until the release of Gradius Collection in 2006 for the PlayStation Portable. In 2019, it was included in the Japanese version of the PlayStation Classic mini console.

Gradius Gaiden is a testament to the enduring appeal of the Gradius series. It offers a compelling blend of classic gameplay elements and innovative new features, making it a must-play for fans of the genre.


The game features four pilots, each commanding their own Hyper Space Fighter with distinct weaponry and abilities, designed to take on the Bacterian forces. The characters and their ships include the Vic Viper, known for its balanced attack; Lord British, with its powerful lasers; Jade Knight, specializing in wide-area attacks; and Falchion β, known for its high-speed capabilities.


Gradius Gaiden enhances the classic side-scrolling shoot-em-up formula with the addition of customizable power-ups, allowing players to tailor their ships’ abilities to their play style. The game also introduces innovative level designs, challenging boss fights, and a unique option system that adds depth to the strategic aspects of gameplay.


Gradius Gaiden stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of the Gradius series, offering both longtime fans and newcomers an unforgettable space-shooting experience. Its blend of traditional gameplay with new features has secured its place as a classic in the shoot-em-up genre.

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