Solar Assault (1997)

by Nish
5 minutes read


Solar Assault (1997) is an adventurous leap into 3D for the shoot ’em up genre, offering players a new way to experience space combat. Despite mixed reception, its contribution to arcade gaming history and the Gradius legacy is undeniable.


Diving into the depths of arcade history, Solar Assault stands out as a bold attempt by Konami to bring the classic shoot ’em up formula into the 3D realm. Released in 1997, this game offered a fresh perspective on space combat, enriched with the legacy of the Gradius series.


“Solar Assault” is a three-dimensional shoot ’em up game released by Konami in 1997. This game is a spin-off of the long-running Gradius series. Despite being a spin-off, it retains most of the gameplay characteristics of its 2D counterparts, including the same power-ups and display system.

The plot of “Solar Assault” is set in the year 6852, 12 years after the Third Bacterian War. A mobile planet-like fortress suddenly appears, moving towards planet Gradius. Oddly, the planets in the fortress’s path vanish to nowhere – it seems like the planets got warped into some hyperspace zone. Planet Gradius is in danger again. Alpinia, Vic Viper, and Lord British make a sally, flying towards the mysterious fortress.

The gameplay of “Solar Assault” is similar to other rail-shooters like Star Fox and Galaxy Force, where the player must move both horizontally and vertically. Like the other games in the Gradius series, there is no health bar, meaning one hit ends up in death. However, this time the player may be able to collect a “shield” power-up which can take one or two hits before the ship’s destruction. The other major gameplay change is the ability to adjust the speed, which is necessary to time the avoidance of certain obstacles and enemies.

There are three ships to choose from: the Vic Viper, Lord British, and Alphinia. Each ship has its own arsenal configuration. The player takes control of one of these spaceships, battling enemies and bosses in settings like underground tunnels, planet surfaces, and space fields.

“Solar Assault Revised” is an updated version of “Solar Assault” released later in 1997. It introduced a new arcade board that was co-developed by Konami and IBM which allows five boards to be stacked on top of each other. It also introduced several modifications to the game, like the all-new level “Fierce Blaze”, new attacks to the “Speed Demon” level boss, and a total revamp on the “Abyssal Forest” level, with a new color palette and some new enemies, making it much harder than the original. The US version of the game was based on this one, just simply renamed as “Solar Assault”.

“Solar Assault” is a unique spin-off from the Gradius series that offers a new perspective on the classic shoot ’em up genre. Its engaging plot and innovative gameplay mechanics provide a fresh and exciting experience for players.


The game doesn’t focus heavily on character narratives, emphasizing instead the spacecrafts that players control. These ships, inheritors of the Gradius legacy, are equipped with customizable weapons and the iconic ‘Option’ power-ups, providing a strategic layer to the combat.


Solar Assault revolutionizes the shoot ’em up genre with its 3D gameplay, allowing for movement in all directions. Players must skillfully maneuver their ship, dodging attacks and strategically using power-ups to overcome enemies and challenging boss fights.


Solar Assault remains a unique entry in the pantheon of arcade shooters, notable for its venture into 3D space combat. While it may not have reached the heights of its Gradius predecessors, it stands as a testament to Konami’s willingness to innovate.

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