How to play Konami’s Gradius on the NES

If I could only ever play one video game for the rest of my life, I would unquestionably pick the first Gradius game. It isn’t the best shooter ever created, nor the longest, deepest or most challenging, but it was the first to truly captivate me and I’ve been a die-hard fan of the series for almost 30 years now. All that said, until recently I was not aware that the ship I’ve always known as the Vic Viper was called the Warp Rattler when the NES version hit American shores. I also didn’t know that the ship’s best power-up, the dopple-ganger Option was called a Sidewinder!


I discoverd this new (to me) information in a PDF file of the original NES game manual that came with the US release. The Americanized guide also has some great hand-drawn sketches of the game levels and info about what to expect from those stages. For example, the second “Stonehenge” stage is an artificially constructed asteroid belt created as a galactic fighter base. The fourth “Moai Head” stage proves most interesting – I always believed that it was the heads that were firing at me as I flew through the level but this guide suggests that the heads are merely statues, utilised by the attacking forces as bases for their own deadly ion guns!


Here is what your screen will look like:- complete with the “Enemy land fortress”.

The best part of the guide has to be the Characters and Components of the Game which names many of the enemies you’ll encounter in-game. The Pride of the Gradius Defense Force will take on Fan’s (the neutral zone patrol crafts!), Rugurr’s, Garrun’s, Dakker’s and Jumpers – and that’s all before you’ve left the Volcanic stage! The real threat of course comes from the Big Core Fighters at the end of each level.


With all those enemy units in your path, I’m just pleased that the writers of this manual took the time to highlight the placement of both your search and navigation lights. I’d have been lost without those…

Hayden Yale

Child of the 80's. Born, raised and living in the Cheshire countryside, England.Lover of fan art, especially if it is based on my childhood heroes from Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, Transformers and TMNT. Penchant for almost anything retro, especially movies, games and art.

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