My favourite planet: Gradius

I’m not one for lore, I’m afraid to admit, as can be amply illustrated by the fact I’ve only just discovered that Gradius – a series close to my heart, and one that’s taken the most from my wallet over the years in various forms – takes its name from the fictional planet its hero ship Vic Viper calls home. I was only dimly aware of the fact that ship was piloted by one James Burton – the name a combination plucked from Metallica, apparently in honour of James Hetfield and Cliff Burton. It seems I have much to learn.

Lore’s a funny thing when it comes to older games, especially those churned out in the heady industriousness of Japan’s bubble economy era, where production was often fast and loose. Maybe there was a deeper story sitting on a design document somewhere, a grand thread stringing these disparate worlds together, but I’m just as sure most of the detail was sketched in later by other hands – by someone in a marketing department on the other side of the world, perhaps, or some copywriter filling up space in one of the manuals that’d later become scripture. With Gradius, so much of the detail comes from the atypically verbose MSX spinoff Nemesis 2, with other scraps being pieced together as the series passed from one set of hands to another.

Really, though, you just have to rifle through the development team’s cinema ticket stubs to see what it’s all about: there’s Alien, of course, in the requisite xenomorph world of Gradius 2’s second stage, or the pervasive influence of Lensman’s laser-filled brand of sci-fi. For all that disparate patchwork, though, for all those disparate interviews and all the disparate places you’re sent, these are games with an indelible sense of place.

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  • This Post originally appeared on:
  • Bad puns and video games since 1999.
  • Originally dated as:
  • 21 May 2021 13:00:00 +0100