Today, "shooter" refers to a first-person game that puts you directly into the action, usually with some kind of elaborate set of firearms. But many years ago, the term was synonymous with side-scrolling shoot 'em ups that plopped your lonely space ship into an endless armada of hostile alien craft - Gradius Collection compiles five of this genre's toughest, hardiest games onto one disc, ready to remind us all how unforgiving these games can be.
Yes, there are five games in this compilation, but they all play basically the same. All you have to do is dodge a never-ending cascade of incoming bullets, collect power-ups to get your ship in tip-top shape and manhandle a screen-filling boss at the end of each level. Sounds easy enough on paper, but actually weaving through the narrow corridors of space stations or dense... space jungles is a feat only the best can pull off.
The only way you can plow through each level safely is by maxing out your power-ups, from searing lasers to gravity bombs. Problem is, if you die (which happens in one measly hit), you lose everything you obtained, including speed boosts. So there you are, mid-level, weak as a newborn, declawed, pacifistic kitten, forced to make do. Getting your ship back up to par depends on if there are enough item-dropping enemies nearby... and there usually aren't.
Totally new to this compilation is Gradius Gaiden, a game that's never made it to these shores before. This one offers four different ships to choose from, adding even more customization to your weapon-gaining ability. Gaiden also seems to be one of the more balanced games on the disc, as the older titles are absolutely ruthless. Plentiful continues and mid-mission saves help, but newcomers are in for a shock.
Collection also lets hardcore fans twiddle with the games' presentation - if you want to display it full screen on the PSP, you can. Or, you may play it in the original arcade ratio, whichever suits your fancy. You can also check out surreal intro movies from the series, plus some classic tunes to really drown your senses in nostalgia. Just be warned: this game's for the fans, not necessarily someone looking for a quick bus-ride excursion. Gradius has never been easy, and these five selections are no different.