Friday, July 26, 2013

Not the Gradius you thought it was

at 4:57 PM
It's nowhere near a big deal, but even I'm getting confused by our mixture of multi-regional names for Gradius/Nemesis games. Reading the intro of Greg L's Spaceman Beau post, I couldn't figure out what specifically he meant by the "Gradius knockoff", Nemesis, as Nemesis is Gradius. There were MSX-only sequels named Nemesis 2 and Nemesis 3, but were those originally intended as a series, or only linked by name? We're about to learn.
Nemesis (GB) is pretty by early Game Boy standards, even featuring some parallax scrolling
So here comes a reference guide to all early (pre-1991) Gradius/Nemesis games with their regional/platform-specific titles, listed chronologically. Obviously Japan got all of the games in all of their forms, Europe mostly saw arcade and MSX titles, and North America got arcade and Nintendo-console entries. The only platforms I'm listing exhaustively are those that had an original entry: Arcade, NES, MSX, SNES, PC-Engine (Turbo-Grafx), and Game Boy. There are other ports out there (for Windows, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, so forth), but they all follow in line with major releases according to region. Note that the Game Boy Nemesis games are not ports of the MSX titles, hence their separate listing. After 1991, all regions got the same games under the same titles (all tagged with "Gradius"), so there's no sense in listing them here.

Japanese TitleEuropean TitleNorth American Title
Gradius (Arc/NES); Nemesis (MSX)Nemesis (MSX/Arc)Nemesis (Arc), Gradius (NES)
Salamander (Arc/MSX/NES)Salamander (Arc/MSX/NES)Life Force (Arc/NES)
Gradius 2 (MSX)*Nemesis 2 (MSX)--
Gradius II (Arc/NES/PCE)Vulcan Venture (Arc)--
Gofer no Yabo Episode II (MSX)Nemesis 3 (MSX)--
Gradius III (Arc/SNES)--Gradius III (Arc/SNES)
Nemesis (GB)Nemesis (GB)Nemesis (GB)
Nemesis II (GB)Nemesis II (GB)Gradius: Interstellar Assault

*released as Nemesis '90 Kai on Sharp X8600

By looking at Japan's list, we can see the clear lineage of the pre-'91 series: four major arcade games, two MSX spinoffs, and two independent Game Boy releases. Japan was the only audience to get all three pure Gradiuses (I, II, and III). We can also observe from this column that the only games originally designated "Nemesis" are those on Game Boy.

The second column makes it clear that Europe would certainly know this as the Nemesis series, not Gradius. Oddly, their main line was repurposed and renamed from a hodgepodge of unrelated spinoffs. Aside from the ostensibly unrelated arcade release Vulcan Venture, Europe never got a proper follow-up to the original Gradius/Nemesis.
The MSX had some bright colors, but its rendition of Vic Viper is as primitive as they come

North America got the fewest games of any region, though that's really just due to the absence of MSX releases. With the exception of Gradius II, the main arcade entries and their Nintendo ports all made it over here. As such, the American perspective at the time would probably hold that Nemesis was nothing more than a standalone Gradius-like handheld game. 

What we've learned here is that there really is no such thing as a Nemesis game, except on Game Boy. Everything else was originally designed and designated as an MSX incarnation of Gradius, only to be retitled in Europe.

Sorry, I realize this post was little more than a synthesis of data culled entirely from Wikipedia and MobyGames. That's life in the big city. Have a happy weekend!

also what is this blog like gradius jr. these days? we really need new subject matter

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