Gradius Collection Hands-On

We try Konami's heavenly shooter compilation for the PSP--and it is good.

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One of the highlights of Konami's press event today was the announcement of Gradius Collection for the PSP. The handheld compilation, which is due for release in Japan next month, will offer shooter fans a satisfying dose of 2D action by featuring five entries in the respected series. The collection will include portable conversions of Gradius, Gradius II, Gradius III, Gradius IV, as well as Gradius Gaiden, which was heretofore unreleased in North America. Given that we cut our teeth on these shooters back in the day, we were anxious to see how the games were shaping up.

The version of the collection on display at the press event was taken from the Japanese release and was still a work in progress. That said, incomplete or not, the collection looks like it's going to bring the goods. The main menu let us choose between the five main games, as well as a gallery mode that will let you see and hear the cinemas and music from each game in the series.

We took a quick run through the collection and were pleased by the look and feel. The games control well on the PSP and are on par with what we remember from the classic arcade versions. Of special note, the power-up and weapons system, which evolved over the course of the series, still has its old-school charm intact.

The presentation did a fine job of re-creating the sights and sounds of the classic games, as the visuals were looking faithful to the original, sprite-based arcade versions, with the added bonus of a 16x9 widescreen mode that takes advantage of the PSP's screen. There is a bit of slowdown, necessary to re-create the entire experience, but this is something that you'll be able to toggle off. Surprisingly, the resulting speed boost takes a bit of getting used to. The audio keeps pace with the graphics and capably pumps out the driving tunes that infused these games with their unique atmosphere.

Based on what we played, Gradius Collection should be perfect for anyone hungry for some good old-fashioned shooting. The five games contain some excellent and memorable moments in shooting that should be worth reliving. Anyone hoping for some wicked retro action on their PSP should keep an eye out for Gradius Collection when it ships this spring.

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