Gradius II, known as Vulcan Venture in arcades outside Japan, is a horizontally-scrolling shooter originally released for the arcades in Japan in 1988. It is the sequel to original Gradius and was succeeded by Gradius III: From Legend to Myth. Ports of Gradius II were released for the Family Computer (under the shortened title of Gradius II), PC-Engine Super CD-ROM², and the X68000 in Japan. The original arcade version is also included in the Gradius Deluxe Pack compilation for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn and in Gradius Collection for the PlayStation Portable.
The player returns as the role of the pilot of the Vic Viper spaceship to battle the second onslaughts of the Bacterion Empire, under the new leadership of Gofer, the giant head. Gradius II has kept the gameplay from the original game, but infused it with enhancements brought from the spin-off, Salamander (Life Force). This is primarily evident in two of the weapons configurations that are selectable. Another first in the series was the inclusion of the 'boss rush' (also known as 'boss parade' or 'boss alley'), a level designed entirely with only boss confrontations.
Gradius II retains the selection bar from Gradius, but now the player can choose between four different weapon configurations and progressions. All schemes have speed-up and multiples (Options), but have differing 'Missile', 'Double' (laser), and 'Laser' weapons. The player can have at most four multiples. Additionally, there are also two types of shielding to choose from: shield and forcefield. The shield option adds more durability, but only for the front of the Vic Viper, while the forcefield adds protection for the entire spacecraft, albeit only against three hits. In the Famicom version, choosing another multiple after four will make the four multiples to move around the spacecraft for 15 seconds; force field is the only shielding available for protection of the entire spacecraft, withstanding five hits and it is included in four different weapon configurations and progressions; and 'Double' and 'Laser' have to be activated twice to achieve full performance.
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